According to Josh Summer’s yinyoga.com website, Yin Yoga is a complementary yoga practice to the more dynamic and invigorating yoga ‘yang’ styles that are predominant today.
In Yin Yoga, floor postures are held passively for several minutes in order to access a safe and positive ‘stress’ on the deep layers of connective tissue in the body. Physically, Yin Yoga restores and maintains the natural mobility of the joints, primarily between the navel and the knees.
Energetically, Yin Yoga opens the body’s meridian system, which enhances the body’s energetic flow and supports emotional equilibrium. And as this practice emphasizes stillness and silence, Yin Yoga prepares both the body and the mind for deeper experiences in meditation.
In the book The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark, “Yin Yoga is the other half. Most forms of yoga today are dynamic, active practices designed to work only half of our body, the muscular half, the “yang” tissues. Yin Yoga allows us to work the other half, the deeper “yin” tissues of our ligaments, joints, deep fascial networks, and even our bones.”
Sophia a Yin Yoga teacher with Sanctuary Thailand shares on Facebook that Yin is a fusion of ancient yoga asana, it takes poses of Hatha and practices in a different way, holding for longer periods, typically 3-5 mins each, staying still and relaxing all muscles. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes a lot from this tradition and the idea of meridians or energetic pathways of the body and along the energetic pathways flows the life force ‘chi’ energy. We explore this movement flow of this chi as we stay still over extended periods of time and relax and influence the fascia of the body and the connective tissues of the body. We release stuff held in our body and this rises up in our body and can take the form of thoughts, memories, emotions, feelings, and sensations in the body. Then we draw on our ritual tradition of mindfulness to teach us to deal with what is arising from our stuff created in a non-resistant and non-reactive way so we can be with our stuff.
Josh Summers shares on his Everyday Sublime podcast that Yin Yoga is an approach to a postural style of yoga that is meant to be complementary to more active styles of yoga. The intentions of yin stimulate and strengthen and revive the tissues that aren’t emphasized to the same degree as an active practice hence its complementary nature.
In Yin yoga, you bring your body into a posture on the floor where you feel modest levels of sensation, allowing your muscles to relax within that experience so connective tissues around muscles and joints can be stimulated somewhat stretched, and strengthened and you remain relatively still for between 3- 5 minutes.
Eimear Beardmore shares on The Female Wellness Hub that Yin targets the physical layer of the body, through the poses, held up to 20 min, want to target yin tissues of the body, in a yin-like way fascia, ligaments, connective tissues, and bones. Length of holds have an energetic piece, yin is TCM as a practice which if you connect to the amp of the energetic body it’s believed now meridian channels correspond to the fascia of the body. Has an emotional layer, holding longer, bridging space between mind and energetic body feel emotional release. Sit with yourself, nowhere to go, with all that, it’s a challenging practice where transformation takes place getting you to a level of awareness and insight and peace. Being in a pose gains greater awareness of the mind. Brings you into a place of discomfort, and takes a while to feel good. ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Yin is active ‘internally’, a much stronger sensation, we’re targeting fascia and connecting at the physical level so that means going to lead strong sensation playing at edge 7 out of 10. Being at that level, generating thoughts, mind, and challenges open up a whole opportunity for developing mindful rest.
3 main principles of Yin Yoga are:
Appropriate depth, think gummy bear, not a grizzly bear. Bernie Clark recognises this as the ‘goldilocks’ position. Finding your edge, wanting to feel it, don’t want someone to persevere, not at 10 through gritted teeth. Yin should not be forceful, not end range or edge. The stillness of body, of the breath of mind. Evenness and ease and trying to encourage people to stop distracting themselves. Gentle ujjayi breath. and then time taking time to marinate to feel the need to build a tolerance to yin poses give the opportunity to people to leave pose and come back in.
What are the potential benefits of Yin Yoga?
Provide physical, mental, emotional, and energetic benefits and, for some, spiritual ones. Physical – targets layers of tissues in the body largely neglected by yang yoga, connective tissues around muscles and promotes vitality, hydration, and resilience of tissues.
Here are some of the main physical benefits:
- Improve our range of motion and flexibility.
