Differences and Similarities of Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga

Updated: Sep 28

Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga are often confused as being the same. Whilst they have similarities there are also differences between the two.


Both restorative and yin are practices that focus on slowing down and opening the body through passive stretching. The poses are held for longer periods of time and are mainly practiced on the floor in either seated or lying positions. Some of the poses overlap and are used in both but are normally propped and modified differently in each style.


In restorative yoga the aim is to be completely comfortable and focus on releasing mind-body tension. In yin yoga some discomfort is welcome and the focus is on stretching connective tissue.


Props are used in both but in restorative props are used to assist students to support the body and relax the body further to surrender more deeply into the pose. Where as in yin yoga props are used to either deepen or soften and manage the intensity of the stretch.


History

Restorative yoga originated from teachings by B.K.S Iyengar who used props and modifications in his classes to make yoga accessible for students with injury, illness or limited flexibility. It was popularised by a student of Iyengar, Judith Lasater and has continued to be developed by teachers all over the world such as Donna Farhi and Ana Davis.


Yin Yoga originated from Taoist Yoga. Student Paul Grilley combined his teachings from Paulie Zink, Dr Hiroshi Motoyama and Dr Garry Parker to create his own unique style of yoga. This style combined his teachings from Dr Parker on anatomy, his teachings of taoist yoga from Paulie Zink with his teachings of energy theory from Dr Motoyama. A student of Paul Grilleys, Sarah Powers contributed to the mindfulness element and was instrumental in the development of its name Yin Yoga.


The Practice

In restorative yoga each pose is set up as comfortably as possible using props such as bolsters, blocks and blankets and you work to find that delicious feeling of a subtle stretch. Once you find that comfortable place in the pose where you can relax you hold the pose for anywhere between 3 to 20 minutes or even more. Allowing the whole body to completely surrender into the gentle stretch.


To practice yin yoga you bring your body into a pose, usually on the floor, and use props such as bolsters, blocks and blankets to support the body or to deepen the stretch to a place that is sometimes called the “edge”. The edge is a place where you feel a modest stretch, where there is a manageable amount of sensation but you are still able to breathe easily and allow the muscles around the stretch to relax. The “edge” is not a place of risky pain or a place that feels too intense. Instead it is a place where you feel some discomfort, enough to indicate that there is appropriate stress on the tissues. Once you have found your edge you remain relatively still in the pose for between 3-10 minutes.



Similarities

Both Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga;

  • Are passive practices in which poses are held for an extended period of time.

  • Use props such as bolsters, blocks, straps and blankets.

  • Consist of mainly seated and lying poses on the floor.

  • Are slow, cooling and meditative in nature.

  • Have similar poses often with the same names but are modified and set up differently


Differences

  • In restorative yoga the student is taught to be completely comfortable.

  • In yin yoga some discomfort is welcomed.


  • In restorative yoga the student will feel a gentle stretch.

  • In yin yoga the student will feel a deep stretch.


  • In restorative yoga the focus is on the passive release of the mind-body tension.

  • In yin yoga the focus is on stretching joints and connective tissue.


  • In restorative yoga the muscles in the whole body should be able to relax as the body is completely supported by props.

  • In yin yoga the muscles around the area of stretch should be able to relax but other muscles in the body may still be switched on to help hold the student in the pose.


  • In restorative yoga props are used to assist students to support the body and relax the body further to surrender more deeply into the pose.

  • In yin yoga props are used to either deepen or soften to manage the intensity of the stretch


  • In restorative yoga poses are held for 3-20 minutes or even more.

  • In yin yoga poses are held for 3-10 minutes.

Examples of Restorative Yoga Poses

Examples of Yin Yoga Poses


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