‘Yin’ is a real buzzword in yoga circles at the moment, but it’s actually an ancient concept. As the counterpart to ‘yang’ yoga, which is active, repetitive and rhythmic, ‘yin’ yoga is thought of as being passive, static and inward-facing. It’s particularly good at reducing stress, so if this fast-paced world we’re living in feels a bit much, take time to unwind and restore with yin yoga. Here’s why it’s such a great healer.
What is yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a slower-paced style of yoga that focuses on the internal connective tissues in your body. Each pose is held for much longer than usual, typically somewhere between three and five minutes. This stillness in the body naturally opens up the opportunity to look inwards and connect with our internal self, leading to us finding a peaceful balance between our physical and mental being.
Holding poses for longer makes you really think, not just about the pose itself and your strength or flexibility within it, but about how you are feeling. Are you frazzled? Is your body showing symptoms of wear, such as breakouts, aches, digestive issues or problems with your immune system? If so, there’s a good chance that yin yoga will be a therapeutic experience for you.
Why the body ‘feels’ stress
Stress is a very physical thing, despite being a mental health condition. We feel stress in our body; our body can feel tight or hunched and our range of motion can decrease, sometimes to the point where we’re stiff and struggling with daily activities.
This ‘feeling’ of stress is actually caused by blocked chi (life energy) and nutrients. When our body and mind are in good condition, our muscles and our fascia (the connective tissues under our skin that hold our internal organs in place) are longer, more flexible and relaxed.
However, when we are stressed, anxious or have caused damage or tension in a body part, our muscles and fascia can become knotty, twisted, bind together and cause blockages. This can prevent chi and nutrients from travelling freely through the body.
How yin yoga eliminates stress
In practising yin yoga, the connective tissues are gently stretched out and rehydrated, unwanted bonds between tissues are broken and joints become freer to move. It’s basically a good old ironing out of your insides that improves your physical and mental health.
Another part of yin yoga that can be beneficial to people who are stressed is the breathing that accompanies the poses. Through belly breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing), it’s possible to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system into action. This nervous system is restorative and nurturing; it slows your heart rate and has a positive effect on other systems in the body to help you feel replenished and keep things moving.
By practising belly breathing regularly, you’ll find that you fall deeper into a relaxed state each time you do it. Your organs might work better, your mind might be more restful, your immune function might improve and your sleep might be more consistent. Focusing on breathing and the inner you is a form of meditation, so your awareness and sense of self might feel the benefits, too.
The best time to practice yin yoga
While yin yoga can be really enjoyable at any time of day, you’ll probably get the most benefit from it if you practice in the late afternoon or evening. That way, you can use the yoga practice to restore calm before the day ends and you go to sleep.
Rebalancing in the evening will give you a chance to hit reset on your emotional, physical and mental state so that you can start the next day afresh, letting go of what’s happened.
You’ll find most yin yoga classes are in the evening. Why not come along to my next yin yoga class? Our Relax & Restore classes run every Wednesday and Thursday at 7.30pm, so act as a great mid-week check-in before the weekend rolls around.