what is this beautiful practice called yin?!
Yin yoga is passive holding of postures for 3-5 minutes (or more) to gently stress connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, and fascia) and bones; the aim is to make them a little longer and stronger, and move Chi (energy) along the meridian channels in these tissues.
The three main principles:
arriving at an edge in the pose
resolving to stay still
staying for time
The intent is to move into the pose and stop where the body offers resistance, release any tension in the muscles and allow gravity to work on the area being targeted. The stillness in the body allows for the breath to slow down and the mind follows.
The breath one uses in a yin practice is the Dan Tien breath – to gently concentrate attention and energy in the lower abdomen – the home of prenatal Jing energy – one’s pure essence.
Some teachers also use a soft ocean’s breath – gently constricting the throat on the inhale and exhale through the nose.
it's all about one's 'yin-tention' & attention
Yin often gets confused with restorative yoga as both forms incorporate props and long holds. While in restorative props completely support the body and release all tension, in yin, props are used to either deepen or lessen the stress.
In Hatha and Vinyasa, the more yang forms, the muscles are contracted, while in yin, the muscles are relaxed to target the colder, less pliable connective tissues. Also, the poses are held for a number of breaths and not for time as in yin.
the origins of Yin
Yin yoga has its roots in Daoist philosophy of being in harmony with nature. The practice is centred around the theory of the 5 elements – Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire (depicted in the artwork above), Yin and Yang, and the flow of Chi (energy) through meridians in the body as in Oriental medicine and acupuncture.
Paul Grilley who brought us the yin we practice today, isolated the ‘yin’ poses and Daoist teachings from his martial arts teacher Paulie Zinc, marrying them with his study of the meridians under Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama.
One of Paul’s early students Sarah Powers brought to his ‘Daoist Yoga’ her insights of Buddhist mindfulness and ‘Yin Yoga’ was born in the early 90s
the physical, emotional and energetic benefits
Physically, the practice helps increase mobility, strength and lubrication in the joints (yin tissues) — increasing Hyaluronic acid, Elastin and Collagen.
90% of the nerve endings lie in the fascia; the body remembers all experiences and yin helps release these stuck emotions and soothe the nervous system. Yin is a mindfulness practice – but can be challenging.
On the energetics, the poses create an electrical ‘spark’ along the meridians, bringing about balance – emotionally and physically.
It’s important to include this practice at least twice a week if not thrice, along with a more yang (active) practice.
You don’t have to be flexible to do yin. Start where you are. The main premise of yin is to adapt the pose for your body – playing your edges. Having said that, I wouldn’t stress an injured tissue or stay too long if one has issues with circulation, nerves, is on chemo etc.
It can be very slow, and probably the practice you need if you feel you just cannot sit still or your mind won’t let you. Having said that, we have emotional edges too, so one might need to ease oneself into the practice.
Find a class that teaches ‘true’ yin (many yin classes focus only on the physical poses with little attention to the ‘rebound’ between poses and the movement of chi).
yin is an 'adapt-ogenic' practice
Yin is very adaptable – you can start shallow and follow your body’s leading to go deeper. I’ve taught it to people in their wheelchairs, and hospital beds too – just tracing the energy meridians, cause energy flows where attention goes.
Be aware of what your doctor or physical therapist recommends you do or not do, so you can design your shapes for your body.