You Might Feel A Little Uncomfortable
‘I believe it is one of the hardest physical yoga practices out there. Although you should never feel pain, itâs likely you will experience some discomfort as the poses are designed to target areas of tension and holding, so can feel super intense. Itâs not about the strength of muscles, itâs about sitting with sensation and learning to let go. Surrender.’
How Can Yin Yoga Help Runners
To find out more, we spoke to Fi Clark, Head of Yoga at FLY LDN, after a very-relaxing yin class. Clark explains, “yin is a style of yoga that has multiple benefits, one of the main ones being that it helps to release tension and tight areas in the fascia and helps to create deep openings and increase range of motion in to major muscles and joint areas. By practicing yin, notoriously tight areas for runners such as hamstrings, quads and hip flexors have the opportunity to slowly release as each posture is held for up to five minutes.
“Not only does yin strengthen joints it also increases the range of motion which has a direct benefit on the quality of a runners technique. Having more flexibility in the hips, especially hip flexors, helps to limit cramping or muscle spasms in the thighs when running. Practicing yin also helps decrease degeneration and when specifically opening into the hips this takes postential load and overuse of the spine that occurs when hips are tight.”
Wonderful Yin Yoga Benefits
I have been writing a lot about Restorative Yoga lately. Its a practice that has many incredible benefits. However, there are also countless Yin Yoga benefits as well. Yin and Restorative Yoga have become my favorite types of yoga and after hearing about their amazing benefits, it will be easy for you to see why.
Yin Yoga is a passive type of yoga used to gain flexibility and reduce stress. The poses are held for an extended amount of time. Beginners can hold poses for up to 45-seconds, but more advanced practitioners can hold poses usually 2-5 minutes, sometimes longer. It applies moderate stress to the connective tissues and increases the circulation of joints.
In this post, I will cover the history, philosophy, and benefits of Yin Yoga. Specific benefits of ten poses, my favorite Yin resource and a video of the Yin Yoga practice from Yoga with Cassandra is also included.
This post is not sponsored but may contain affiliate links. Through these links, I get a small commission if you purchase something, at no extra cost to you. Please know that I only recommend products that I love and personally use/research. Thank you for supporting Journeys of Yoga.
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The Benefits Of Yin Yoga For The Body
To understand the benefits of yin yoga, its helpful to understand the Chinese concept of yin and yang. Yin and yang are opposing aspects of nature which work in relationship to each other. Like hot and cold, left and right, or sun and moon, yang and yin exist only in partnership.
Some refer to the superficial musculature of the body and its movement as yang, while the deeper structure of the connective tissue is yin. Its important to remember, however, that yin and yang are interdependent, and no one thing is always yang, nor always yin. The two concepts operate in relationship.
The balance of energy in the body is so important, both Grilley and Powers recommend yin yoga in partnership with a yang practice, as well as seated meditation.
A typical yin yoga class lasts anywhere from 60-90 minutes, and may only offer a handful of poses, each held for upwards of five minutes as students are encouraged to rest steadily in balanced effort and ease.
Yin yoga manipulates, stretches and lengthens the bodys connective tissue with long slow holds. The superficial muscles relax the longer the pose is held, allowing more access to the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joints, as well as the fascia.
Fascia is a system of connective tissue that runs throughout the body much like the inner sheath of a grapefruit exists between the meat and the peel. Fascia wraps all our muscles, internal organs and joints.
Is It Normal To Feel Physically Uncomfortable
During a Yin Yoga practice, you would be working on finding your edge throughout the pose. This means that there is no reason to find the deepest version of the pose immediate but explore and deepen over the hold.
You should be feeling a strong stretch in Yin Yoga, but your breath should still be easy and you are in comfortable discomfort. You can then hang out here and explore the sensations you are feeling, like a mindfulness or meditation practice.
However, if you feel any discomfort such as a sharp pain or realise that your breathing is uneven and strained, this probably means that you have gone too far and should ease on the stretch. In this case, try to come back to a less intense stretch, take a variation, or prop your posture.
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The Stillness Of A Yin Practice Primes Us For Meditation
Meditation is not necessarily something you have to find sometimes it finds you. The yin practice sets us up to tap into the meditation bandwidth. We rarely see who we really are because the cloud of thoughts and distractions block the view. When we create opportunities for physical stillness in a yin practice, we also create the perfect conditions for the brain to become clear. In these precious moments, we are able to see our true selves.
