What is Yin Yoga?

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

Confused about yin yoga? Catherine asks our resident yin teacher Freya to clarify a few questions she often gets asked ...

Yin yoga dragonfly pose
Yin yoga uses props to support the body in different poses. Here is the same pose with different levels of support.

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a slow form of yoga designed to stress the connective tissue (fascia) around your joints, muscles and ligaments. The asanas (postures) practiced in yin yoga slowly load your joints and connective tissue, allowing the body to open out gradually.

Employing ancient principles of Chinese Medicine, yin yoga also aims to awaken the subtle energies in the body. This energy, or ‘chi’ runs along the Chinese meridian lines, which are energetic channels throughout the body. It is believed that practicing yin yoga can help prevent energetic blockages in the body, which may otherwise manifest into physical symptoms.

How is Yin different to Vinyasa?

Yin and Vinyasa are complementary yet separate practices ie) yin and yang. The main difference between Yin yoga and Vinyasa is the pace of the class. Whereas in Vinyasa you may move through flowing sequences of poses, Yin often involves holding one shape for several minutes in order to allow the body to slowly yield. Sometimes props such as bolsters and blocks are used in Yin yoga to help you to stay in one position for a prolonged time. In Yin yoga we are not aiming to increase our physical strength, instead allowing our bodies and our minds the space and time to unwind.

Why is Yin beneficial?

Yin yoga can have positive mental and physical effects on the body. As tissue in the body must be stressed or worked in order to remain healthy staying in a pose for several minutes stresses the tissue and allows it to regenerate. Yin can also be a great complement to other forms of exercise which shorten the resting length of your muscles and make you feel stiff- such as running or cardio- as it allows you to work on improving your flexibility in a slow and supervised environment.

Yin also provides you with an opportunity to practice meditation (Dhyana) which is the 7th limb of yoga. Whilst you are holding your body still in one position, you can begin to focus your mind on a single point of attention such as your breath, or the feeling of your body on the mat.

Yin yoga also allows you to rest and restore your body. After a busy week, taking time out to practice Yin may help you to feel more energised and well rested.

Why do you like to practice & teach yin yoga?

I like to practice Yin yoga as it allows me plenty of time to unwind. As someone whose mind is always whirling, it’s always a relief when I find myself starting to switch off a little and connecting with my body and breath during Yin.

Teaching Yin is great because you have more time to be able to check that all students are in a pose that is comfortably challenging for them. I enjoy being able to workshop modifications or the use of different props with students to help them work out what suits their bodies best. Yin classes are also a prefect space to teach different pranayama (breathing) and meditation techniques, as they are often more suited to a slower paced class.

What is your favourite Yin pose?

Sleeping swan! Even though it’s not for everyone I find it quite blissful to lie for a few minutes of quiet in sleeping swan.

Freya Phillips

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