What is Yin yoga? Yin Yoga 101 and the benefits

I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years now and I’ve flirted with lots of different styles. From Ashtanga to Anusara, HIIT yoga to traditional Hatha. They all served their purpose for what I needed at the time. As I progress on my yoga path, I’ve discovered that slowing down is when I truly experience the benefits of yoga. In the process I’ve also been able to discover what yoga genuinely means to me. For me, its using the poses to explore my body and accept it is as it is. Also, to connect to my breath, so I can slow my thoughts and see clearer the self-limiting beliefs that hold me back. Which leads me onto Yin.

Yin yoga is gaining more and more popularity in the West and rightly so. It is a slow-paced style of modern yoga with postures, or asanas, that are held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more.

This style of yoga targets deep connective tissue and fascia . Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscles and use the breath to move deeper into the pose. Throughout the class you will hear me talking about “finding your appropriate edge”. That means you go 3/4 of the way into the pose, find the stretch and stay with it; all the while breathing deeply. From there the body will start to open up and you can safely move deeper. As you can imagine, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body.

Yin postures are mainly practiced on the floor and are passive poses, which allows you to retreat into the pose and explore it like a meditation. We’ve all heard the amazing benefits of meditation, but for some- if not most- its really difficult to sit still and calm our busy minds. However, Yin can be a great solution. I’ve personally found that it becomes a lot easier to focus on my breath and stay present, when I’m observing sensations from the pose. So, if you want to receive the benefits of meditation and yoga at the same time. Yin could be the perfect blend for you.

So on to the benefits.

    • Regulates energy in the body

    • Increases mobility in the body, especially the joints and hips

    • Lowering of stress levels

    • Better ability to sit for meditation

    • Better lubrication and protection of joints

    • More flexibility in joints & connective tissue

    • Release of fascia throughout the body

    • Help with headaches and migraines

    • Deeper Relaxation

    • A great coping for anxiety and stress

    • Ultimately you will have a better Yang practice - the faster paced styles.

What I enjoy most about Yin, is that it can be a very intimate practice, that invites you to not just go deeper into the physical body, but deeper into your feelings, emotions and sensations. Therefore, making it a practice of self-inquiry and study. Which could easily be missed when your practicing more faster paced styles.

To round it up. Yin yoga has taught me to be still, to listen and allowed me to authentically connect to my breath. I’ve also cultivated more mindfulness, purely as a result of being still. Over time this mindfulness has poured out into my daily life. My flexibility has also increased, especially in and around my hips. Furthermore - and probably most essentially - I’m able to deeply relax my whole body. Which gives the nervous system a much needed respite from the stresses of living a modern life. The benefits of deep relaxation are so profound for the mind and body, that it can help with hormonal imbalances, digestion issues, injury and anxiety.

So, I’ll close by saying that whatever style of yoga you practice, it will offer you amazing benefits mentally and physically. No style is better than any other and like everything in life, its all about balance. Yin needs Yang and Yang needs Yin.