Ready For Yin Yoga At Bodymindlife
We run regular Yin classes at all BodyMindLife studios in Surry Hills, Potts Point, Redfern and Bondi Beach! Often held in the evenings, Yin classes are ideal to stretch out following a dynamic flow on the mat or session on the Pilates reformers, and will help you wind down so you can head home and slip into bed for a deep REM sleep.
Keen to get started with Yin Yoga?
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How To Practise Yin Yoga
First, prepare a space which feels calm. Make sure you have low lighting or candles and the space is warm and quiet, so you can really switch off. Youll need a yoga mat, cushions/bolster, a blanket, a yoga brick and a slim yoga block .
The following postures will open your hips, quads and inner thighs, lengthen and release compression from your spine and help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which is our rest and digest trigger. When the nervous system is soothed, this signals to the body and mind that its in a safe environment to sleep and restore after the days activities.
Blaming The Practice Instead Of The Teacher
In fairness to Margaret, she does state in her blog, So if you chose to do a yin class, you really have to be meticulous about your alignment. You have to take it upon yourself to ensure that your alignment is correct. But then she goes on to say, Otherwise I suggest you look for a different type of yoga. I would point out that it is not yin yoga that is inherently dangerous, but how the teacher leads the class and how much responsibility the student gives up to the teacher. Someone with severe osteoporosis is well-advised to learn what will be appropriate for her, regardless of what style of yoga she is doing or what the teacher is asking her to do. It is not yin yoga per se that Margaret found dangerous but how it was presented. I am sure she would have had the same comments if she saw flexion of the spine occurring in any yoga class. Regardless, it is also not reasonable to blame the teacher in every situation.
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Taoist Yoga Weds The Insights Gained By Thousands Of Years Of Acupuncture Practice To The Wisdom Of Yoga
Drawing on Motoyamas research, Taoist Yoga weds the insights gained by thousands of years of acupuncture practice to the wisdom of yoga. To understand this marriageand to use it to help us sit with more ease in meditationwe must familiarize ourselves with the concepts of yin and yang. Opposing forces in taoist thought, the terms yin and yang can describe any phenomenon. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. Other yin-yang polarities include cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.
Yin and yang are relative terms, not absolutes any phenomenon can only be yin or yang by comparison with something else. We cant point to the moon and say, The moon is yin. Compared to the sun, the moon is yin: Its cooler and less bright. But compared to the Earth , the moon is yang: brighter, higher, and more mobile. In addition to being relative, a yin-yang comparison of any two objects depends on the trait being compared. For example, when considering location, the heart is yin compared to the breastbone because the heart is more hidden. But when considering substance, the heart is yang compared to the breastbone because the heart is softer, more mobile, more elastic.
The Practice Of Yin How To Maximize Its Effect
While there are multiple varieties of practices around the world it comes down to three vital components room temperature, the breath and practices per week.
The temperature of the room is a large consideration in Yin.
When the body is holding in the extended poses and the room is too warm the tissues can be overstretched.
This can be dangerous.
It is therefore important that Yin is held in rooms that are cooler or non-heated.
In Yin the breath is natural and free flowing.
The more connection you have with your breath, the better.
Breath is what allows you to go from pain to pleasure while holding these poses for so long.
When you have a moment of intensity let yourself take the deepest breath you have ever taken and feel what happens.
The amount of practices per week in Yin is typically kept at a maximum of three times a week. This is towards the more advanced level.
I would suggest starting at 1 to 2 times per week to begin and work towards your third session, once you can gauge your bodys recovery.
TIP: One of the things I encourage my students to do when taking my yin classes is to use their hands and drag their legs into the next posture.
This is much more effective to the counter option of using the muscles to lift.
Dragging your legs to the next posture helps encourage your body to stay soft instead of going from resting to working and back and forth.
I myself, along with others, have found this to be really helpful.
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The Yin Yoga Perspective On Stretching Joints
The idea of stretching connective tissue around the joints seems at odds with virtually all the rules of modern exercise. Whether were lifting weights, skiing, or doing aerobics or yoga, were taught that safety in movement primarily means to move so you dont strain your joints. And this is sage counsel. If you stretch connective tissue back and forth at the edge of its range of motion or if you suddenly apply a lot of force, sooner or later you will hurt yourself.
Where Does Yin Yoga Come From
Like most yoga practices, the origin of yin yoga dates back thousands of years and has developed out of a yoga style called Taoist Yoga. Taoist yoga includes stretches and static postures combined with breath work.
It was a man named Paulie Zink who founded the style and introduced it to the west in the late 70s. Since then the practice has been developed into what we know today as yin yoga by teachers Sarah Powers and Paul Grilley.
