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What Is Yin Yoga: Long Holds, Props, and a Wealth of Benefits

My Yoga Teacher

Posted on Jun 23, 2021 #fitness

What Is Yin Yoga?

Yin yoga is a very slow-paced style of yoga where poses are held for a long time — anywhere between five and twenty minutes — to target and stretch deep connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and fascia.

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We're all so busy and constantly connected these days. And while that may be good from a productivity standpoint, the constant buzz of modern life can cause serious problems with our physical, mental, and emotional health.

The truth is, our bodies aren't meant to be in a state of constant stress with the sympathetic nervous system always on and ready to initiate that "fight-flight-freeze" response. As a result of constant stress, our bodies and minds become agitated, anxious, and fearful.

And so the cycle continues.

We start experiencing this anxiety in our physical body as aches, pains, and tightness. This makes it so important to focus on activities that will help us calm our nervous systems and our minds.

And that's where Yin yoga comes in.

Origins of Yin Yoga

Yin yoga combines concepts from both Indian and Chinese practices. From India, it adapts the postures of Hatha yoga, marrying those poses with martial arts. Western yoga teachers like Paulie Zin, Sarah Powers, and others have contributed to modern Yin practice through integrating Buddhist meditative practice and Taoist principles.

The Three Tattvas of Yin Yoga: Edge, Stillness, Time

Tattva is the reality of something, its principle nature. There are three simple tattvas for a Yin yoga practice:

Edge

Your edge is how deep you go into each pose. This is very personal and the purpose is to go to where the body naturally stops you and stay there. Over time, your edge will change, meaning you'll be able to go deeper into a pose.

Stillness

Once you find your edge, stay there (as long as you're free from pain). Resting into Yin poses helps the deep connective tissues release.

Time

Poses are held for a long time in Yin yoga. This gives you time to fully release into a pose, getting the most benefit from each pose.

What Are the Benefits of Yin Yoga?

Yin yoga is a wonderful complement to more physically demanding styles of yoga. And, like other yoga practices, Yin yoga has several benefits to help us stay flexible and avoid injury. Here are some of the ways Yin can benefit you:

Lengthens Connective Tissues and Increases Flexibility

Yin yoga is all about holding poses for a long period of time. The purpose of this is to target the fascia, deep connective tissues around the muscles. This is also beneficial to other connective tissues like ligaments and tendons that tend to lose elasticity through aging and being underused. Through Yin yoga, we can increase flexibility in those connective tissues and offer better support to our joints, reducing joint stiffness, limited mobility, and pain.

Boosts Circulation

While it may seem counterintuitive, holding poses for a longer period of time can improve circulation. This is because you're giving your body more time to move oxygen through the body to its muscles and organs.

Reduces Stress and Encourages Mindfulness

If you've never experienced the deep calm that comes from a Yin yoga class, you're truly missing out on something special. Yoga is documented for helping to lower stress and anxiety, and Yin yoga is particularly adept at this thanks to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Yin also encourages mindfulness through silence and stillness. As you relax into a pose and stay there for an extended period of time, your mind is given the space it needs to experience emotions that you might be pushing away.

Who Should Practice Yin Yoga?

Everybody!

Yin yoga is a highly accessible type of yoga that just about anyone can practice. Yin relies heavily on props to keep the body both stretched and supported and is a very slow-moving practice. If you come across a pose that doesn't work for your body, there are always going to be alternatives you can use instead.

What to Expect in a Yin Yoga Class

While no two studios or teachers are the same, there are a few typical features of Yin yoga that you can expect in any Yin yoga class.

Long Holds and Deep Stretches

Poses in Yin yoga can be held for two to five minutes up to 10 minutes or longer. Practitioners are encouraged to observe how the poses feel and let go, not dwelling on any particular sensation and, instead, letting the body really relax into the pose.

Props

Props are used in Yin because the length of time you hold the pose is much more important than how intense the pose is. Practitioners are encouraged to find their "edge" in each pose, the level of intensity that you can comfortably hold for a period of time. The props are there to help support your body at that edge without moving beyond it.

Quiet Time

Yin yoga is deeply meditative. As such, most Yin classes include a lot of silence so you can listen to your breath and direct your awareness inward.

Gentle Guidance

We mentioned earlier that Yin is an accessible practice. That extends to the language that's used in Yin classes. Teachers will usually have variations available in case a pose doesn't work for your body and you'll likely be encouraged to use more props than you may think you need to support your body.

Practice Yin Yoga With myYogaTeacher

Yin yoga strives to create a balance between the physical, mental, and emotional. In a world that's constantly on the move, a Yin practice can help restore balance.

It focuses on the cooling energy of the body and, unlike an active practice that targets the muscles and builds strength, Yin yoga works into the connective tissue of the body to enhance flexibility.

The postures in Yin yoga are held passively, often for several minutes, so the body finds a way to completely relax the muscles while in a pose. Holding poses for an extended period of time brings the mind and heart into a calm, meditative state.

Sounds heavenly, doesn't it?

If you're interested in practicing Yin yoga with us, we'd love to see you in class! You can sign up for a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher and get access to our Yin yoga classes along with 40+ other live online yoga classes every single day.

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