With all the different types of yoga classes out there, it can be hard to know what to choose. If you’re already a practicing yogi, it can be equally difficult to know if you’re getting the right balance. An optimal yoga practice includes dynamic movement to build strength in the muscles, as well as static stretches to improve flexibility.
When I first started doing asana, or the poses of yoga, I was using the class primarily as a workout. Most were faster-paced ashtanga classes that made it questionable whether it was okay that I go back to work without a shower. After most of these sessions, I’d feel like I had just done an hour of cardio.
One day, our instructor introduced yin yoga, and I was not initially a fan. Yin yoga is a passive form of yoga in which the poses are held for long periods of time. In yin yoga, you typically do not break a sweat and there is a lot less movement than in a traditional hatha class. It was only after I learned the holistic benefits of yin yoga that I began to appreciate it and incorporate it into my practice.
At Inspiring Actions, we offer a yin yoga class Wednesdays at 5:30 at our studio in Hudson, Wisconsin! Visit our schedule here to register and for a full list of the rest of our classes. Keep reading to learn more about yin yoga and what differentiates it from other styles of yoga, its benefits, and who it is best suited for.
What is Yin Yoga?
You’ve probably heard of the concept of yin and yang, and it’s meaning helps define yin yoga. In Chinese philosophy, everything exists as inseparable opposites: male and female, dark and light, up and down.
The yin and yang concept says that you can’t have light without dark, pleasure without pain. It’s represented by the symbol of a circle separated into two equal halves, but with an element of each side in the other, representing balance both in ourselves and in the Universe.
Yin represents the stable, unmoving aspects of life while yang refers to change and movement. In the body, the muscles and blood are yang, while our connective tissues (tendons, ligaments and fascia) are yin, and that is where the focus is in yin yoga.
In a yin yoga class, poses are held for an extended period of time, usually 3 – 10 minutes. Yogis in a yin yoga class are encouraged to relax into the stretch, and this can help us both on a physical and mental level.
What are the Benefits of Yin Yoga?
Although you will not break a sweat in yin yoga (in fact, some instructors will encourage ‘cold’ muscles), you are working with the deep connective tissues of the body that are usually neglected in other forms of exercise. When you work out or practice hatha yoga, you are focusing on strengthening and stretching the muscles, which is obviously beneficial.
But the body is also made up of tendons, ligaments, and fascia that are related to range of motion, pain, and circulation. When a pose is held in a relaxed position for an extended period of time, it stretches these connective tissues, and the body responds by making them longer and more fluid.
Energetically, yin yoga releases the deepest blockages in our chakra systems (read more about that here!). Life force energy, or prana as it’s called in yogic philosophy, courses throughout our body, keeping our systems functioning. This energy can become blocked in our body for many reasons. Releasing these blockages can result in better physical health and emotional well-being.
A more subtle benefit of yin yoga is that it can offer a perfect opportunity to draw inward for deep meditation. When holding a pose for a long time, it can take a minute or two to find your comfort level. You might try to relax into the pose only to find it uncomfortable and have to readjust to find a level that is sustainable. Once you find the sweet spot though, the remaining minutes of the hold offer an amazing opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Here are a few more benefits of yin yoga:
- Increased circulation
- Improved joint mobility/range of motion
- Better flexibility
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Improved energy flow
Who is Yin Yoga Best For?
The benefits of yin yoga are plentiful, and applicable to everyone. But it is particularly helpful for beginners, or people looking to balance out a more dynamic workout/yoga practice. Similar to chair yoga, yin yoga is great way to learn basic poses that are used in many other classes without the (somewhat) immediate flow into the next. It gives you a chance to spend an extended period of time in one pose so you can find out where you edge is, and where your body feels uncomfortably comfortable.
Even if you’re already a practicing yogi or if you have a regular workout routine, chances are you are not spending too much time deliberately focusing on the health of your connective tissues. Yin yoga is a perfect supplemental practice in this way; even the most active and healthy person might experience unexplained pain, stiffness, fatigue, or confusion that could be alleviated by practicing this style of yoga.
The best part about yin yoga is that you do not need previous yoga experience to try it out. That is also true of joining us at Inspiring Actions! We offer a wide range of classes from beginner level to yoga teacher training and of course, our Yin Yoga class. This class is taught by instructor Tori, and poses are typically held for one to five minutes. We’d love to see you there, or at any of our other classes and events!
Check out this website for more in-depth information on yin yoga, and some poses to try!