- Passively lengthen our muscles by stressing the fascial bags that wrap the muscle fibers. This can be especially useful for the larger, more stubborn muscle groups such as the hamstrings and adductors.
- Reduce adhesions and scar tissue that restrict movement between the sliding surfaces of our muscles.
- Stimulate the growth of fibroblasts, which are the cells responsible for creating collagen, elastin, and the water-loving molecules that hydrate our tissues and joints.
- Make our ligaments thicker and stronger through greater collagen production.
- Improve lubrication through greater hydration of our tissues, which allows joints to move and fascia to slide more easily.
- Keep our skin younger looking through hydrations, which provide room for cells to migrate through the extracellular matrix.
- Compress the extracellular matrix to liquefy the ground substance, which is often in a gel-like state, allowing toxins to flow out of the tissues.
- Reduce acute inflammation.
- Stimulate the chondrocytes and osteoblasts, which create cartilage and bone, helping to reduce the degeneration of these tissues.
- Prevent or reduce contracture, where the ligaments and the joint capsule shrink and reduce the joint’s mobility.
- Reduce osteopenia and osteoporosis, which are dangerous reductions in bone density.
- Reduce fixation, a condition that limits the movement of our joints and thus prevents fusion is a permanent loss of mobility in the joint.
- Energetic benefits – promoting greater energetic flow and enhanced energetic circulation. Deep energetic stagnation can be unblocked, particularly in the joints, and the ensuing response is one of calm and stillness as one’s energy circulates with unimpeded ease.
From an Eastern perspective:
- Awaken, enhance and balance prana.
- Slow the whirling thoughts of the mind.
- Stimulate and awaken the kundalini serpent, leading toward eventual liberation and enlightenment.
- Stimulate the production and flow of chi and jing energies.
- Nourish the Organs through acupressure via stimulation of the meridian lines.
- Replenish the store of jing in our Kidneys, which in turn helps all our Organs function properly.
From a Western perspective:
- Through acupressure stress, we create tiny piezoelectric currents that stimulate optimal cellular responses.
- We create internal pulsed magnetic fields that can restore cellular health.
- These communications can flow through the fascia to the organs, perhaps stimulating optimal performance and health.
- We create mechanotransduction stresses, which physically stimulate cells.
- We reduce acute inflammation and balance immune system responses.
- Through mindful, slow breathing, we improve heart rate variability and baroreflex.
- We can turn off the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest).
- We may increase levels of the neurotransmitter GABA.
- Also, heart and Mind benefits such as the opportunity to cultivate yin capacities of the mind such as receptivity and allowance.
According to John Summer the potential benefits of consistent practice are:
- You’ll discover the “other half” of yoga. Yin’s tension melting poses also will help you move with greater ease, grace, and fluidity in your active style. You’ll have a better sense of your body and what you’re feeling as you move through poses on your mat.
- You’ll learn how to release deep tension. Safely regain and maintain your healthy range of motion by releasing the contracture in your fascia.
- Energy (Qi) will move better throughout your body. Qi, your vital energetic life force in TCM, circulates throughout your body but can become blocked or stagnant, particularly in the joints. This can cause pain and even degeneration.
- Yin Yoga gently stresses joints, unblocking “stuck” energy. When your Qi flows smoothly, as it will after a Yin Yoga practice, you’ll feel a sense of spontaneous ease. You’ll be able to soothe your nerves and slow down. Yin stimulates the yin side inward state, the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging slowing down and becoming calm in order to rest and renew. Failure to attend to this side of ourselves can lead to burnout.
You’ll learn how to meditate – and how to create a meditative state. Staying relatively still in Yin Yoga postures for several minutes will both physically prepare you to sit in a meditation posture and teach you the fundamental dynamics of how meditation works. You’re able to bring a yin quality of mind – receptivity – to your experience on the mat. Rather than trying to control your mind and focus it on something specific, you can find the stillness in being within the middle of whatever experience you might be having. This is a great skill to have – both on and off your mat.
