So what exactly is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga was born from Taoist philosophy. The postures are more passive, occur mainly on the floor and are held for longer periods of time. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone.
Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. The time spent in these postures is much like time spent in meditation, and I often talk people through the postures as if they were trying to meditate.
It is a more meditative approach with a physical focus much deeper than Yang like practices. Here the practitioner is trying to access the deeper tissues such as the connective tissue and fascia and many of the postures focus on areas that encompass a joint (hips, sacrum, spine). As one ages flexibility in the joints decreases and Yin yoga is a wonderful way to maintain that flexibility, something that for many don’t seem to be too concerned about until they notice it is gone.
This intimate practice of yoga requires students to be ready to get intimate with the self, with feelings, sensations, and emotions, something of which I have noticed can be easy to avoid in a fast paced yoga practice. Yin yoga is often used in programs that deal with addictions, eating disorders, anxiety and deep pain or trauma.
I first learned about Yin Yoga through Paul Grilley in 2003. Paul made a huge contribution to yoga. By emphasizing form over aesthetics, he created a “functional approach” to Yin Yoga. The mantra of functional yoga is that every skeletal structure is different. The point is not to fixate on a pose looking a certain way. The focus on the target area and where pain shouldn’t be. There is no such thing as a perfect pose. Skeletal variations are huge and everyone is different. There is only learning to discriminate what works for you, by listening to your body.