Yin Yoga, why has it become so popular and still increasing? How come this relatively new style of yoga is attracting more and more students?
In this blog I have outlined a few reasons why the practice is so wholesome for many of us. It is a passive style of practicing yoga, most postures are floor based and during the practice the positions are held over longer periods of time, mostly 3-5 minutes, some postures even longer. When practicing this style of yoga, we target the deep connective tissues and fascia. The fascia is a body-system that gives our body shape and protection. The practice can be physically challenging, mainly due to lack of range of motion and/or stiffness. Mentally the challenge is within the longer holds and from there, the mind gets a lot of time to do what it is good at, having random thoughts. Yin is an excellent complementary yoga practice to the more dynamic yang styles of yoga and other types of sports that are so predominant these days.
good for everyone: all genders, ages and body-types
First things first, everyone can do Yin Yoga, and it is good for everyone, men too!! It is not needed to be flexible to start practicing, it is a practice which is targeting the connective tissues within the body, most talked and discussed about these days is fascia (more on this specific topic in a later blog). To quote Paul Grilley, one of the founders of Yin Yoga, “functionality goes over aesthetics”. There is no perfect alignment, which we see in a yang practice where we use the different approaches of alignment because of the dynamic of the practice. In a yin practice we more often go search for target areas, density, sensation of feeling. Everybody’s bone-structure is different, thus every pose is looking often differently when seen from the outside. Props like blankets and bolsters are often used to make poses accessible for each individual and to assure that we are able to breathe freely, activating the rest & digest signal in our nervous system.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that the practice should be approached with the right intention and attention, combined with acceptance. Knowing that many variations are available in the different poses and as well the possibility to use props, make the poses for most of us accessible. One of the effects of a regular practice of yin yoga is harmonising the flow energy in the body. Energy is also often referred to as Chi (TCM) or Prana (Indian philosophy), it is the vital life-force energy. The practice of yin is to remove any obstructions or obstacles and let the energy move freely, so all the different parts and layers of our beings is being supplied with a healthy flow of energy. To let all layers and nooks and crannies of the body feel energised, and there is a vibrant connection with all that is energy that is surrounding us.
It is not a stretching class
Energy can get stagnant through many diverse reasons: postural imbalance, injury, mental or emotional stress. In the event that energy/chi/prana does not flow smoothly through the body, it will develop its own pathology that can lead to more serious imbalances or illness. When practicing yin yoga, and having a healthy balance between yin and yang activities, your flexibility and range of motion will surely increase. But this should be with patience, it is a slow practice and only with the right mindset the changes will occur. Never forget the key element is to relax in the poses and the rest will come:)
A sense of mild and positive stress will help the adhesions and deep connective tissues between and in the muscles. The fascia becomes softer and yields into the new shape. This is what we sense as an increase in range of motion and flexibility. Yin Yoga is very much a practice of mindfulness; it teaches us to stay in the present moment. Because of the longer holds and the sensations that come to rise, we get confronted with our feelings, sensations and emotions. With practicing regularly, just we do in meditation, we learn to recognise our thoughts, to see them coming and let them pass by; instead of reacting we train ourselves to observe. Letting go of the outcome, accept that what is, recognise the journey. The conscious breathing during the practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulation of "rest-and-digest". Activities that occur when the body is at rest, for example digestion, are just as much needed as activities that make the heart go up. A healthy balance between yin and yang are key to a healthy life. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are always operational, but the keyword is always balance. One or the other is always more active. The yin and yang pull of these two systems keeps our body in homeostasis or balance. There are times we benefit with more yin activities and other times we need more yang activities. Practicing yin yoga is a beautiful way to reconnect to body, mind and soul in a gentle, compassionate way; all body-types, all ages, all genders…