Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures that are held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one pose for five minutes or more.
As opposed to the stronger, more active yang-style yoga we are used to, yin yoga is passive. It is practised mainly on the floor and the majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial and addresses the active muscles of the body, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body.
Yin yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body (tendons, fascia, and ligaments) with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. It is a more meditative approach to yoga. Yin aims at cultivating awareness of inner silence and using the breath to release tightness in the body.
The time spent in these postures is much like time spent in meditation, and I often talk students through the postures as if they were trying to meditate. While in a Yin class you might notice similar postures to a yang class except they are called different, more poetic names. Seated Forward Bend becomes Caterpillar. Forward Pigeon becomes Swan. Cobbler’s Pose becomes Butterfly. This is to help the student’s mind shift form yang to yin, active to passive.
I use gentle music in my yin classes to give the mind something to focus on. Staying in poses for longer can be challenging, especially when there is an injury or particular tightness to deal with. The point of yin is to focus inside the body, observe what is going on, handle the feelings and emotions that surface, and then to kindly release and let them go. This, in many ways, is what helps the body release tightness in the joints too.
We use a range of special props to support the joints during this practice – Bolsters, pillow, blocks and straps.
It is wise to dress with warm layers and socks for a yin class. The body cools down quickly when lying down! The blood pressure also tends to fall a little, just as if we are inducing sleep. This can also make you feel chilly during the practise.
One of the greatest benefits of a yin yoga practice is the calmness and peace it generates in the body and mind. Simply lying passively in yoga postures, assisted with loving-kindness by a teacher who strongly holds space and creates a secure and safe environment in the class, is a great way to release stress and deeply relax. You will certainly sleep better after a good yin yoga class!
This year, there will be a 2-hour yin yoga class at The Wellbeing Space in Farnham on the first Saturday of each month.
You can book your space here