Yoga is an incredibly diverse form of exercise, with lots of styles to choose from to suit any fitness level and taste.
Whether you’re looking to build core strength, increase flexibility, deepen your spiritual practise, or compliment other forms of exercise, there’s a style of yoga for you.
There are some styles, however, that are generally more popular than others. And some that fall a little under the general radar. Yin yoga could be seen as one of the latter, but it’s a fantastic practise with some amazing benefits.
So this week we’ll be talking all about yin yoga: what makes it a great practise, and why you should consider incorporating it into your exercise routine.
What is yin yoga?
On a fundamental level there are two types of yoga: yin and yang. Yang yoga (vinyasa, Hatha, etc.) focuses more on the “superficial” muscles, whilst yin yoga focuses on the body’s deep connective tissues. Ideally the best approach is to combine the two styles, thus giving ourselves a balanced practise.
Yin is the quieter and more passive style of the two. Typically it focuses on the lower body (hips, pelvis, thighs, spine), and consists of a series of long-held poses that can each last upwards of five minutes.
It offers a more introspective practise than many other types of yoga, helping us cultivate patience and stillness, whilst subtly improving our flexibility and mobility.
Yin yoga can be particularly beneficial for people who are overactive and busy. If you lead a relatively stressful life, or if you engage in regular and intense exercise, yin could be the perfect counterbalancing practise.
But don’t be fooled by its reflective and passive nature. Yin yoga is just as challenging as any other discipline. The primary difficulty of yin can be found in holding poses for such prolonged periods of time. In general, most of us aren’t accustomed to staying still and quiet for more than a few seconds at a time. And, as such, deliberately engaging in stillness can feel surprisingly unusual and disagreeable. This is where many of the challenges, and benefits, unique to this style are to be found.
Why practise yin?
Yin yoga really is for anyone, but it can be especially beneficial for those who are over-stimulated, under-energised, and tired.
If you have a restless mind and body, and struggle to sit still, yin yoga may be the perfect remedy. The same goes for people who are in constant search of stimulation. Checking our phones every minute, shifting our attention from this to that and that to this, are habits that can be very effectively subdued by a yin yoga practise. Yin is all about stilling the mind and developing patience.
Some benefits of yin yoga
Poor posture, daily wear and tear, and ageing, all contribute to the increased tightness of our connective tissues. Yin yoga helps to alleviate this build up of tension and stiffness by gently lengthening muscles and fascia.
It’s a practise that increases range of motion by gently stressing our joints and connective tissues. And in this way yin yoga can act as a very practical and functional form of exercise, especially as we get older.
Though it’s by no means a quick fix, there are many benefits that a long-term yin yoga practise can yield, which include:
– Reduced stress.
– Increased circulation.
– Improved mobility and flexibility.
– Reduced tension.
Try something new
For many people, yin yoga may initially sound unappealing. The idea of sitting still, in sometimes uncomfortable postures, for long periods of time, isn’t the most enticing offer. But that’s exactly why you should consider giving it a go.
Chances are, if yin yoga doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, it’s because of the pace and stillness it entails. But those characteristics of the practise often turn out to be the reasons why people come to love it.
For lots of people, yin yoga is their only opportunity to be still and quiet, to slow down and reflect. And it’s in creating that quiet space that yin allows us to discover new avenues to wellbeing. After all, cardio and strength training aren’t the only paths to a healthy life.
If you’re curious about yin yoga but aren’t sure where to start, take a look at the following routines on YouTube. They’re perfect for beginners, and are led by excellent teachers…
And if you want to go even deeper into the theory and science of the practice, any of the following books would be a great place to start:
– Yin Yoga by Kassandra Reinhardt
– The Complete Guide To Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark
– Yin Yoga Principles & Practice by Paul Grilley
– A Journey Into Yin Yoga by Travis Eliot
Keeping a healthy mind
For more on the art and benefits of slowing down, why not try these 11 Tai Chi and Qi Gong routines with Sifu Paul Nathan, or learn about how meditation can benefit your workout regime.