In our hectic everyday lives, it can be tempting to gravitate towards sweaty vinyasa style yoga classes to workout, release tension and calm down the mind. Many of us are unconsciously living a very yang lifestyle, between work, family, and social life we rarely take the time to slow down, take a breath and go inward. This is exactly why we could all use a little more in our lives to balance ourselves out and really dive deep into our body and mind.
What is yin yoga?
Yin yoga has its roots in traditional yoga philosophy dating back thousands of years, however modern yin has been adapted by teachers such as Paulie Zink and Paul Grilley who have taken the practice and transformed it into somewhat of a new strand of yoga. In the modern adaptation of yin, the focus is on lengthening and stretching the deep tissues of the body, working into the joints and connective tissue and releasing trapped energy or “chi” from the body. A common misconception is that is just a slower more relaxing version of traditional ashtanga or vinyasa, but the way yin is practiced should be entirely different both in the physical body of the practitioner and in the mind. In yin yoga it is very important that the body is completely relaxed; teachers will encourage students to use blocks, pillows and bolsters to fully support the body and allow the student to go deep into the pose without holding any tension in the muscles. The reason it is so important for the body to be relaxed is so that the deep connective tissues and joints can be gently stretched and released without causing injury or stress to the bones or joints. It is as equally important to adopt a “yin” mindset to this yoga practice; knowing your body’s limits and not trying to push or force yourself into a pose, being kind to yourself and accepting your body’s limitations without judgement or attachment.
What are the benefits of stretching the joints and connective tissues?
It is believed that we store deep emotions in our body, these emotions or energies become trapped in our joints and deep connective tissues and need a slow release to unlock them and free them from our body. On an emotional level, yoga is extremely powerful in releasing past trauma or deep emotions from the body – this can sometimes be an unpleasant experience for the practitioner as we might go along to a class feeling perfectly relaxed and happy, and leave with an overwhelming feeling of sadness or anxiety. It is important to remember as a student that these feelings are completely normal and an integral part of our healing journey. Many students become discouraged or frustrated whenever unpleasant feelings arise in class because they believe that yoga is supposed to relax them and tune them out of their everyday stresses. When starting out a yin teacher training practice it is really important to be kind and patient with yourself and allow any feelings or emotions pass through you without judgement or attachment.
On a physical level stretching our joints and tendons has an enormous benefit on the health and wellbeing of our body. Naturally when we practice more yang styles of exercise we are working with the muscles, when we get into yin yoga we are getting deep into the connective tissues, filling the areas with fresh blood or “chi” and creating space and new opportunities for deep healing. As we age our joints naturally become stiffer and more rigid, we lose mobility and flexibility and can become less mobile and agile. A regular yin practice can help to keep the joints and connective tissues supple and healthy, creating longevity and youthfulness in the body.
How do I incorporate a regular yin yoga practice into my life?
There is no magic formula in creating a balance between, energy into our daily life, however when we begin to regularly practice yoga, we naturally begin to tune into the internal dialogue of the body. It becomes easier to understand how the body is feeling and whether we need more yin or yang energy at any certain point. It is especially important in modern life that we take time for inner reflection and quiet self-care, especially if we are combining yang exercise into our already hectic schedule. Developing and creating space for yin practices is important to balance out the yang energy and to heal the body both physically and emotionally.
To find out more about Yin Yoga or to join our 200hr Yin and Vinyasa Yoga Training program visit