How it works…
With gentle, passive postures that are held for a number of minutes at a time, Yin Yoga can be a strong physical practice, yet silent and contemplative as well.
On a physical level, Yin Yoga targets the deeper connective tissue that sits around and beyond the muscles – consisting of your bones, ligaments, tendons and the sticky web of tissue called fascia. The practice differs from other styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Power, etc. which tend to focus more on the muscles instead.
On an energetic level, Yin Yoga works to balance the energy channels in the body, helping to free blockages and get the energy or “chi” moving unimpeded. These energy channels are called meridians, and are at the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Yin Yoga is a Functional practice in that it is not alignment-based. It focuses solely on the purpose of a pose in each individual body structure. Bringing practitioners’ awareness into what they’re feeling in their bodies – ie. a stretch or compression (healthy sensations), or sharp-shooting fiery pain (unhealthy sensations), practitioners are encouraged to experiment with their positions using their limbs, torso, head and gravity, to find the most functional variation of a posture for their bodies.
In a group of different people, although all coming into similar shapes, each person will experience sensation uniquely as their own body responds to the poses.
A healthy challenge
A frequent misconception in Yin Yoga is that by listening to your body, you shouldn’t go beyond your boundary.
You should never force. However, if you don’t gently nudge and test your boundaries, you won’t ever challenge or change your tissues. There is much to be achieved such as improved circulation, better mobility, scar-tissue management, reduction of the body’s toxic load, release of tension, preventing premature degeneration, etc.
The key is to balance respecting your body’s natural lines, and welcome a healthy mindful challenge by playing with your connective tissue. By “tuning in”, “sensing”, “listening”, you’re having a conversation with your body and exploring what it can do.
You’ll know when you’ve gone too far because it won’t feel right and it will hurt.
And you’ll know when you’ve moved away from a mindful practice when you catch yourselves forcing or pushing your way into it.
A practice of release
At the core of experiencing Yin Yoga at its fullest is the art of letting go…
On a physical level this means allowing the body to hang safely in the muscles and tissues – this can be a challenge in itself as practitioners get used to the concept of relaxing their muscles completely and not contracting them. It’s the relaxation in the muscles that permits the benefits of the stretch to reach the deeper connective tissue – the fascia.
In parallel, as practitioners become more aware of their bodies’ natural limitations, it starts to trigger mental and emotional release as they become more accepting of their bodies and more connected to themselves. Much mental and emotional pressure is relieved when we allow ourselves to be – not trying to look like someone else and emulate movement or variations of a pose that just aren’t suited to our body’s connective tissue or skeletal structure.
We begin to experience a greater sense of inner well-being and respect towards ourselves.