What Is Yin Yoga and 4 Yin Yoga Poses You Must Try
As humans, we can easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, constantly pushing ourselves to do more and be more. Are we becoming Human Doings rather than Human Beings? But what happens when we take a step back, slow down, and focus on the present moment? This is the essence of Yin Yoga, a slow-paced and meditative style of yoga that targets the connective tissues of the body.
Can Yin Yoga Heal Your Back?
Recently a friend asked me what is the best yoga to do for back pain. He's a plumber so often in and out of tight spaces carrying heavy loads and using his body to work. In past he worked on fishing ships in the very northern parts of Norway also known to be an intensely physical job.
I recommended that he try Yin Yoga and specifically my favourite yoga app (details below) and the sequence Back Healer. I was overjoyed to receive this message from him:
“You know the Yin Yoga app that you suggested before. The Back Healer class has completely changed and healed my back. I didn’t believe it because it's been so many years. I couldn’t sit straight you know on the floor with the back up and meditate. But now the pain that I always had has just almost gone. It's such a different feeling so thank you for that. It's really a back healer that’s so effective. I'm so grateful for that really.”
What Is Yin Yoga?
At its core, Yin Yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, which represents the balance between opposing forces.
yin | jɪn |
(in Chinese philosophy) the passive female principle of the universe, characterized as female and sustaining and associated with earth, dark, and cold. Contrasted with yang.
yang | jaŋ |
(in Chinese philosophy) the active male principle of the universe, characterized as male and creative and associated with heaven, heat, and light. Contrasted with yin.
Yin is associated with the feminine, passive, and introspective qualities, while yang is associated with the masculine, active, and extroverted qualities. In Yin Yoga, we aim to balance these energies by focusing on the yin aspect of the body - the connective tissues that surround the joints, muscles, and organs.
Unlike other forms of yoga that focus on movement and flow, Yin Yoga is a slow-paced practice that involves holding poses for extended periods of time to stretch the connective tissues in the body.
The fundamental principles of Yin Yoga are simple yet powerful. We hold poses for longer periods of time (when compared to a traditional Hatha or Vinyassa yoga class), typically three to five minutes or more, to allow the body to gradually release tension and deepen into the pose.
We use props such as yoga blankets, yoga blocks, yoga straps, eye pillows, and yoga bolsters to support the body to relax and make the poses more comfortable. In each pose we find our edge, which is the point where we feel the stretch but no pain, and we stay there and breathe without pushing or forcing the body. As we breathe and relax we will feel the body slowly melt deeper into each yoga pose.
What Are The Benefits Of Yin Yoga?
The benefits of Yin Yoga are numerous, both physical and mental. Physically, Yin Yoga helps to improve flexibility, increase circulation, and promote healthy joint mobility. It also targets the connective tissues (fascia), which can become tight and stiff with age, stress, or inactivity. Mentally, Yin Yoga helps to calm the mind and promote relaxation and overall well-being which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
4 Yin Yoga Poses You Must Try
There are many Yin Yoga poses to choose from, each with their own unique benefits. Here are a few of our favourite Yin Yoga poses:
- Child's Pose: This pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles, and can help to calm the mind and relieve stress.
- Dragon Pose: This pose targets the hips and groin, and can help to release tension and promote emotional balance.
- Butterfly Pose: This pose stretches the hips, inner thighs, and lower back, and helps to release tension in the hips, neck and back.
- Sphinx: This pose targets the back, and can help to release tension in the back and open the chest/front of the body.
How Do You Sequence Yin Yoga?
When creating a Yin Yoga practice, it's important to balance yin and yang energies, and to target specific areas of the body. A typical Yin Yoga practice may include a combination of forward folds, twists, hip openers, and backbends. Often after a backbend follows a forward fold and vice versa. It's also important to listen to your body and adjust the practice as needed, using props to support the body and finding your edge in each pose.
Where To Learn Yin Yoga?
Yoga studios are a great place to learn and explore Yin Yoga. You will find that most yoga studios offer at least one Yin Yoga class per week. You can also find free Yin Yoga classes on Youtube.
Our favourite Yin Yoga classes are on the Yin Yoga app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play App Store. A low cost one time purchase gives you access to a comprehensive selection of Yin Yoga sequences ranging from a quick 12 minutes to a rejuvenating 88 minutes. You can also build your own sequence on the app by selecting your favourite poses and combining them into a nourishing personalised Yin Yoga experience.
Breathwork And Meditation In Yin Yoga
Breathwork and meditation can enhance the Yin Yoga practice, helping to calm the mind and deepen the relaxation response. In Yin Yoga, we focus on slow, deep breathing, using the breath to bring awareness to the body and quiet the mind. We may also incorporate meditation techniques such as mindfulness or visualisation, to help us stay present and focused.
Yin Yoga For Athletes And Runners
Yin Yoga can be an excellent complement to other forms of exercise, especially for athletes and runners. By targeting the connective tissues and promoting healthy joint mobility, Yin Yoga can help to prevent injury, improve flexibility, and promote faster recovery. It can also help to balance the high-intensity demands of other forms of exercise, and promote overall well-being.
Yin Yoga Philosophy
At its core, Yin Yoga is grounded in the philosophical principles of Taoism, which emphasises the importance of balance and harmony in all aspects of life. In Yin Yoga, we aim to balance the yin and yang energies within the body, creating a sense of inner harmony and peace.
Another aspect of Yin Yoga philosophy is the concept of impermanence. In Yin Yoga, because we hold poses for longer periods of time, it allows us to observe the impermanence of sensations in the body. We may notice sensations such as discomfort, tension, or even pleasure, and then observe as these sensations shift and change over time. This can help us cultivate a sense of detachment and non-attachment, which can be beneficial both on and off the yoga mat.
Tips For Starting A Yin Yoga Practice
If you're interested in starting a Yin Yoga practice, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, find a qualified teacher who can guide you through the practice and ensure you're using proper alignment and technique. It's also important to listen to your body and not push or force yourself into the poses. Finally, make sure you have the right yoga props, such as yoga blankets, yoga bolsters, eye pillows, yoga straps, and yoga blocks, to support your body in the longer holds. With these tips in mind, you can begin to experience the many benefits of Yin Yoga.
In conclusion, Yin Yoga is a powerful practice that offers many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. By slowing down and focusing on the present moment, we can cultivate a sense of inner peace and balance, and improve our overall well-being. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced practitioner, Yin Yoga offers a gentle and accessible path to deeper awareness and inner harmony.
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