You may have heard the name yin yoga being thrown around and you may have already asked people “what is yin yoga?”. After my recent teacher training with The Yoga People, Yin is definitely a solid part of my weekly yoga practice, as it’s so nourishing for both the body and mind. I know we can say that about all types of yoga, but for me being a very yang kind of person, yin yoga had to fight for a place in my heart and now it’s there, it’s there to stay.
So what is yin yoga?
The method of yin yoga is to hold postures for a much longer period of time than you normally would – anything from 3 minutes upwards (Sometimes up to 20 minutes in certain postures for advanced practitioners). Yin works into the fascia in the body, also known as connective tissue – the tissue that pretty much holds us together in one piece, connecting bones, muscles and everything in between.
Yin yoga is designed to slowly release the joints of the body whilst finding stillness in each posture, locating the target area (muscle group) and noticing how chi (energy) moves around that area, as you melt deeper into the pose. Usually after each posture we come to whats called the ‘rebound’, which is most people’s favourite part! It requires laying down in the way that feels most comfortable and just noticing the sensations in the body.
The postures aren’t the same as you’re used to in yang yoga, even if they look similar, as the idea is to not have the muscles engaged at all. Plus you’ll notice that postures like paschimottanasana takes on the name of caterpillar.
Even though the concept of yin has been around for thousands of years, it was brought to the mainstream by Paul Grilley, who developed the practice after learning from Paulie Zink. The practice is all about knowing your own body, rather than getting into a picture perfect posture and trying to look the same as everyone else.
The practice of yin is much more like meditation and asks more of the student on an emotional level than yang practice does. Where in a yang practice things are moving quickly so we don’t have much time to think or just be, yin challenges us to look inwards and sit with any emotions, frustrations and irritations that arise, really working into our chakras as we work through postures. Because of this, yin yoga can be amazing for metal illness and therapy work. On a more physical level after doing 10 days of yin I was more flexible than I had ever been before!
So that’s a top line overview of what yin yoga is. If you want to learn more, especially looking at the anatomy of the body and how it relates to the practice, then I recommend checking out Paul Grilley’s books and DVDs.
Hopefully this answered the more basic questions you had about yin. If not, just pop a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it.
Love, Cat x