Yin Yoga Description + Benefits & Guide To The 7 Basic Yin Poses

Yin yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga today. But what exactly is the Yin yoga definition? Let's find out!

In this article we'll get into the benefits, history, and best beginner postures of this trending yoga style, and find out what makes Yin yoga different and what actually defines Yin yoga when comparing Yin to Hatha or Vinyasa styles of yoga, which you may be more familiar with.

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Yin yoga defined

Yin yoga is a form of yoga that works into the fascia and muscular tissues by practicing long relaxed passive holds in yoga postures. The long holds are defining characteristics of Yin yoga classes.

This slow 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.

5 benefits of Yin yoga

5 benefits of yin yoga
1. Improves flexibility 
2. Stimulates the layers of fascia so nutrients can flow more easily
3. Stretches the body's ligaments to help maintain plasticity 
4. Lengthens tendons aiding in the body maintaining a dynamic range of motion
5. Unblocks meridians

Practicing Yin yoga can improve the overall functioning of the body in a number of ways such as:

  • Improves flexibility
  • Stimulates the layers of fascia so nutrients can flow more easily
  • Stretches the body's ligaments to help maintain plasticity
  • Lengthens tendons aiding in the body maintaining a dynamic range of motion
  • Unblocks meridians

What is Yin Yoga good for

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

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 works 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 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.

For many reasons, Yin yoga challenges even the most hardcore Vinyasa yogi. For one, sitting in a posture without the distraction of technology might be harder than it sounds!

Yin yoga will oftentimes incorporate yoga props into the practice, making the physical practice feel less demanding on the body by supporting the muscles.

Yin yoga poses for beginners

.Beginners can start practicing the 7 main Yin archetype postures: Shoelace, Saddle, Caterpillar, Dragonfly, Dragon, Dog, and Twist shown below before moving on to the variations of those poses.

Basic Yin Yoga postures – original vector images courtesy of Pranamaya

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Difference between Yin yoga and Vinyasa yoga

Yin yoga focuses on lengthening and strengthening connective tissues by passively resting in yoga postures rather than building muscles using repetitive weight-bearing bodyweight movements.

Yin yoga focuses solely on postures, this is another aspect that defines Yin yoga. Vinyasa yoga classes may include breathing exercises, methods of stimulating various internal energy locks, and mantras.

Furthermore, in the original practice of Yin yoga, the focus area is generally on the lower body, while Vinyasa style yoga classes are most often full-body engagement. 

Takeaway Yin yoga definition

Yin yoga is a unique form of yoga that promotes flexibility in areas that are often considered non-malleable, such as the hips, pelvis, and lower spine, by holding postures for several minutes.

This style of yoga is the opposite of flow-based yoga, which is considered Yang because it works on muscles, while Yin yoga works on connective tissue. I hope you now have a better understanding of the Yin yoga definition and what makes this style of yoga unique.

FAQ about Yin yoga

What makes Yin yoga unique?

Yin yoga targets our connective tissues – ligaments, joints, bones, and the deep fascia networks of the body and the meridians. This is different compared to Yang yoga practices such as Vinyasa which target the muscles.

What are three benefits of Yin yoga?

While there are many benefits of Yin yoga, here are three. 1. Improves flexibility. 2. Releases fascia and improves joint mobility. 3. Balances the internal organs and improves the flow of chi or prana.

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Heather is a Certified Yoga Teacher the visionary behind The Yogatique, her passion project. She created The Yogatique to help yogis & other growth-oriented individuals discover premium high quality trainings and classes in the yoga & wellness space. Heather is a RYT-200 and a practicing yogi of more than 15 years. She is also a global citizen who has been living abroad for 10 years. Her passions include health & fitness, studying healthspan & longevity, exploring the road less traveled, & SEO. Heather can be reached at heatherj@theyogatique.com, or you can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.

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