What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is a unique style of yoga that emphasizes relaxation while also providing a beneficial stimulus to the bones and connective tissues of the body that promotes their optimal functioning.
The emphasis is on holding the poses for long periods of time while relaxing the muscles of the body. When viewed externally the practice of Yin Yoga may appear to be effortless or uninteresting however it can actually be quite challenging due to the long amount of time that is spent in each pose.
Yin Yoga Benefits the Bones and Connective Tissues
Although many people may have the impression that it is not advantageous to stress the joints in reality this is not the case. The bones and connective tissue are the same as the other components of the body and they will respond beneficially to an appropriate stress. Just as the health of the muscles is improved when we exercise them, similarly we can improve the health of the bones and connective tissues.
Yin Yoga provides a gentle stress to these tissues that has far reaching positive effects on many levels. It can help to prevent degeneration in these regions of the body by providing a counter stretch against the continual tension that is present in the muscles and ligaments. The mild stimulation of the bones can also promote optimal bone density and improve the strength of the bones.
Yin Yoga Improves Posture and Mobility
Yin Yoga can also protect the body from the fixation and immobilization of the joints that is a common occurrence particularly in modern societies where we spend a great deal of time either sitting or standing. The dangers of a distorted posture when sitting for long periods of time cannot be overemphasized as sitting places four times as much pressure on our spines as standing.
When we sit the position of the spine is such that its normal curvature is distorted and this can particularly be observed as a decrease in the lumbar curve. In some people the loss of the lumbar curve can be so severe that the vertebrae may actually fuse together, which can be a major impediment to mobility.
Yin yoga involves specific poses, such as pyramid, seal and saddle poses, that help to maintain the normal lumbar curve and may reverse this tendency if their regular practice is commenced before the calcification of the joints occur. Similarly other poses in Yin Yoga have effects on the various joints of the body that promote their greatest range of motion.
Enhancing the Flow of Energy Through the Meridians
Another benefit of Yin Yoga is its ability to promote the flow of energy through the meridians. Although western medicine has been skeptical about the existence of these energy pathways, recently there has been research exploring the prospect that the connective tissue may act as a conduit for the flow of energy through the meridians. By activating the connective tissues it may be possible to directly stimulate the meridians and this can profoundly affect health in a positive way.
For the self-aware practitioner this can provide another aspect to their practice whereby specific postures may be selected to support the health of particular organs or to rebalance disruptive emotional states. For example in traditional Chinese medicine the health of the liver and gallbladder is associated with emotions such as anger and frustration. By practicing Yin Yoga poses such as swan and dragonfly the flow of energy through the liver and gallbladder meridians can be enhanced and the practitioner may find relief from these imbalances.
Yin Yoga Improves Health and Recovery From Chronic Illness
Improving the flow of energy through the meridians can also be of particular benefit for individuals with chronic health problems that may be resistant to standard treatments or for people who are recovering from illness. What makes Yin Yoga especially suitable in these cases is the fact that it is not a strenuous form of yoga and is within the capability of almost all individuals. Even if some of the poses are difficult they can generally be adjusted so that the practitioner can maintain a relative degree of comfort during the practice of Yin Yoga.
In addition to these specific factors Yin Yoga also can help to promote general relaxation, the importance of which should not be underestimated. A wide range of health conditions are stress related and any practice that reduces stress will have far reaching effects on the general health of the individual. In addition when people are calmer they will be more likely to engage with their family, friends and all others that they encounter in a positive way, which will improve the health of the social environment on more subtle levels.
Yin Yoga Enhances Self Awareness
Yin Yoga can also challenge yoga practitioners in a unique way whereby the long hold times can often produce a sense of discomfort which may begin as a physical sensation but can develop into psychological unease. In this way by working on the level of the deep connective tissue Yin Yoga can foster an increased awareness of the deeper aspects of ourselves as they rise to the surface to be confronted.
Yin Yoga allows us to draw our attention towards the internal phenomenon within us so that we are able to come closer to maintaining awareness of the subtle flow of energy. We may become awakened to the way we store tensions within the body and as we release the physical pressure and let go of cellular memories we can gain access to an enhanced sense of clarity.
This facet of the practice, in addition to the sense of quietude that can be experienced during a Yin Yoga session, can result in quite intense and illuminating occurrences that are invaluable for those seeking personal and spiritual growth.