Having completed my Yin yoga teacher training, I quickly realised how many of my students, or friends don’t know what Yin yoga is or anything about it. Vinyasa Yoga has long been the mainstream in the west, with energising flows, creative sequencing and that satisfaction that comes with the challenge and diversity of the practice. But with so many different styles of yoga out there how is it that so many of us don’t know, don’t more regularly practice, or aren’t even familiar with some of the most ancient yoga practices and their benefits?
So what is Yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a practice designed to help you find ease in both your body and mind. Using Chinese medicine, it works with the meridian energy channels in the body similar to acupuncture techniques.
Poses or asanas, are held for extended periods of time typically around 5 minutes or longer. The practice is floor based, working with the meridian channels to help restore Chi, balance and vitality to the body. The Yin practice works by compressing areas in the body, using static holds, and no muscular movement to increase structural mobility by increasing circulation to the joints and connective tissues. The practice uses “steady, static, stress” to get deeper into the meridian channels promoting good organ health and repair. It is great for improving circulation to joints and areas of tension as well as improving flexibility and cultivating awareness of inner silence. This practice helps us to be sat comfortably for extended periods of time for meditation and overall increase grace and fluidity in movement and physical ease.
Energetically Yin yoga sequencing and posture helps to balance energy in the body, enhancing Chi and our ability to absorb Chi. It helps to remove blockages often caused by emotion to harmonise our vitality. This harmonising effect also has an impact emotionally, helping us really feel and deal with difficult emotions and imbalances as they arise. In doing this we gain more clarity, a sense of calm and an ability to sit and contemplate learning, and self-study whilst developing curiosity into our true nature.
What are the benefits?
For me personally Yin yoga has, and continues to be a place of calm away from the craziness of modern life. The practice is focused on cultivating mindfulness as well as starting to incorporate aspects of meditation to compliment the physical practice. Yin as a complement to my Yang practice, has been a much needed reset button through the difficult times of stress and anxiety in my life, helping me to remain grounded. The poses release tension so you can find more space and freedom in both body and mind and more ease to be within yourself.
The practice is designed to help you work to increase your range of motion, safely, within your natural range of motion. A big part of the practice is about finding your depth and edge and learning to explore the body, as well as using the knowledge of the meridians to help maintain health and prevent sickness. The purpose of the practice is to help us find equilibrium, and keep the body balanced between Yin and Yang forces, so we can feel and be at our best.
Who should practice Yin?
I would suggest Yin yoga for anyone who ever battles with feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious – so all of us right! Yin yoga not only provides the physical relief many of us crave, but it also gives you skills and teachings to help deal with feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed or anxious which so many of us live with day-to-day. It is also challenging, but great for people battling with overstimulation, which is a huge problem when we are constantly connected, and is only becoming more of an issue as we get more and more connected and reliant of our devices.
Students who have a strong Yang yoga style practice (Vinyasa, Power) will find it helps to balance their energy, and will be a great compliment to their practice. Helping them to recharge, focus and feel more open in the body. I really do believe that Yin yoga has something to offer everyone. I have never met someone would didn’t think they could benefit from more time in stillness, or more time being in their body finding its edge and more space and ease.
Often expectations of a Yin class are that it is easy and relaxing, but for many this is not the case. The Yin practice in its own way can be extremely challenging, both mentally and physically. In a world where we are constantly moving it can be very interesting to see what comes up when things get still! In the practice we are given opportunities (within a safe environment) to learn to sit in the discomfort of both the body and the mind and really feel, learning to find ease. This helps us to work on the strength of the mind, and how we deal with discomfort and stress outside of our practice.
Like anything, until you try it for yourself you really can’t know what you will get from the practice. Many students are reluctant to try Yin initially, but those who do, often find it very different to their preconceptions – in a positive way!
I have started to teach Yin at Cable Yoga Studio as well as across London, check out my timetable and follow me on Social media to give it a try and see what you think for yourself about this ancient practice!