It's no secret that I love Yin Yoga and is the reason I started The Slow Mo Co. But, I'm no yoga teacher. I just assumed everyone knew what Yin Yoga was, until a friend asked me over lunch recently! So, I asked Cat Mead, Yin Yoga teacher, specialist and Online Yin Yoga Studio owner to write this guest blog post to explain what is Yin Yoga and why everyone should give it a try...
Yin yoga is a floor-based yoga practice where we are invited to come into shapes/poses in our body that we then see if we can passively soften into for anywhere between 3-8 minutes at a time, depending on the pose.
It is a slow and intentional practice that is designed to give space for your muscles, mind and breath to settle so that your nervous system can down-regulate, bringing you into a sense of feeling centred, calm and connected.
Most yin yoga poses are practiced on the floor and are held for several reasons:
- To help us feel safe in our bodies so that we can activate our parasympathetic nervous system - moving us away from fight or flight and moving us into rest & digest mode.
- To give our muscles space to relax so that we can move deeper into our connective tissues (fascia), allowing our energy flow freely.
- Yin is a mind game. Often, we can find some discomfort in these poses so sitting within this and observing it without judgement can allow our body to settle and make space, helping to build resilience and connection with ourselves.
How is Yin Yoga different to other styles of yoga?
While it has its roots in Hatha Yoga, a Yin practice differs in that it also draws from concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine to support your overall health. It’s also different from more energetic styles of practice as we are not warming the body up and activating our muscles, but rather we are intentionally giving ourselves time to relax our muscles so that we can safely target our fascia, joints and ligaments.
The fascia, joints and ligaments are thought of as ‘more yin’ tissues of the body (when compared with our muscles, which are ‘more yang’) and need to be worked with in a yin way, which means that in our Yin Yoga practice we sit softly over time to effect change, instead of pumping blood, energy and heat into our muscles.
When we do this it’s important that we don’t try to push ourselves into any particular depth or aesthetic (the way we think a pose should look) as every single body is unique and different and will feel different in a similar shape to another person. Plus, with our muscles relaxed we MUST move slowly and intentionally to make sure we are protecting ourselves and moving within our limits of safety and comfort.
Who can benefit from a Yin Yoga practice?
Short answer: pretty much everyone.
While Yin Yoga can be practiced by anyone and each pose can be adapted to the person moving into it, it should be noted that if you are working with any injuries you MUST let your teacher know or ask for advice before jumping into the practice. There are some instances where this practice may not be suitable (for example, if you’re working with a muscle tear you’ll definitely need to work with variations or adjustments in your practice to make sure it’s beneficial for you in your healing).
Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, Yin Yoga can be a bit of a mind game. It has the potential to be challenging and confronting, especially if you’re not used to sitting with physical sensation, emotion (oh yes, emotions can come out in yin), and being still with no distractions for a while. These are good reasons to practice yin, but are also things to keep in mind if you’re feeling uncertain about the practice. If you find yourself in a yin yoga class and you are feeling distressed or uncomfortable, know that you can always move or you can always leave the room for a few minutes if you need to.
Why would I practice Yin Yoga?
All of that being said, Yin Yoga is an incredible way to deal with stress, to nourish your body after intense exercise or to simply move away from the demands of a busy everyday life for a while. The shapes we come into can help to rewrite the habits of your body, leaving you feeling more free, open and mobile.
You might find that once you’ve practiced Yin that you love it and it’ll easily slot into your routine. OR, you might need to give it a few attempts before you understand its value and feel its benefits. I personally loved it right away, but I can see how it might take a bit of getting used to.
How can I get started?!
I’d love to guide you through your Yin Yoga practice. You can find me over at The Yin Portal where I’ve created a comprehensive library of guided classes, ranging from 15 minutes up to an hour, as well as a complete guide to Yin Yoga Poses.
Written by Cat Mead, The Yin Portal