The Basics of Yin Yoga and Why You May Need More Yin In Your Life

Woman doing Yin yoga pose
Basics of Yin yoga

Benefits of Yin Yoga and Basic Yin Yoga Poses

Yin yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga today. This soothing style of yoga may be exactly what you need more of in your life right now but didn’t even realize! If you don’t know much about Yin yoga and you’re curious to learn more, this article is for you! Learn the benefits, history, and postures of this trending yoga style and find out what makes Yin yoga different than the Hatha or Vinyasa styles of yoga that you may be more familiar with.

Table of contents:

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What is Yin yoga
Why is Yin yoga so hard
What is Yin yoga good for
What are some of the benefits of Yin yoga
What are some Yin yoga poses
What is the difference between Yin yoga and Vinyasa yoga

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What is Yin yoga

Yin yoga is a form of yoga that works into the fascia and muscular tissues by practicing long holds in yoga postures. This style of yoga has Taoist roots and is said to activate the flow of chi. In comparison to flow based styles of yoga, Yin yoga is the polar opposite – stable and unmoving. Flow based styles of yoga are considered to be Yang because the body is ever changing and moving.

Yin yoga works on connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, and fascia) while Yang styles work on muscles. According to an article in Yoga Journal about Yin yoga written by noted Yin yoga teacher and founder of the Yin style, Paul Grilley, “In general, a yin approach works to promote flexibility  in areas often perceived as nonmalleable, especially the hips, pelvis, and lower spine.” In order to achieve this, Yin yoga poses are held for several minutes versus flow styles of yoga that are often moving between poses in breath to movement style.

Why is Yin yoga so hard

For many of us, coming into stillness can be quite an ambitious undertaking. As we try to multitask in every moment of every day, to just be still can be the most challenging task of them all. So there is that mental factor that makes Yin yoga hard or challenging. But another factor is the physical feelings we are faced with and must work through while marinating in Yin yoga postures for the long holds that define Yin yoga.

Oftentimes Yin yoga is working into our most troubled areas that have become extremely tight and stiff over time due to lifestyle such as sitting at a desk all day or poor habitual postural habits. In fact, many might say that Yin yoga is the hardest style of yoga out there, which may be contradictory to what many of us first might think when we consider styles like Power yoga, but for many reasons Yin yoga challenges even the most hardcore Vinyasa yogi. For one, to sit in a posture without the distraction of technology might be harder than it sounds!

Yin yoga will often times incorporate yoga props into the practice, making the physical practice feel less demanding on the body by supporting the muscles. Creating a peaceful Zen yoga space is another great way to melt into Yin yoga as an inviting space will invite your body and mind to be present to the practice.

What is Yin yoga good for

One of the original intentions behind Yin yoga was to better prepare the body for seated meditation. But Yin yoga is also good for lengthening the connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons that surround the bones and to unblock the meridians of the body to allow vital energy to flow freely throughout the body.

What are some benefits of Yin yoga

Practicing Yin yoga can improve the overall functioning of the body in a number of ways. By stimulating the layers of fascia in the body, nutrients can flow more easily while the stretching of the body’s ligaments helps to maintain plasticity, aiding in range of motion even in the later years in life. By lengthening tendons we are also aiding the body in maintaining a dynamic range of motion. 

What are some Yin yoga poses

According to With-YinYoga there are seven archetype poses or main postures in Yin yoga. Then of those seven main postures, there are several variations of each. The seven main yoga postures of Yin yoga are: Shoelace, Saddle, Caterpillar, Dragonfly, Dragon, Dog, Twist.

Basic Yin Yoga postures – original vector images courtesy of Pranamaya

What is the difference between Yin yoga and Vinyasa yoga

Yin yoga focuses on lengthening and strengthening connective tissues by resting in yoga postures in a passive way rather than building muscles using repetitive weight bearing body weight movements. Yin yoga focuses solely on postures while Vinyasa yoga classes may include breathing exercises, methods of stimulating various internal energy locks, and mantras. In the original practice of Yin yoga, the focus area is generally speaking on the lower body, while Vinyasa style yoga classes are most often full body engagement. 

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