What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is a passive practice that strengthens our ability to become still. In stillness, we develop awareness of our body, thoughts and emotions. By improving self awareness, we begin to recognize judgement and negative thinking. As a result, Yin Yoga reduces impulsivity and reactivity, allowing us to be more present in our daily lives. It also reduces stress, alleviates anxiety, and improves flexibility. With a regular Yin Yoga practice, you might notice that you feel better, sleep better, and move better.
How to Practice Yin Yoga Postures
- Find the depth in the pose that is appropriate for your body. Each time you practice, your body will be different. Part of the practice is honoring your body each and every time you come into a pose. Try to practice as if you have never experienced the pose. Be curious and let your body show you what it needs.
- Settle into stillness. It is important to minimize fidgeting and become still. If you are used to being active, it is normal to feel a bit fidgety as you begin to practice. Excessive fidgeting is usually a sign of too much stress. You can minimize stress and reduce fidgeting by backing out of a pose or adding a prop.
- Stay for time. Yin Yoga postures are effective when practiced for 1-20 minutes. Most teachers teach students to stay in a pose for five minutes. Increasing the time in a pose indicates advancement in your practice.
How is Yin Yoga Different from Restorative Yoga?
“Yin Yoga postures gently stretch and rehabilitate the connective tissues that forms our joints.” Paul Grilley
In a restorative yoga practice, props are a key element. Bolsters, blocks, blankets and straps eliminate stress and discomfort. Restorative yoga does not put stress on the body. It is designed to help people heal after surgery or to rehabilitate an injury.
In contrast, Yin Yoga postures put stress on the body on purpose. Gentle stress on the connective tissue makes the body more pliable and the joints more mobile. For this reason, practice Yin Yoga when your body is healthy.
Home Setup for Yin Yoga
- Create your space. You will need a space on the floor that is as long as your body and as wide as your outstretched arms. If you have hard floors, you will want a yoga mat and a blanket to create some padding for your bones.
- Gather your props. The traditional yoga props used in Yin Yoga include 1-2 Mexican blankets and 1-2 yoga blocks. Use props only when the tension surrounding a joint is so great that your body cannot relax into the pose. As tension decreases, try to practice without props. Note: You can substitute 2-4 bath size towels or beach towels for the yoga blocks and Mexican blankets.
- Keep warm. Your body will cool down as you practice Yin Yoga postures. Wear warmer clothing and have socks and a blanket on hand.
- Keep time. If you are practicing on your own, have a timer nearby to keep the time for you. Instead of watching the clock, you will be able to focus on your breath and the sensations in your body.
Yin Yoga Resources
To learn more about Yin Yoga, check out my favorite teachers:
Yin Yoga: Outline of a Quiet Practice by Paul Grilley
Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers
The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark (See page 188 for my contribution on post-natal yin yoga).