If you’ve tried yoga, you may have heard of popular types of yoga like vinyasa yoga, hatha yoga, hot yoga (Bikram yoga) and maybe even novelty styles like goat yoga. But, if you’re new to yoga you may not be as familiar with yin yoga yet. If that is the case, I encourage you keep reading to find out more about this unique style of yoga that is full of many benefits regardless of your yoga experience or fitness level. Then, I’d recommend you get yourself to a yin class to see the magic of this practice for yourself!
I admittedly took a few tries (and a couple of different teachers) before I truly enjoyed yin, but I am so glad I gave it that second chance with a teacher I trusted because it has now become my favourite type of yoga to practice and to teach. It is different to what I first knew yoga to be and the style and pace took some getting used to, but now my body and mind craves the ‘feel good’ buzz it creates.
You’re probably still wondering what is so great about yin and how exactly it differs from other types of yoga. Yin yoga is a slower paced, passive style of yoga where you hold stationary seated poses for 3-5 minutes. You use props like bolsters, blankets, and blocks to make the pose more comfortable. By holding the poses, it targets connective tissue rather than just the muscle and is great for circulation, increasing flexibility, preventing injury and relieving stress.
Read on to find out how exactly why yin yoga could be the yoga style you need…
1. Yin yoga helps to prevent injury after working out
If you do a lot of high intensity workouts, if you’re a runner, or if you do any level of fitness where you are getting the heart rate up and strengthening the muscles yin yoga can be used as recovery for your body. In yin yoga you give the muscles a rest and work deeper into the connective tissue to relieve tension and alleviate stiffness. The aim of yin yoga is to allow gravity to do the work and to use props so you exert as little effort as possible on the muscles. This helps to stretch the muscle gradually (and more deeply) so you can lengthen the muscle without over stretching or causing injury.
2. Yin yoga compliments a busy lifestyle
You have probably heard the word yin before and an image of a yin yang symbol might even come to mind. Yin and yang describe opposing forces that compliment one another, like night and day. You can’t have one without the other. In yoga, yin yoga describes the more passive, cooling yoga where you hold stationary poses and yang yoga is the more active and warming yoga where you flow through poses. We need a combination of yin and yang in our lives to create that balance. If you spend a lot of time doing yang type activities throughout your day like working to deadlines, doing fast paced workouts or chasing kids around, then you need more yin in your life restore that balance and calm down your nervous system.
3. Yin Yoga helps with poor circulation
If your body tends to suffer from poor circulation – for example, your hands and feet are always cold or your ankles blow up to twice their size after a long flight – then you could benefit from yin yoga. When you practice yin yoga you hold poses. After holding a pose for 2 minutes or more you begin to target your connective tissue that supports and protects your muscles, organs, ligaments and joints. By working these areas of the body and combining deep breathing into each pose you help to increase blood flow throughout the body to improve circulation.
4. Yin yoga improves flexibility
Many people who first start yoga come to yoga because they want to improve their flexibility and the range of motion in joints throughout the body. However, many people who come to yoga for this reason are easily put off by the pretzel shaped poses and the self-judgement of not being able to make the pose look the way they think it should. This may also be because they haven’t been provided with enough modifications, (but that’s another story for another post which you can read here). This also might be because you haven’t found a style that allows you to ease into yoga in a gentle way. Yin yoga is perfect for this because the poses are seated and by holding poses over time you gently work the joints and ligaments and prevent over working or causing injury to the body.
5. Yin yoga calms the mind
When you are holding a pose for 3- 5 minutes you can often find your mind recalling memories of the day or working through a checklist of things you need to do after class. However, when you are holding these poses in a yoga class, you are guided by an instructor and you’re invited to bring your awareness to the present moment. You draw your focus to your breath which helps to calm down your nervous system and, in turn, calm down the chatter in your mind. While this is something you may find yourself doing several times in the class (bringing your focus back to the present moment), each time you do this you are neurologically strengthening your brain to learn this as a habit.