When Yoga was founded the practice would have been more yin based because the original intention of yoga was to prepare the body for long periods of seated meditation. As the years went on and popularity of yoga has grown, it has developed in style and pace.
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Improved Digestion & Sleep
The very experience of Yin Yoga is calming and can reduce your stress levels since the poses are held for extended periods, averaging 3-8 minutes each. This calming effect regulates your nervous system and helps to relax your fight or flight response.
Whereas most styles of movement practice emphasize muscular strengthening and stretching, Yin Yoga focuses on stretching the connective tissue thats more closely associated with the parasympathetic nervous system.
As a result, you walk away from a Yin Yoga practice feeling calmer, stronger and can often notice improvements in your sleep and digestionthe aspects ruled by your parasympathetic nervous systemright away. .
And when you sleep and digest better, you move with greater clarity and focus throughout your life.
The Main Difference Between Yin Yoga And Hatha Yoga Or Other Forms Of Yoga:
With Yin you are not pushing or pulling your body into postures and your breath is just a normal free flowing breath cycle. Yin is really and truly surrendering yourself to your body and letting it guide you.
VS. Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram or Ashtanga where you are bending, binding, and stretching your body into poses and postures while breathing in a very controlled way.
Both types of practices has a time and a place. I personally really enjoy both, so dont feel like you have to choose one and abandon the other.
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A Scientific Basis For Yin Yoga
I know that I feel great after doing my Yin Yoga practice, but I wonder if Yin Yoga really works. Is there any scientific evidence you can provide that proves Yin Yoga is good for me?
This question, and others just like it, is often asked in emails I receive from students and teachers. Another similar question goes something like this: I heard from another yoga teacher that Yin Yoga is dangerous and I shouldnt be stressing my joints or compressing my lower back. Do you have any scientific evidence that Yin Yoga is healthy that I can take back to my teacher?
Claim : Yy Is Good For Tissue Health And Flexibility
It is often claimed that
- Yin Yoga increases flexibility
- Lengthy stretches support tissue health
- And help the tissue to relax and regenerate
Where this is true and has a physiological background:
Joints, tissues and organs benefit from regular movement. And different types of tissues need different types of movement.Especially fascia needs lengthy stretches to stretch and relax. So YY is beneficial for fascia.
If we want to lengthen fascia and support fascial relaxation it is beneficial to:
Signal to ourselves and the fascia: Let go no reason to tense
Where this is not true and potentially dangerous:
YY is good for fascia. But fascia is never isolated in the body: Whenever we are stretching any fascia, we are always stretching so called myofascial-trains .These tissues fascia is connected to have completely different functions, needs and boundaries. So different in fact, that prolonged strain on some of these tissues can lead to pain and problems.
This is most true for our nerves: Because nerves cannot be strechted and trying to lengthen them can lead to injury.
- Have you ever felt a sharp-electric pain in your arms or legs while stretching?
- Do you know this burning sensation after your leg fell asleep?
When we unintentionally try to stretch a nerve during a Yin-Yoga-Asana, it is not just unneccesarily painful, but
Reduced Stress Anxiety And Depression
In a randomized controlled trial, researchers examined whether participating in a five-week yoga intervention reduces biomarker Adrenomedullin and increases psychological health in middle-aged adults who self-report as moderately to highly stressed. ADM is a blood pressure-lowering peptide expressed in cardiovascular tissues including the vascular wall and heart. Plasma levels of ADM are elevated in patients with hypertension, heart failure or arteriosclerosis, as compared with control subjects.
Compared to the control group, the researchers observed significantly greater pre-post reductions in plasma ADM levels, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
The study concluded that five-week Yin yoga-based interventions appeared to reduce both the physiological and psychological risk factors known to be associated with non communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
The study also suggested incorporating Yin yoga as an easy and low-cost method to limit the negative health effects associated with high stress.
The Intentions Of Yin Yoga
When the criticism is leveled at yin yoga that it is inappropriate for some students, we have to first acknowledge that this is true! There is no form of yoga that is appropriate for all people. The reality of human variation is so vast that there is no medical intervention or therapy that works for every body . This applies to yin yoga, but also to all forms of yoga: Ashtanga yoga can be dangerous to some people Bikrams also but even restorative yoga may be harmful to some people. Life is inherently dangerous: people have died just getting out of bed in the morning, but this does not mean that people should not get out of bed. It means that everything can be a problem for some people, and that includes yin yoga.
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