Yin is an introspective practice that allows us to turn inward and nurture the calm, quiet center within. It is a practice in stillness, patience, and non-reactivity – all of which are highly transferable life skills. Please read on to learn more about the benefits of developing a yin yoga practice.
1. A yin practice restores range of motion.
Yin Yoga helps the body remain hydrated, fluid and flexible. This is huge for healthy aging. To have full range of motion, layers of connective tissue must allow muscles to glide effortlessly. Over time, these connective tissues bind together. Like a traffic jam, adhesions block the flow of energy in the body, causing pain and limiting mobility. Holding poses that gently lengthen fascia helps break up these adhesions. While applying mild stress to joints increases their range of motion.
2. A yin practice revitalizes deep tissues.
Our body’s tissues can be revived by a good long soak the same way that an old, stiff sponge can. We hold a yin poses for longer times than usual. As we come out of the posture, a blast of hyaluronic acid is sent into the fascia and connective tissues. This helps the body remain pliable while simultaneously lengthening the tissues. It’s not uncommon to leave a yin practice as if you’ve just had a really great massage.
3. A yin practice cultivates gratitude.
The simplicity of a yin practice allows us to return to our bodies and to see how remarkable we really are. Journeying into the deeper layers of ourselves, we tune into our inner workings. Since my return to yoga, after a 15 year-hiatus, I’ve become tremendously grateful to my old yoga practice. It’s helping me remember my range of motion and stay motivated on the mat when the sensations are less than pleasant.
4. A yin practice forces us to slow down.
Yin poses’ long holds offer a chance to sit in stillness. When you allow yourself to stay present and experience the near-imperceptible shifts that occur while holding a yin posture, time opens up. Deadlines, commitments, and to-do lists fade to the background, leaving space for rest and renewal.
5. A yin practice has us sit with our emotions.
Our bodies are vaults of emotion. It’s not uncommon for sensitive thoughts, feelings and memories to surface while practicing any form of yoga. Yin yoga teaches us how to be gentle, patient and nonreactive. We come to our edge, notice what arises and wait for the invitation to deepen.
6. A yin practice makes our bones stronger.
We Westerners spend a great deal of our days hunched over, slumping around in chairs. One way to build a stronger back and more open hips is to stop sitting in chairs. Another way is to do yin. Because we hold stress longer, this allows the bones more time to be impacted. The tension generates a larger recovery response, which makes the bones stronger.
7. A yin practice builds resilience.
Holding a pose for several minutes is putting an intentional stress on the joints – which can be emotionally and physically stressful. But when we approach it with tenderness, the body acclimates and the mind lets go. Surrender is a common theme in yin. The ability to adapt to the ups and downs of life is a sign of wellness. Any time we manage stress with grace and ease, we build resilience.
8. A yin practice activates “rest and digest.”
Most of us hum along at a constant, low-grade stress level. We’re acclimated to it so we don’t really notice it. But you what does? Our nervous system! Living life in a pseudo-state of emergency sends our nervous system overdrive. Yin Yoga activates the calming, parasympathetic nervous system – which, by default, turns off the sympathetic nervous system. As we move deeper into the practice, the breath slows down drawing us deeper into relaxation mode. This is where our organs get a chance to catch up on their To-Do list.
9. A yin practice is a sneaky form of meditation.
Yin Yoga was practice by Kung-Fu masters for this very reason. They knew in order to sit in silence, they had to quiet both body and mind. Stillness in the body means the muscles are inactive. Every time we move, we engage our muscles. One of the muscles’ job is to protect the joints and they naturally want to take any stretch in the body. We have to keep the muscles passive for the deep stretch to sink into our connective tissue. This is best achieved in stillness, resembling meditation.
10. A yin practice creates balance.
Your own health and well-being is a balancing act. If you look at the yin/yang symbol you will see that the white and black forms are in perfect balance. Many of us live very active (yang) lifestyles and leave little or no time to foster the quiet, introspective side. Yin compliments the fast-pace of modern living. Through the yin practice we can restore equilibrium across all our systems.