What is Yin yoga?
Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. In the body, the relatively stiff connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia) are yin, while the more mobile and pliable muscles and blood are yang.
A Yin yoga class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body - the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues. The poses are held for up to five minutes, sometimes longer.
Who is Yin yoga for?
Yin yoga is for anyone who is tired and craving energy or for those who are over-stimulated and have too much energy; if your mind is overactive or your energy levels erratic. We live in a world where we are bombarded with stimuli, stimuli that is available 24/7. It’s so easy to end up not switching off at all - to end up with a mind that is constantly busy processing all the information that’s thrown at it. Whether the information is good, valuable or not, it doesn’t matter, the mind still needs to deal with it. The mind gets used to that amount of information and starts to crave stimuli if it becomes quiet. So we end up browsing, looking for stuff; it doesn’t matter what, as long as we fill the gaps. Gaps we really should allow to stay empty to find some sort of downtime - for the mind to stop and for you to just be.
Yin yoga and the body
Yin yoga works on the yin tissues - also known as the connective tissues. Connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load which is why we hold the poses for longer. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time in this way, the body will respond by making it a little longer and stronger - which is exactly what you want. Remember, the principle of exercise is to stress the tissue so the body will respond by strengthening it.
Different Yin yoga poses stimulate and remove blockages in the myofascial meridians in the body. This has the effect of balancing the body’s internal organs and systems. Yin yoga requires the muscles to relax around the connective tissue in order to get a stretch.
Yin yoga and the mind
Becoming still in a pose and staying for a while creates those gaps that I was talking about earlier. Keeping the gaps empty creates the space for anything that wants to come up. Anxiety, happiness sadness, boredom, for example. Anything you suppress with all the on-the-go busyness in your life. Yin yoga gives you the time and space to allow those feelings to be there. Emotions, thoughts, feelings you have kept in the shadows.
Generally speaking, during a Yin yoga class the teacher will encourage you to allow all those feelings to be there, but not identify with them. The teacher will guide you to become the observer of everything that arises in that space. All those stored away emotions, feelings and sensations now have a chance to come out. You have no idea how much energy it costs the body to keep all that suppressed. So the release you get from letting it all come out can also be just as big.
Tips for practising Yin yoga
We offer Yin yoga classes Friday nights from 7:30-8:30pm with Elizabeth and Sunday mornings from 10-11am with Leah.