Yin Yoga is still somewhat of a mystery to many yogis. The ancient practice embodies the wisdom from eastern medicine with classic Hatha yoga poses. Taught by notable teachers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, it’s a teacher training I wish I would have done sooner. I’m always promoting Yin Yoga at my studio Bethany Lee Yoga and Wellness. When I describe Yin Yoga and all the wonderful benefits, I hear a lot of people saying “What’s Yin? I don’t think I’ve practiced that before. Would I be able to do that?”. My answer, majority of the time, is an overwhelming YES!
Yin Yoga has truly been a gift to me. And if you give it a chance, I think you too may feel the same. To me, it’s a form of therapy that I can come back to again and again. No judgement — just a gentle, meditative conversation with my body to relive stress, tension, and negative emotions. It forces you to listen to your body and work through any issues to find balance. It may take a few practices but give it time and you too will feel the difference.
This brings me to reason number one why I love Yin Yoga: emotional release.
This passive meditative practice is how I find balance and equanimity. It’s my go-to when any negative feelings start to percolate. I have a bad day, I feel stressed, I can’t sleep — I practice Yin Yoga. I know which poses to practice to target and alleviate specific negative emotions, and I feel empowered and relieved to have these tools at my disposal. I can skip the ice cream binge, wine, and decadent treats that I had originally lined up, and instead opt for Yin.
The beauty of Yin is that it relieves so much toxic waste from the body and unblocks stagnation in our organs and meridian lines; feelings of overwhelm or anxiety are gone, almost instantaneously for me. I setup with my blanket, bolster, and mat. I turn on some relaxing music (I recommend Ben Howard of Eva Cassidy J) and I find my pose. I focus on my breath and meditate on the targeted areas anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Relief washes over me and my body becomes balanced.
Reason number two why I love Yin Yoga: a significant increase in mobility.
While Yin Yoga can be a powerful release for negative emotions and stress, it can also have amazing results when it comes to reducing aches and pains in the body and greatly increasing mobility, particularly in our shoulders, hips and back. Yin Yoga targets our fascia, ligaments, tendons, and even our bones. When our major muscles quiet and become relaxed, we can slowly sink deeper into the pose and center our effort in the joint and tissues. There’s no muscle trying to fight back or contract to protect the delicate joint, rather this style of meditative yoga allows the muscles to relax, through breath and mediation, and positively affect the targeted area.
So why is Yin so effective?
Our ligaments and tendons are more plastic than our muscle and require longer held stretches to have the intended effect. Our muscles, on the other hand, are more elastic and love to warm up –they also require less time in a pose to achieve an effect.
Muscles and tissues require different forms of exercise and different amounts of pressure and duration to stay healthy and balanced. After a Yin Yoga practice, many students tell me that they can breathe better, swim and run with more ease, and muscle stiffness is significantly reduced, if not completely gone in their back. Sounding like something you might want to try?
There’s a limit to how far we can stress or “stretch” (we don’t actually stretch tissues as tissues are more plastic, so we stress) the ligaments, tendons, and bones in Yin Yoga. It’s important that you check in with your teacher before you practice to so they can accommodate any challenges or address any concerns. When we practice Yin Yoga, we create microscopic damage to the tissue fibers and bones — but this is good! Post practice, our bones and tissues begin to repair and rebuild to become stronger and healthier.
If you’re looking to increase your mobility, learn more about body, mind, and breathwork, be sure to book a spot in our Stretch and Surrender Tuesday practice. You may be surprised at the transformation in the body, and you may even fall in love with this beautiful body-balancing practice. Learn even more from our article on Well and Good on Traditional Chinese Meridian Yin Yoga from Bethany Lee.