Yin yoga has become popular in the last couple of years. But if you’ve not tried yin what make it different from other yoga classes? One of our yin yoga teachers Rachael gives us some insight into this slow, mindful practice…
Understanding the name yin yoga gives us a picture what a class is like. Named after the ancient Chinese philosophy Yin and Yang, yin represents more of a passive, grounding and still aspects of life, whereas yang would be used to describe the more active, lighter, faster qualities.
You could say that lot of yoga styles that involve moving and actively holding poses as more yang in nature. You could also describe the modern world we live in as more yang too – with its fast pace, focus on being busy and on doing rather than being.
So, what’s the key to understanding yin and yang? And how does this relate to yoga? They teach us about balance. Neither yin or yang is good or bad; we need both to stay healthy. We need to move and we need to rest…. that’s where yin yoga comes in. If we’re feeling busy in our daily lives, yin yoga gives us the space to pause. If we’re doing a lot of activity and fitness, yin gives us that meditative rest for body and mind.
In a typical class we come into a series of simple yoga poses, usually on the floor, and relax into them for about 3 – 5 minutes. If you’ve practised other styles of yoga before you might recognise some poses, so what makes them yin? It’s how we practice.
In yin yoga we invite the muscles to relax, we become aware of any tension or holding in the body and invite that to soften and release. We learn to let go of being on alert and active in our bodies and embody a yin way of being; easing and relaxing.
When we do this so much happens. On a physical level, each yin posture places a healthy stress on certain areas of the body. By relaxing our body, this gentle stress moves beyond the superficial muscles to our tissues. Over time we can lose mobility in our tissues, through injury, long periods of being sedentary or over-training for example. Yin restores this by applying gentle pressure to target areas of the body for a few minutes, which massages and hydrates our tissues, releasing stuckness, enhancing mobility.
Its benefits go way beyond the physical. As we relax in to poses and pay mindful attention to our breath and sensations we feel in our bodies, we’re sending signals to our nervous system to switch into ‘rest and digest’, a soothing and restoring mode. Coming into this mode through yin (and other practices too!) can support us to balance out life’s stresses by allowing us to rest.
Slowing down with yin yoga brings so many benefits; helping us feel calmer in our minds, more spacious in our bodies and ready to take on the busier parts of life. If you’d like to add a bit more yin into your week, come a try one of our weekly classes at Energise with me (on Saturdays) and Alison (on Wednesdays). If this article has sparked some questions I’d love to hear from you, get in touch either by email email@example.com or facebook.com/yogawithrachaelwebb/