Yin Yoga: The Practice Your Tight *Everything* Needs
July 5, 2021
By Jen Moye
Yin Yoga: The Practice Your Tight *Everything* Needs
When you hear the word “yin” you might automatically think of its counterpart, yang. These two words represent complementary aspects of the opposing sides of a circle. But in the beautiful world of yoga, you will often find these two polarities living together in the same studio.
There are a few fundamental differences between yin and yang styles of yoga. A yang-style class would likely involve fast-moving flows similar to what is taught in a vinyasa-style class. Being the opposing side of the circle, a yin class is very different.
Yin’s roots are in China and Taiwan, where deep, long stretches and other techniques closely related to Yin yoga were practiced for centuries as part of the Daoist Yoga, also known as Dao Yin. Taoists priests taught these practices, including breathing techniques, to Kung Fu practitioners beginning 2,000 years ago. Yin as we know it today was founded relatively recently in the 1970s by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. The Yin style has spread in popularity due to a handful of teachers including Suzee Grilley, Sarah Powers (who coined the name “Yin”) and Bernie Clark. (ref. HY Yin Training Manual)
Yin isn’t a standalone practice, but the other half of a well-rounded lifestyle—on and off the mat. That’s why yin concepts and postures can effectively be added to any yang-oriented workout, and should be, or least incorporated into one’s general practice and lifestyle.
While many yin postures look similar to their yang counterparts you might see in a vinyasa class, they actually have different names, intentions and cueing. Because the main focus of a yin practice is the energetic and emotional layers of the body, a yin practitioner will likely discover a myriad of benefits such as:
Overcoming a reactivity to discomfort
Improving emotional intelligence
Improving responsiveness to stress off the mat
Reducing emotional imbalances such as anxiety and frustration
Yin classes invite you to linger in a pose in order to achieve these mind-body benefits by targeting the muscles along meridian lines and even acupressure points. While this yummy practice can bring a blissful and relaxed feeling, it is often challenging from a mental point of view.
“The power of Yin Yoga is time, not effort.”
On the mat and off the mat when we come up against significant resistance, our default behavior is to choose the path of least resistance. This not only prevents growth but can cause further degeneration. Nothing gets stronger in the absence of stress. The physical dance of finding our edge in a Yin pose can translate into a willingness to relinquish control and experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in new and profound ways that can significantly alter one’s walk with God. Yin isn’t meant to be comfortable, despite the fact that it’s about softening and surrender. (ref. HY Yin Training Manual)
Ready to try it?
Let’s break down a few of our favorite yin postures.
Here are the basics:
Take a good 30 seconds to come out of each pose, moving as effortlessly as you can as you transition.
Try lying on your back or stomach between each pose for 30 seconds in order to allow your chi (the energy of the body) to recirculate.
Inhale through your nose as naturally as possible throughout the practice to help keep your body in a restful state.
Do not keep your body in a painful position, but keep in mind that discomfort is necessary for growth.
Hydrate! Yin yoga is like having a deep tissue massage, so grab an extra bottle of water to help flush out those toxins you just released!
1. Reclining twist (right and left)
Start lying flat on your mat with your legs outstretched. Draw both knees into your chest, draping the hands just below your knees so that the tops of the thighs soften into the belly and chest. Open your arms out like wings, pressing the palms into the mat. Bring your knees to a 90-degree angle, so that the knees stack over the hips and the heels are in line with the knees and then drop both knees to the right. Adjusting so your hips are stacked directly on top of each other, soften into your body rather than striving for a deeper twist. Hold for three minutes on both sides. Rest in between each side, flat on your back.
2. Child’s pose
Start on all fours in Tabletop. Take your tailbone to your heels and rest the torso on the thighs. Keep your arms stretched as far forward as possible so that the body is long. Tuck your tailbone toward your heels to accentuate the length in the lower back. Relax for as many breaths as you like. You can spread the thighs wide and rest the chest toward the floor. Soften and let go of all the tension in your jaw, chest, hips and head. Slide onto your stomach slowly, and rest there before the next posture.
Start by sitting on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Rest directly on your sitting bones by using your hands to move the fleshy excess away from your hips and buttocks. Begin to fold forward allowing your back to round as you hinge forward from your hip, perhaps allowing for a little traction of your spine to occur. You can use a cushion to elevate your hips and pelvis if needed. Rest for two minutes, then slowly round up to release.
4. Straddle (Dragonfly)
Start by sitting on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Open your legs wide in an open V formation. You may find a cushion to support tilting your hips forward helpful. Begin to fold forward by bringing your hands forward onto the floor and walk them toward the front of your mat. Rest your weight onto your hands with arms straight or rest your elbows on a block. Allow your head to get heavy and your back to naturally round toward the floor. Hold for three minutes before gently coming back to a seated position.
5. Sleeping swan
Start in downward dog or tabletop. Bring your right knee forward between the hands and place it on the floor, simultaneously dropping the left knee to the floor. Center yourself so your weight is even. You want to feel grounded, so the intention is less about a squared hip, and more about a grounded hip. When you are ready, drop the left knee back to the mat. Fold forward over the bent right knee, outstretching the arms in front of you. Melt your chest toward the mat, close your eyes, and rest here for three to four minutes. Repeat on the other side for the same length of time.
6. Legs up the wall
Start by sitting on the floor sideways next to a wall that is suitable for working against. Your right hip should be against the wall. Place the soles of the feet on the floor so that the knees are bent, keeping the spine vertical. Exhaling, lie back onto the floor perpendicular to the wall, swinging your outstretched legs up onto the wall. Your legs will be completely supported by the wall. Place your hands or a folded blanket underneath your lower back if it would be more comfortable. You can elevate hips on a blanket to make this more comfortable or place a heavy blanket over the chest to soothe.
Whether you lie on your stomach, back or side, find a resting pose that is sustainable for you and rest your body for at least five minutes. Relax your entire body and become aware of your breath. This is the most important pose in your entire practice. Take the time to be still and bask in God’s presence.
Interested in learning more about yin yoga? Check out our Yin Holy Yoga Training here– it’s starting soon!
Jen Moye is wife to an Airman and homeschool mom to three rambunctious little boys. With excitement on a daily basis and grace around every corner, she believes we are meant to live this life in community with others and with the mercy to mess up and try again….and again. Being a mom is hard, but it is also a divine calling we can have in this life. She is the Director of Marketing for Holy Yoga Global®, LLC and is a Master Holy Yoga Instructor.