Yin Yoga is a meditative and introspective practise that teaches us to turn inward and let go. Unlike traditional “yang” or active yoga which works on strengthening our muscles, yin yoga is passive. You practice in stillness, hold the poses for longer and target your deep connective tissues. These include joints, fascia, bones and ligaments. Besides stretching your connective tissues, this introspective discipline also facilitates meditation and deeper breathing.
With so many health and mind benefits to be had from Yin Yoga, take a look at how you can benefit with our ultimate Yin Yoga guide. We’re taking care of all the most common questions to help you make an informed decision as to your next workout. If you’re short of time, click the links below to skip to the section that interests you most.
- Practising Yin Yoga
- Poses & Positions
- The Benefits
- Improving Flexibility
- Weight-Loss Potential
- Body Soreness
- Review Summary
How to practice Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is a practice of stillness. Each pose is held for an extended length of time, usually from two to five minutes, sometimes even longer. When in the pose, you want to be as still as possible. After holding the position for some time, you will feel a unique sensation in parts of the body you’re stretching. Often called ”comfortable discomfort” by yogis, the sensation is a result of your ligaments and fascia activating, strengthening and lengthening.
Comfortable discomfort, although strange-sounding, is a good thing. It’s a level of discomfort that you literally should comfortably be able to deal with. However, if you start to feel pain, you are pushing too hard. When entering a position, move slowly and never go to your maximum potential right away. After a minute, you should find something called “edge”. This is the place just between a beneficial discomfort for your body and harmful pain. Again, the moment you feel too much discomfort is the moment you should slow it down. After all, the last thing you want to do is cause injury.
Additionally to stretching, like most practices, breathing is also very important. By breathing, it helps you to refocus whilst feeling the uncomfortable discomfort. Incorporate meditative breathing into your session and focus on raising your diaphragm as you inhale. Also, don’t forget to make your exhales longer than your inhales to breath out all of the toxic air.
Yin Yoga Poses
Because this form of yoga is about total muscle relaxation, poses are mainly seated or reclined. Think butterfly pose, seated forward bend pose, sphinx pose and pigeon pose. The sequence is usually focused on a particular body part and strives to achieve balance. For example, if you’re doing a forward fold, it will be followed with an inversion and a backend. Kind of like working out in a gym, your muscles will work in pairs and yoga works to balance the strength of counter-muscles equally.
For beginners, take a look at this video of Yin Yoga poses.
In addition to the poses themselves, props such as rolled-up towels and yoga blocks are also worthwhile incorporating into your session. You can use props to either lengthen further or support your body in slightly more difficult positions. As you become an advanced Yin Yoga meditator, you will definitely be making more use of props to enhance the difficulty of each session.
What are the benefits of yin yoga?
Yin Yoga has many benefits, both with body and mind. Whilst not as strenuous on the body as other yoga practices, there are 3 primary benefits that you can expect to happen with consistent practice.
- The exercise lengthens connective tissue.
- It boosts blood and oxygen circulation.
- You will also notice reduced stress levels.
1. Connective tissue lengthening
As we age, our fascia becomes less elastic, our joints less mobile and our bones degenerative. By regularly practising any form of yoga, you will aid your connective tissue to regain elasticity. This will decrease pain and stiffness as your body grows tiresome. Additionally, Yin Yoga also hydrates the fascia, brings back the lost mobility and quite literally slows down the ageing of our bodies.
2. Oxygen and blood circulation
As we breathe deeply into each pose and stimulate ligaments, we allow more oxygen to enter our bodies. In turn, we increase blood flow and circulation. Throughout the average day, there will be parts of the body that you do not use regularly and Yin Yoga will help with conditions like chronic pain and arthritis. Yin Yoga also increases levels of red blood cells and haemoglobin. This allows for more oxygen to reach your cells; improving their function.
3. Stress reduction
After practising Yin Yoga you will feel calm and grounded. Studies have shown time and time again that Yin Yoga can significantly decrease stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression.
It’s not necessarily the art of Yoga itself, but rather a direct result of deeper breathing and a meditative state of mind. Additionally, all forms of yoga activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate and further calms your body. It is the perfect precursor to your meditation.
Does yin yoga increase flexibility?
Increased flexibility is one of the key benefits of consistent Yin Yoga practice. Stretching muscles is just one part of our flexibility. When our joints are mobile and our fascia elastic, we are able to stretch further and prevent injury in active stretches or yoga postures. Since fascia needs a minimum of 2 minutes of still stretching to become elastic, the long holds of Yin Yoga are among the most effective to increase mobility and flexibility in that area.
Does yin yoga help you lose weight?
Weight loss is a common reason why people practise yoga, and it’s natural to wonder if Yin Yoga can help you lose weight. At the most basic level – weight loss is when calories you ingest are lower than those you spend through exercise. When we look at this superficially, Yin Yoga is not an effective way of weight loss. As a passive practice, you will not directly burn many calories.
However, practising Yin Yoga can help speed up the calorie-burning process. There are several postures in Yin Yoga that aid in weight loss. Specifically, postures like sphinx or forward folds which work on your stomach and poses swan that work on the liver. These postures help you digest calories and metabolise foods. They also are proven to energise your body. All of which helps to use and burn calories more efficiently.
Yin Yoga also lowers cortisol levels, and high cortisol is proven to contribute to weight gain – particularly in the abdomen. So, by reducing stress – you are actually also working to prevent stomach fat. Yin Yoga is an ideal supplement for more active yoga methods, like Ashtanga and Vinyasa. By lengthening connective tissues, it helps you stay flexible and balances strength, so you will avoid injury during more physically demanding exercise.
Will my body be sore afterwards?
Whenever you introduce something new to your body – it will respond with soreness or stiffness. The same goes with Yin Yoga, and it’s completely normal to feel discomfort in stretched muscles the day after practising. Though it is passive, you will still benefit from a deep workout that works on connective tissues in a way they likely didn’t experience for a long time. Soreness can also come if you went beyond your edge, so try to focus on stillness and long holds next time – rather than forcing a higher range of motion.
When your body gets used to this type of stretching and you become in tune with your body, you will no longer feel as sore after practising.
Can you practice every day?
Consistency is key if you want to enjoy greater mobility and flexibility with Yin Yoga. Unlike yang practice, which works on the muscles, tears them down and needs recovery – Yin Yoga can be safely practised every day.
However, if you do practice every day, you should avoid going to your edge every time. Rather, on some poses, stop mid-way where you feel only a slight sensation. By doing this, it will help you to avoid tearing connective tissues, which would require some rest time to heal.
Shorter classes and gentler poses every day, plus two or three longer, more challenging classes per week, is a good recipe for a safe and beneficial daily recipe. In short, it’s safe to practice every day but you need to listen to your body and adapt the pace and intensity.
Yin Yoga Review Summary
In summary, Yin Yoga helps you to regain mobility and elasticity in deeper connective tissues. It can increase your flexibility and circulation whilst promoting a healthy and youthful body. On the other hand, Yin Yoga also helps you to become more mindful and aware of yourself. It’s a beneficial practice for anyone who wants to combat stress and is a good complement to active yoga styles. By reducing your chances of injury, you can practice freely whilst teaching yourself to breathe deeply and listen to your body. Compound this with other forms of light exercise and you will immediately start to feel alive. You must be sick of hearing by now that exercise is the only way to remain healthy. However, this could not be truer and Yin Yoga is the perfect way to stay on top of our bodies as they steadily become older.