I know practicing yin yoga has changed my life and my body dramatically. Due to this, I decided to begin studying this practice in-depth with Sarah Powers and her teachers. Lately, I have been adding yin elements and yin workshops into my teaching. I had a homework assignment after attending my latest training. Once I turned it in, I thought each of you might benefit from this information as well. So below are my answers to the questions “What is yin yoga? Why should someone practice yin styles of yoga?”
Yin Yoga has many different aspects and benefits. Simply put, doing yin yoga is coming into a pose in a mindful way while staying for many minutes in order to go deeper within the natural ranges of motion in the joints. Yin practice targets the connective tissue in the body, which wraps around and through each muscle and joint. When doing long held poses, we load the connective tissue & ligaments with gentle pressure and pulling. This relieves the body physically as well as energetically. Loading the connective tissues can alleviate physical pain due to the body’s rescue response, which lubricates joints and provides a healthier flow of energy throughout the body. The other benefit of yin yoga is that is offers students a quiet practice in which you can begin to train the mind and use meditative practices to become fully present.
I discovered Yin Yoga through my acupuncturist. After years of treating the same core issue we discussed that I needed to find a yoga practice that could balance my imbalances. Thus, I researched and discovered Sarah’s Insight Yoga DVD and book. Due to this, I prefer the longer explanation of yin, which explains more about the subtle, or energetic, body. We have an energy system that is similar to electric currents in wall. You can’t see it, but when you tap into it you feel more awake and alert. In yoga, this energy is called prana or chi. Prana (chi) is present in everything. This energy flows through the body in invisible pathways called meridians (Chinese Med.) or Nadis (Indian Tradition). It flows through all tissues, bones and it moistens the joints. If someone has deficient chi that would result in weakness or lack of vibrancy. If someone has stagnant chi that means the energy is flowing in a distorted pattern. If someone has healthy chi, the energy is stable, strong and moves with ease throughout the body.
There are three ways that yin yoga helps this flow of energy to create healthy chi flow. First, place the body in a yoga pose for a longer amount of time to pull on and pressurize the tissues. This coaxes chi and blood into these sites making them stronger and better lubricated. Second, lengthening and deepening the breath (pranayama) oxygenates the blood while increasing the flow of prana throughout the body. Third, when a teacher adds mindfulness practices to a yin practice, students can focus the mind, which also allows chi to flow smoothly. As Sarah said in training, “Where the attention goes, the chi follows.” Quieting the mind allows the chi flow to be uninhibited as it travels through the body, heart and mind.