Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Yin yoga is a passive style of yoga that focuses on bringing awareness to the mind whilst stretching the connective tissue in the body and increasing energy flow through the meridians.
Yin yoga combines healing elements of Chinese Taoist medicine, with mindfulness techniques from Buddhist philosophy and physical benefits of traditional Indian Hatha yoga. The intention is to nourish the body, mind and soul addressing many of the physical, mental and emotional concerns we all face in our everyday lives.
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.
In a yin yoga practice the physical intention is to work into the joints and connective tissues such as fascia, ligaments and tendons, increasing flexibility. Steady, sustained stretching helps strengthen and lubricate the joints and lengthen the connective tissues giving you an increased range of motion and improving mobility.
Modern meridian theory has demonstrated that energy flows through channels in the connective tissue known in Chinese taoism as meridians. The energy in these channels can become unbalanced, blocked or flow in excess. Yin yoga can help to stimulate and balance the energy flow through the body resulting in stable energy, improved organ function and overall healthier wellbeing.
Yin yoga not only improves the physical and energetic body it also improves the minds mental state by assisting you to calm the mind. Using mindfulness and meditation techniques during a practice allows you to become introspective and at one with the present moment.
Here you can contemplate and investigate your mind chatter. This chatter is often referred to as the monkey mind, an over active mind that consists of constantly circulating thoughts and often negative self talk. When your mind is calm you are able to become aware of thoughts and train yourself to change your internal thinking language, offering yourself and others compassion and acceptance.
Without a calm mind you are unable to fully relax, when you calm the mind you are able to listen to the body and notice where you hold tension, where you feel sensations and completely surrender into a stretch. When you are able to let go of your mental clutter you are able to achieve a greater sense of inner peace, reducing stress, anxiety, negativity and achieving clarity.
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
When the body is still and mind is calm certain emotions may arise. These can be old emotions from past experiences that you may not have wanted to acknowledge or feel at the time and they have been stored energetically within the body.
Emotion is often referred to as “Energy in Motion”. During a yin yoga practice you are stimulating energy in the body and you may stir up some old suppressed emotions. With your mindfulness techniques you are able to harmonise these emotions by observing and accepting them without judgement allowing them to be felt and moved through and out of the body. This can result in not only better emotional health but also physical health as you release this old stagnant energy from the body and learn better ways to deal with new emotions as they arise.
Combing elements from Chinese Taoism, Buddhism and Hatha Yoga, yin yoga is beneficial and nourishing to the physical body, mental mind, and emotional soul.