In the interest of continuing education of my yoga practice I’ve recently begun to venture into the world on Yin Yoga. What I’ve found has been incredible and I’m really excited to learn more about it and get into the trenches of the body, or deep into the fascia as it may be :)
A quick description of what Yin yoga is: Yin Yoga is a very slow paced style of asana (postures) where you hold the posture for anywhere from 3-10 minutes, allowing the body to deeply relax and allowing not just your muscles, but the connective tissue at the joints to stretch. If your first reaction- like mine was- is “why are we stretching the connectors at the joints, isn’t that bad” here’s a excerpt from Yin expert Paul Grilley on just that subject
The Joint Stretch
The idea of stretching connective tissue around the joints seems at odds with virtually all the rules of modern exercise. Whether we’re lifting weights, skiing, or doing aerobics or yoga, we’re taught that safety in movement primarily means to move so you don’t strain your joints. And this is sage counsel. If you stretch connective tissue back and forth at the edge of its range of motion or if you suddenly apply a lot of force, sooner or later you will hurt yourself.
So why would Yin Yoga advocate stretching connective tissue? Because the principle of all exercise is to stress tissue so the body will respond by strengthening it. Moderately stressing the joints does not injure them any more than lifting a barbell injures muscles. Both forms of training can be done recklessly, but neither one is innately wrong. We must remember that connective tissue is different from muscle and needs to be exercised differently. Instead of the rhythmiccontraction and release that best stretches muscle, connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger—which is exactly what you want.
I’ve been able to read Paul Grilleys book Yin Yoga, principles and practice, actually I blew through it all in one sitting and am now re-reading it :) I’ve done a few yin sessions, starting with 2 minutes on each pose, working my way up to being able to hold them for 5 minutes at a time without my mind being like “I’m finished!!” It’s a really wonderful practice to get into a pose and then just try and stay, for me staying is the hardest part. I’ll put on my timer and know that all I have to do is breathe and relax, and somehow my mind thinks that that’s so stressful!! So really, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to meditate and clear your mind. Sometimes I’ll just listen to my breath, sometimes I’ll observe my thoughts, but always I will leave my yin session feeling 100% percent better than when I started it.
It’s especially helpful for those days when I feel like I have no energy but I really want to practice. Yin allows your body to open up and stretch, without getting vigorous about it. I believe it would be especially beneficial to those who have health problems that require them to stay in bed rest or chair bound. The idea behind Yin is complete relaxation, so you can use pillows, blocks, blankets, tennis balls, socks etc, any prop that will allow you to find more rest and release is helpful. My practice has involved tennis balls to release the psoas, blankets and blocks for chest/hip opening and a wall for a relaxed backbends.
What I have found works best with my schedule is yin yoga before bed, it’s a lovely way to end the day, and I go to bed feeling gumby and happy inside. If you’re looking to get your Yin Yoga on, there are tons of resources online, here are a few to get you started
A list of poses, some with videos to help you understand what you’re doing.
An Eckhart sequence if you have an hour to spare, really great to see the use of props as well.
I’m still learning, but please ask me questions if you have them! If I don’t know the answer I’d love to find it out with you!
What a wonderful world!