Yin Yoga is for every body! Yin is in!!!!
-By Kelli Glaze, R.N, RYT, Certified Yin instructor
Yin yoga really? Perhaps you have said this. “I think it sounds boring.” “I just like to move.” “It is not for me!” Yes, I have non Yinsters say this, but how do you know if you have not tried it? I invite you to drop any expectations you may have from what you have heard or think you may know about yin.
First let’s clear up some myths about Yin yoga. Is it restorative? Well no it is not. It can be gentle, but Restorative is a completely separate type of yoga. Yin is a simple practice but it is not always an easy practice. Postures are held between three and seven (or more) minutes. I will tell you the why in a bit.
Myth: Yin cannot possible do anything physically; you just stay still and do not work the muscles. I also hear this: “I am so type A personality it is just not for me! I think this is a beginner’s yoga I have practiced for decades I do not need yin!” Well let me send in the myth busters!
Take a look at the photo. What do you see? Oh yeah the yin yang symbol, contrast and comparison, light/dark, heat/cool, water/fire, the dance of balance. Ok, so my point is just that. Yin is the balance to all your powerful Agni style practices of yoga. Yin will compliment (your) current practices. How? Fair enough question. I love metaphors. That’s how I get it. That is how I will answer this part of the question. Here I paraphrased one that I borrow from two great Yin yoga masters: Bernie Clark and Paul Grilley. Ponder this, you go to the dentist with tooth discomfort. The dentist instructs you to do reps of ten tooth wiggles, twice daily, for weeks. You go back to the dentist with a handful of teeth. But wonder if instead he sent you to the orthodontist for braces that are applied for a longer period of time and minor adjustments are made periodically. Yin is the orthodontist – the slow, long term effects of reshaping the space of teeth. Yin can reshape and remodel the deep connective tissues, stressing the joint in a healthy, rejuvenating way.
I am only skimming the surface in this blog post of the many physical, emotional, mental, and energy body benefits of Yin yoga. There are books and worldwide conferences held on these topics because we are learning so much about how important it is to exercise in a Yin, not just yang way. Many anatomy books of the future are going to somehow be revised to include the fascia. The current knowledge about connective tissues are mind blowing. Myofascial makes up about 30% of our muscle. This is the very simplified description. The fascia and its other supporting tissues such as ligaments and myofascial tendon complex cartilages, these are along with the joint and joint capsules are targeted yin tissues.
I need to emphasize there is no separation of one body part from another. From the skin on our scalp to the tips of our toes, it is all connected and receives the benefits of yoga. So this fascia is a more plastic like substance – stiffer than muscle – so it works best to apply yin longer held postures to allow the undoing of shrink wrap effects from our westernized aging processes. Fascia is like spider webbing. One part moves and it effects the entire web. Along the web are water loving substances such as collagen. Blood vessels and nerves are weaved thru this fabric of tissue. That is why we need time to hold a posture. Inviting the muscles to soften, relax and getting into those deeper tissues. I could blog just about the fascia so again I cannot reiterate enough this is just a skimming of the deep tissues. Fascia is everywhere in your body. Without it we would not have form or shape or be able to stand up. Our bones and muscles need this supportive structure.
Yin verses yang ways to exercise. In most forms of yang exercise of yoga, the prescribed method is shorter durations and rhythmic receptions. Yin is longer held postures, most of which are close to the ground ,not weight loading joints but surrendering into shapes that joints can be gently, safely stressed.
So let’s look into the three principles of yin yoga. The first principle is to come to your edge, that place were a sensation captures your attention. Stop there. Think of peaking over the edge of a cliff. You just enjoy lingering there, no need to push past your edge and jump of the cliff. That would result in a bit of pain. We do not want to experience pain in Yoga.
The second principle is stillness of mind and body. We achieve this with a mindfulness of the breath – not trying to stop thoughts but rather just observing. We are able to move energy, or our chi, with our mindful breath. If you are a self-labeled type A, this alone is reason to practice Yin. When the mind is stilled the body can release tension and that is when the pose can enter us rather than us trying to force into a posture.
The third principle is time the magic physical ingredient. Well this is usually the part of yin that people feel bored, agitated and default to old ideas and patterns of thinking. If I am not moving I cannot truly be exercising I am just here checking out. No you are checking in. Checking yinward. In this age of human doing rather than human being, we feel compelled not to want be still. We have better things to do with our time, right?! Well, on a physiological level, many things are happening while you are in a yin posture. New bone and muscles are being stimulated. Lymph is able to move stimulating our immune system. The nervous system can rest and digest. Joints have an increase in synovial fluids. Range and motion and flexibility becomes that of a more youthful body. This is just scratching the surface. Energetically we are able to remove blockages in meridians. So I invite you to try a yin class for a month or two. I would be willing to say you will feel better and a shift will happen where you can pause before you react to situations.
Let us just summarize why you should do Yin:
- You will gain better joint mobility
- Balance your yoga practice with strength and flexibility
- We find physical changes, mental emotional and energetic changes
- Yinsters can have better digestion, less pain, more relief
- I believe you gain better access to postures in your muscle engaging practices by adding in some yin practice days
- A regular Yin practice will keep you doing the things you love on and off the mat for many years
- Because we sit in chairs, cars, and other modes of travel, our movements become restricted our posture hunches forward, our joint stiffen. Yin is an excellent prevention for old age.
If you practice any yoga you already know the benefits of stability. Why not then add flexibility? And who would not want to increase the health of our organs? Not only the elderly, but the new techie generation hunch over a device looking for poki dudes. You will be able to do the many non-yoga activities you enjoy for a longer time. So try it
Hope to see you soon in class!
Kelli Glaze, R.N, RYT, Certified Yin instructor
Here is a link for more information about Yin yoga. And it is Free!
There are many great sources for Yin and many great teachers listed on this web page.