Yin offers a way to loosen the oft-neglected connective tissues
Blog by Laura [Yogini, Spanish-language guru, lover of Yin]
In addition to the mental health benefits, many of us come to yoga class to reap the physical reward of working our muscles. We do this through what are known as Yang styles of yoga — Ashtanga and Vinyasa, for example.
But, as in other aspects of life, there’s always a Yin to complement the Yang. Yin yoga, which is growing in popularity in the U.S., allows us to work the deeper or yin connective tissues of our ligaments, joins, fascia and even our bones.
If you have never been to a Yin class before, you have practiced Yin poses in a Vinyasa class. Child’s pose and Savasana, or final resting pose, are both yin-style poses. You are also doing Yin yoga in that final juicy twist at the end of class.
In Yin, exercise is not multiple repetitions, but rather a long, steady and safe stress placed on the connective tissues to encourage them to release. We stay in Yin poses for three to five minutes to exercise the connective tissue. Yin poses target the hips, back and knees primarily. We practice most Yin poses on the ground, allowing gravity to take part in the practice.
What I love about Yin yoga is the space and freedom I feel in my body after a practice. A regular yin practice has helped me find greater ease and deeper access to the poses of my vinyasa practice. And I have found the stillness of the class to be challenging. Over time, it has taught me the value of sitting still and being mindful of my thoughts and the sensations in my body.
Many of the benefits of a yin practice are similar to the ones found in the more Yang styles of yoga. Yin yoga is closely tied to the Chinese medicine system. All poses affect different meridian lines, the energy lines in which needles are placed during acupuncture. This pressure helps to nourish the organs associated with those lines.
Yin yoga also helps retrain the body. If you sit for long periods of time during the day, your hip flexors engage and the lumbar curve in your low back usually bends opposite to its natural position. In Yin yoga, we spend time in poses that open the front of the hips or allow the lumbar curve to stay in its natural position for extended periods. In essence, we are retraining our body to do the opposite of what it experiences throughout the day.
Other Yin benefits include:
Increased mobility in the body, especially in the hips and joints
More ease and flexibility in the connective tissues
Improved health and responses in the cells of the body
Improved blood pressure and lower heart rate
Reduced fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system)
Improved digestion and immune system
I teach a weekly Yin Yoga class at Invoke on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the 86th & Ditch location and a monthly Yin + Yoga Nidra workshop. February’s workshop is Sunday the 23rd at 6:30p.m. and will focus on the chakras. You can get an early bird discount for $15 up through the 16th.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please be aware that Yin Yoga is different from a restorative yoga practice. Just like with your more active styles of yoga, if you have an injury, you should allow that to heal before putting more stress on it in a yin practice.
Haehl is a yoga instructor who teaches at Invoke Studio. While she’s great at breaking down the basics, she’s also known to teach some challenging flows.