Yin and Yang Yoga
The concepts of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ date back millennium to ancient China, where Daoist writings and Confucianism first observed that everything in life is comprised of two facets of existence which are opposite but which co-exist and complement one another. For example, yin refers to shade and yang to sun; shade cannot exist without light and light is only experienced as a contrast to shade or darkness. In life, the states of yin and yang are in constant flux and hence existence is always changing and never static.
In yoga practice, the muscles, blood and skin are referred to as the ‘yang’ tissues, while the ligaments, bones, and joints are termed the ‘yin’ tissues. Even the more dynamic forms of yoga which entail active asana workouts contain aspects of yin yoga.
Moreover, yin yoga increases one’s ability to succeed at yang yoga, as without flexible joints, muscle pain and injury are likely to ensue, decreasing the body’s ability to maintain optimal physical health. Similarly, without the practice of yin yoga, the body becomes more susceptible to injury and pain with age.
Benefits of Yin Yoga
The many health benefits of yin yoga include:
- Greater joint and tissue flexibility
- Increased mobility
- Greater strength
- Increased stamina
- Decreased levels of stress and anxiety
- Increased sense of calmness
- Regulated energy levels (chi)
- Deeper relaxation
- Improved practice of meditation
- Enhanced practice of yang yoga
Yin Yoga in Practice
Yin Yoga postures are designed to lengthen the connective tissues surrounding the hips, pelvis, and lower back, thereby increasing circulation and improving flexibility. The practice of yin yanga is also meditative in nature, cultivating one’s awareness of their inner silence and reaching a deep connective state.
Yin asanas are held for increasingly longer amounts of time, while the practice of yin yoga also includes seated, forward-bending postures which restore energy and calm the nervous system.
Some of the most common yin yoga poses are:
- Happy baby
- Lying twists
- Sphinx and seal
- Toe squat
Four Principals of Yin Yoga
Keep in mind the following four principles when practicing yin yoga:
- Finding an appropriate edge (moving slowly and gently into each pose, seeking just the right amount of intensity and never stretching to the point of pain)
- Stillness (consciously focusing on remaining still without shifting position)
- Holding the position (starting from 1-3 minutes for beginners and working your way to 20-30 minutes)
- Releasing with care (coming out of poses safely)