You’ll feel more balanced. You’ll find a fantastic balance between yin and yang qualities in your being when your body releases deep tension, your Qi flows smoothly, and soft receptivity tempers your mind’s striving. That means you’ll emerge from a practice of Yin Yoga, calm and clear, able to move, think, and act from a place of balanced poise.
The emotional layer resonates with me the most. Stop being busy and confront day-to-day issues that keeping busy and active stops us from facing. Teaching our body to meditate in small intervals. Opportunity to stop, slow down, and listen to my body.
I have for you a yin yoga class for the lower body. For each pose, I state the target area and the meridians targeted, and outline the time of hold for each pose.
Pose 1 FROG – start in child’s pose, slide hands forward, separate the knees, and remain sitting on the heels. Move into half-frog by moving the hips forwards until they are in line with the knees then full-frog by trying to separate the feet wider apart.
TARGET AREA – inner groin adductors tension and hip sockets flexion and adduction.
MERIDIANS – sensation along the front of the belly may stimulate the Spleen and Stomach
meridians. Sensation through the inner groin may stimulate the Liver and Kidney meridians. Sensation along the spine, especially in the low back, may stimulate the Kidney and Urinary Bladder meridians. The arms stretched forward may stimulate the Heart, Lungs, and Small and Large intestine meridians.
TIME OF HOLD – 3 to 5 mins!
COUNTERPOSE – remain in corpse pose for a minute before coming into child pose, rocking n rolling, or windshield wiper.
Pose 2 SQUAT – stand with feet hip-width apart, feet turned slightly outward. Squat down with your arms in front of you for counterbalance. When all the way down, your hands can be in prayer, with the elbows pulling lightly against the knees or shins.
TARGET AREA – dorsiflexion of ankles, flexion of knees and hips.
MERIDIANS – sensation through the inner groin may stimulate the Liver and Kidney meridians. Sensations along the thighs and lower belly may stimulate the Spleen and Stomach meridians. Sensations along the lower spine may stimulate the Urinary Bladder and Kidney meridians. If you feel this all around your ankles, you may stimulate the Stomach, Spleen, Gall Bladder, and Urinary Bladder meridians.
TIME OF HOLD – 2 to 3 minutes at a time.
COUNTERPOSE – dangling postures that straighten the legs even sphinx.
Pose 3 SUPPORTED BRIDGE – start lying on your back with your knees bent. Lift hips enough to slide block or bolster under the pelvis. Once the pelvis is supported, walk feet away thus straightening the legs.
TARGET AREA – the sacrum/low back (extension)
MERIDIANS – sensations along the sacrum and the lower spine may stimulate the Kidney and Urinary Bladder meridians. Stress along the thighs or lower belly may stimulate the Spleen and Stomach meridians as well as the Kidney meridians. Stress along the arms and into the shoulders, while they are overhead, may stimulate the Heart and Lung meridians.
TIME OF HOLD – marinate for a fairly long time but 3 to 5 minutes should be plenty to start.
COUNTERPOSE – hug knees to the chest but give yourself a minute first before moving
Pose 4 CATERPILLAR – sit on a cushion with both legs straight out in front of you. Fold forward over the legs, allowing your head to round.
TARGET AREA – the spine and hips (flexion) and the hamstrings (tension).
MERIDIANS – sensations along the back side of the body may stimulate the Urinary Bladder meridians. Sensations through the low back may stimulate the Kidney line meridians.
TIME OF HOLD – 3 to 5 minutes but in time even more.
COUNTERPOSE – Lie on the belly, small backbend.
Pose 5 HAPPY BABY – lying on your back, hug your knees to your chest. Grab the soles of the feet, the ankles, or the back of the legs. Move the feet apart so they are above the knees, and pull the knees toward the floor, alongside your chest. Relax your head and shoulders down to the floor.
TARGET AREA – abduction, flexion, and possibly external rotation in the hip sockets.
MERIDIANS – sensations along the back of the legs or along the spine may stimulate the Urinary Bladder meridians. Sensations along the inner groin (adductors) may stimulate the Liver and Kidney meridians.
TIME OF HOLD – 2 to 5 minutes.
COUNTERPOSE – windshield wipers.