Yin yoga is still somewhat of a mystery to many yogis. The ancient practice embodies the wisdom from Eastern Medicine with classic Hatha yoga poses. Under the guidance of notable teachers such as Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, it’s a teacher training I wish I would have done sooner. I’m always promoting yin yoga at my studio, but when I describe yin yoga and all the wonderful benefits, I hear a lot of people saying, “What’s yin? I don’t think I’ve practiced that before. Would I be able to do that?”. My answer, the majority of the time, is an overwhelming YES!
Yin yoga has truly been a gift for me.
And if you give it a chance, I think you too may feel the same. To me, it’s a form of therapy that I can come back to again and again. No judgment — just a gentle, meditative conversation with my body to relieve stress, tension and negative emotions. It forces you to listen to your body and work through any issues to find peace. It may take a few practices, but give it time and you too will feel the difference.
This brings me to reason number one why I love yin yoga: emotional release.
This passive meditative practice is how I find balance and equanimity. It’s my go-to when any negative feelings start to percolate. I have a bad day, I feel stressed, I can’t sleep — I practice yin yoga. I know which poses to practice to target and alleviate specific negative emotions, and I feel empowered and relieved to have these tools at my disposal. I can skip the ice cream binge, wine and decadent treats that I had originally lined up, and instead opt for yin. The beauty of yin is that it relieves so much toxic waste from the body and unblocks stagnation in our organs and meridian lines; feelings of overwhelm or anxiety are gone, almost instantaneously for me. I set up with my blanket, bolster, and mat. I turn on some relaxing music (I recommend Ben Howard or Eva Cassidy) and I find my pose. I focus on my breath and meditate on the targeted areas anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
Relief washes over me and my body becomes balanced.
Reason number two why I love yin yoga:
A significant increase in mobility. While yin yoga can be a powerful release for negative emotions and stress, it can also have amazing results when it comes to reducing aches and pains in the body and greatly increasing mobility; particularly in our shoulders, hips and back. yin yoga targets our fascia, ligaments, tendons, and even our bones. When our major muscles quiet and become relaxed, we can slowly sink deeper into the pose and center our effort in the joint and tissues. There’s no muscle trying to fight back or contract to protect the delicate joint; rather, this style of meditative yoga allows the muscles to relax, through breath and meditation, and positively affect the targeted area.
So why is yin so effective?
Our ligaments and tendons are more plastic than our muscle and require longer held stretch to have the intended effect. Our muscles, on the other hand, are more elastic and love to warm up –they also require less time in a pose to achieve an effect. Muscles and tissues require different forms of exercise and different amounts of pressure and duration to stay healthy and balanced. After a yin yoga practice, many students tell me that they can breathe better, swim and run with greater ease, and muscle stiffness is significantly reduced, if not completely gone in their back. Sounding like something you might want to try?
There’s a limit to how far we can stress or “stretch” (we don’t actually stretch tissues as tissues are more plastic, so we stress) the ligaments, tendons, and bones in yin yoga. It’s important that you check in with your teacher before you practice so they can accommodate any challenges or address any concerns. When we practice yin yoga, we create microscopic damage to the tissue fibers and bones — but this is good! Post-practice, our bones and tissues begin to repair and rebuild to become stronger and healthier.
So the next time you see a yin yoga practice at your local yoga studio or on your travels, give it a shot. You may be surprised at the transformation in your body and you may even fall in love with yin.
And if you’re up for learning more about yin yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques, come join me on my Yoga Wellness Retreat — November 11th to the 17th — where the lush green jungle meets the Pacific blue ocean in Panama. Surf, sand, and sun salutations await you!
Bethany Lee began yoga to gain flexibility and strength, but soon noticed additional benefits including better focus, improved sleep and more energy. Wanting to share these benefits with others, she earned her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification in Puerto Rico, studying under Power Yoga leader Renee Fussner. For fourteen years, she has brought passion and authenticity to her everyday practice. Her love of yin yoga inspired her to take on additional training and certification (50 hours) in Mexico, studying Yin Yoga combined with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and meditation. She’s also been certified under Rose Erin Vaughn, building her skills in TCM, acupressure, healing and human anatomy. Visit her Retreat Guru teacher page here.