Have you discovered Yin yoga?
Many people who practice yoga regularly and enjoy a dynamic Vinyasa flow class or a strong Power yoga class may not be familiar with the more restorative practice of Yin yoga – and the amazing benefits it has on both the body and mind.
Sometimes we feel like we’ve been cheated out of a good workout if the yoga class is not strong enough, because frankly we don’t have much time to exercise during the week. So we tend to go for the yoga classes that will challenge us a little more. Yet many people don’t realize that if we balance these active classes with a calmer restorative class, we’ll gain even more benefits from the stronger classes.
What is Yin yoga?
A Yin yoga class consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses, usually held for up to five minutes, sometimes longer, depending on the pose. Yin poses open up the entire body and are restorative versions of their yang counterparts – from passive forward bends to hip openers and twists. By holding these poses for a longer period of time, we gently stretch the connective tissue in our body – the fascia that connects and surrounds our muscles that makes us super tight and tense. Our bodies will respond to the deep stretches by making this connective tissue a little longer and stronger – thereby giving us more length and strength when we practice our dynamic yoga classes.
How can restorative Yin yoga improve my stronger yoga practice?
By relaxing our body into deeper poses during a Yin class, we immediately start to relax the connective tissues around our muscles that makes us tight. We go into a deeper stretch and open up our joints, and our bodies remember this, so we are prepared to move into more challenging poses during the active classes. Which is why we practice yin yoga daily on our luxury yoga retreats – a truly peaceful feeling at sunset by the sea, the perfect way to end the day.
What are the benefits of Yin yoga?
There are numerous benefits of a regular Yin yoga practice, here are just 3:
1. Improves flexibility
In a typical dynamic class, we hold poses for a few seconds, focusing more on the movement of the body and the flow from one pose to another, building strength and stamina, and therefore increasing the power of our practice. In Yin yoga, on the other hand, we hold the poses for much longer in a very passive way, letting go of every effort, which gives our joints and muscles the time and the opportunity to release beyond the tightness.
We essentially give ourselves a little mini-massage. We allow ourselves to fall deep into the pose, we surrender into it, letting go of any holding and effort – the opposite of a dynamic yang practice. This in turn lengthens and releases our joints, loosens the tightness around our muscles, increases circulation, resulting in greater joint mobility and improved flexibility. Which prepares us for the more difficult poses in our dynamic classes.
2. Calms and balances the mind
Forcing our bodies to relax into deep poses for an extended period of time can be quite a challenge for some people. We find that our mind starts to wander if our body is not active, we start thinking about our to-do lists and what’s coming next after yoga class. With a regular Yin yoga practice, we learn to still the mind as we still the body. We learn to let go of our worries and focus on the deep stretches and on our body and breathe.
It takes practice and it doesn’t come easy, but once we get it, the calming effects of Yin yoga are amazing. It also helps us sit still for meditation, it creates a sense of tranquility, of truly being in the moment, and it calms and balances our mind, preparing us to handle all the stimulations and stresses of everyday life. Think of it as a well-deserved moment of me-time, away from everything else.
3. Reduces stress and anxiety
Once we manage to achieve this state of not worrying, this feeling of being in the moment and letting all thoughts go, we can begin to feel how this gives us moments on the mat when we are completely stress-free. Even if the things that create the stress are still there outside the yoga class, if we learn to put those thoughts aside for an hour, we give our minds a break from the anxiety.
We find deeper relaxation, and we experience how it feels not to have that constant anxiety. And if we keep practicing, the calming effects during the class will spill into the rest of the day and beyond the yoga mat, and we can then take that stress-free feeling into the world and learn how to live our lives with less anxiety.
Just discovering Yin yoga?
Start your Yin practice by holding poses for 1-3 minutes, slowly increasing to about 5 minutes, without over-stretching. If you feel like you’re going beyond what your body can handle that day, then gently come out of the pose and try another one. Our bodies change every day, and some days we are tighter in some area than others, so remember to always listen to your body and do only what feels good. Safety first!
Try it out
If you would like to find out more about Yin yoga, join us on one of our luxury yoga retreats where we practice dynamic yoga in the morning and an hour of restorative Yin yoga in the evening at sunset. Our yoga teachers will make you feel absolutely wonderful!
Yoga Escapes organizes luxury yoga retreats in beautiful places around the world, offering a mix of Vinyasa yoga and restorative Yin yoga classes. Contact the Yoga Escapes team for info on upcoming yoga holidays.