Yin Yoga

Here is an assignment that I did as part of my teacher training, I love Yin yoga with a passion, it is so good for the body and really soothes the mind and also help heal.

What is Yin Yoga and Why Would anyone want to practise it?

Yin Yoga is a complementary form of yoga to practise alongside yang style yoga. Yang style yoga is aimed at strengthening and stretching the muscles, in rhythmic flows and holds of a few breaths. Although yang can be a mindful practise, there is more opportunity in yin to be mindful, as will be discussed in more detail below.

Yin yoga consists of holding the body in a series of shapes for experienced practitioners for between 5-20 minutes. (shapes are similar to traditional yoga asana, but are given different names, as the student is encouraged to approach these shapes very differently to how they might approach traditional yoga asana).The shapes are designed to place controlled stress upon the joints, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Whilst in these shapes, the muscles are encouraged to relax and become passive so that the aforementioned tissues receive the work. The joints become more mobile and yin yoga helps reduce the effects of aging upon the joints.

Due to postural lifestyle impacts upon the muscular skeletal system and injuries, the fascial network quite often gets damaged and results in tightness and adhesions which can impact the range of motion. A regular yin yoga practise helps to repair the fascia and in turn increase the joints range of motion.

Once the body has been placed in these yin shapes, the student, must find the right edge, which Bernie Clarke equates to the Goldilocks story, not too much where the posture cannot be held, the breath is laboured and pain is felt, not too little where the target tissue is not effected, the edge should be just right.

The shapes of Yin yoga, are also designed to affect the meridians present in the superficial fascia of the body. These meridian channels originating from Chinese Traditional Medicine have been found in the fascia of cadavers, and can be identified by concentrated lines of hyaluronic acid. The Chinese system believes that these meridian channels transfer ‘Chi’, around the body. ‘Chi’, refers to universal energy that is around us, and in us, it is also known as Ki in Japan and Prana in India. We need the chi to be free flowing, and balanced to be in good emotional, mental and physical balance. The chi is brought into the body via what we drink and eat, grain chi, and the environment – air chi, and we are believed to have been born with prenatal chi, termed ‘Jing’. Chi can be effected and rebalanced via yin yoga, acupressure, as well as focusing of the mind and the breath.

In the TCM system, there are yin and yang organs, in the meridian system these are mapped out in pairs, one yin and one yang organ. Below are meridian lines which are mainly targeted in yin yoga and a brief summary of why they should be balanced.

Kidneys and Urinary Bladder meridian:- these determine our energy levels, joint lubrication, and also relate to fear. For example too little kidney chi, we can be fearful and also being fearful depletes kidney chi.

Liver and Gall Bladder Meridians:-are related to muscle stiffness, vertigo and dizziness, getting irritated and angry, if unbalanced. If in balance, eyes, muscles, tendons are healthy and emotions are more stable.

Spleen and Stomach Meridians:- look after digestion, if unbalanced, lethargy, being over or underweight, obsessive behaviour and thoughts.

Lungs and Large Intestine:-receive air and chi, when imbalanced, asthma, rashes, and degeneration of the spine and rheumatic pain can occur. These lines are also linked to courage and tenacity.

Heart and small intestine:- these meridians rule the blood and circulation, if unbalanced, sadness and hatred can dominate the emotions, instead of love.

The last main components of Yin Yoga, are the mindfulness aspect of the practise, remaining still and being present, being aware of the breath and the body, being aware of how the mind and the body are reacting to being in these shapes for this amount of time. Just observing, not judging, not commenting, just being. This awareness, is very powerful and healing. Also how we react on the mat, reflects how we react in life to situations. If we initially want to run away from some yin postures, but just breath and stay there, we are more likely to be able to keep calm and focused in trying situations. I love the phrase, learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, this epitomises yin yoga for me

To summarise, yin yoga is the holding of shapes which affect meridian lines and effectively stress the joints and connective tissue in the body, these shapes should be help for 5-20 minutes to effect this energetic change, trying to be mindful whilst in the shape.

Whilst in yin postures, the beneficial effects can also be enhanced by focusing the mind on an area, or pranayama techniques.

The above relates to what yin yoga is, why would anyone want to practise will be detailed below in bullet point form.

  • Good for balancing energy/chi, emotions and providing a healthy body, and mind, as referenced in the section on meridians above.
  • A lot of time is spent with the parasympathetic nervous system dominating, so anxiety is reduced and the body gets time to heal from being in a sympathetic nervous state. Hopefully preventing adrenal fatigue.
  • Range of motion of the joints can be improved and maintained. Degeneration and joint rigidity can be slowed down.
  • Good to practise with a good teacher if injured to keep mobile and aid repair.
  • Good at fascial release which is a major contributor to reduced range of motion on the joints.
  • Done on the floor and doesn’t not need a lot of energy. Excellent for students who are elderly or who have fatigue, or chronic health issues.
  • Creates an environment to be mindful, which in turn has many positive effects on life and those around us.
  • Is a good preparation for meditation.
  • All these factors combined can release stored emotions and help rebalance the emotions, to start emotional healing
  • A lot of us, live in a very yang dominated state at work, and with exercise, we need to balance that out for our bodies and our minds.
  • Yin yoga is very important for self care of ourselves energetically, physically and emotionally.