Yin Yoga: The Quiet One
Yin Yoga comes from the Taoist tradition, think Yin and Yang. Yang relates to movement, often repetitive movement, which creates heat in the body. Yin is about finding stillness and cooling the body. We need both to come into balance to stay in optimum condition. Yin Yoga incorporates elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine and stimulates the meridians or energy pathways in the body to bring about health, well-being and optimised energy.
In Yin Yoga you are encouraged to slow down and just be. There are no planks, no warriors, no core work, no sun salutations. The pace is slow – you can expect forward bends, lunges, gentle backbends and other poses commonly practised in dynamic yoga classes. But the key difference is in yin yoga, they are held for a longer period of time – between 2 & 20 minutes (5 minutes is usual). It is not uncommon for props to be used to help you stay in the pose such as blankets, blocks, cushions and bolsters.
Our bodies are made up of yang and yin tissues. Muscles are yang – in order to be strengthened they must be subject to yang activity – repetitive movement, shorter holds, dynamic stretching (eg sun salutations), running, cycling etc target yang tissue.
Longer, static holds enable us to access yin tissue – fascia and connective tissue. We need the combination of yang and yin to keep the joints healthy. Fascia is a continuous web of tissue that weaves in and around not only our muscles but also our organs, nerves and lymph. It is rather like a silk body stocking, inside our bodies. To keep fascia healthy and springy, we need to keep it hydrated and we need to apply pressure to it with these longer holds.
Yin Yoga goes hand in hand with mindfulness practices and is a great place to develop a meditation practice, especially if you find sitting still difficult. During a class you are encouraged to observe the breath and use this as a way to focus on the present moment, allowing thoughts and feelings to arise but practising the art of sitting with them and watching them without getting involved. In this way mind chatter is lessened and the volume turned down on persistent and negative thought patterns, As a result you get to know yourself deeply and develop skills you can use off the mat.
On a mental and emotional level, the practice allows the body to drop down into the parasympathetic nervous system, and therefore becomes deeply healing and nourishing. Practitioners report that it is grounding, calming & revitalising, with profound energetic and emotional effects. People who regularly attend yin yoga classes say it stimulates perception and awareness of the quality and joy of the breath, and therefore of life itself.
Yin Yoga classes are suitable for beginners and more experienced practitioners alike.
Yin Yoga is for you if you
- Would like to slow down and relax
- Are recovering from illness and are looking for a gentle practice to restore health
- Are suffering from stress, depression, anxiety, the menopause or hormonal imbalance, insomnia or any chronic illness (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes, lupus etc)
- Want a meditative practice that will help you gain greater understanding of your mind & emotions and how they relate to your body
- Want to maintain or restore your range of motion
- Find it difficult to switch off the chatter of your mind
- Need a balance to a busy life, a chance to rest & listen to your deeper self
- Want to build your relaxation skills