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3 Important Lessons Yin Yoga Can Teach Us

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

Yin Yoga: The Practice of Letting Go to Deepen Your Practice


Yin yoga is the perfect compliment to our overly active, yang lifestyles. We tend to ignore the signs that we should relax in order to push ourselves to our breaking point, in order to be more productive and achieve the goals that we have laid out. The slow, introspective tempo of yin yoga make it the perfect practice to balance all of our "doing" with simply just "being".

Yin yoga is a slow, introspective style of yoga designed to relax the muscles so that we can affect the connective tissue that wraps our body. This practice can increase our flexibility, release tight and tense muscle, and is an excellent practice for relieving stress and worry from the mind. It is the practice of letting go, seated postures are held for long periods of time and the aim is to relax the body and mind so that gravity can bring you deeper into each pose. Most yoga classes are about using effort to fully embody each pose, they want you to reach and stretch yourself to your limit, but yin is about going deeper with non-effort. In yin yoga we use effort to get comfortable in each pose, and then we try to let go of any sense of effort while we are still.

What makes Yin Yoga so interesting, at least in my eyes, is that we use relaxation to drop deeper into the pose instead of trying to extend and use effort to get deeper into poses. It almost seems counterintuitive to let go of the urge to "try" and instead turn your attention inward to simply notice whatever arises at any given moment. Sometimes all we need to feel better is to let go of control and just experience whatever is present at the moment. The magic of yin is that it provides time to balance all of the 'doing' that we do, with 'being', with just experiencing the present moment without any judgement or expectation.

The Two Opposing Energies of Yin and Yang

The concept of yin- yang is mentioned in the “I Ching” or “The Book of Changes” and are an important aspect of Daoism and Confucianism. The meaning of yin and yang is that the universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or cosmic energies that can be observed in nature. Yin is seen as an inward energy that is feminine, still, dark, and negative. Yang is the opposite of yin and is seen as outward energy, masculine, hot, bright, and positive.

Yin and yang are paired up throughout the universe, like the sun and the moon or hot and cold. Even though these two forces are opposite of one another, they can coexist and even complement each other. Sometimes one can even define the other. Day and night for example, the two exist and actually define one another, we wouldn't have night without also having a day. The nature of this relationship is constant interplay and flux between the two components.

<img src="yinyang_nature.jpg" alt="yin and yang as seen in nature." title="two sides of the same coin"/>
Yin and yang can be thought of as two sides of the same hill (dune); The side with sunlight is yang and the side with no sunlight is yin.

How can doing nothing lead to relaxation and healing? Well let's take a look at some of the benefits of Yin yoga:

Yin yoga can increase flexibility

Yin yoga targets our connective tissue (also called fascia) which wraps around joints and connects bone to muscle. Connective tissue is constantly growing inward to protect the joints and support the weight of the body, which is a great thing, but the downside is that it can make us feel tight, stiff and heavy. Great for protecting the body, but not great for being able to move the body, as the CT grows it can reduce our range of motion. Yin yoga uses gravity and time to relax the muscles and stress the CT so that it is stretched slowly and safely. Muscles respond to repetitive movements because they are made mainly of water but CT is a harder and structural substance so it responds better to consistent pressure over time. Stretching the CT helps keep us flexible by fighting against that pull inward.

Teaches Acceptance

<img src="shoelace pose.jpg alt=" shoelace pose. knees are stacked over one another, folding over both knees.">
Shoelace pose

Yin yoga might look simple, get into a pose and then try to remain still, but the challenge is all internal. Sensations in the body try to get you to move, thoughts flow through the mind, sending your awareness all over the place all make this a practice of letting go. We have to let go of our need to fix every sensation or allow every thought to occupy the mind, yin yoga gives us plenty of time to learn the art of acceptance. Learning to accept whatever arises in the moment can help us maintain a sense of inner peace that is less affected by the ups and downs of the world.

Relaxes Tight & Achey Muscles

<img src="supported bridge pose.jpg alt="yin yoga supported bridge pose" title="supported bridge pose">
Supported Bridge Pose

Mental stress can end up creating tension in the body. That extra energy that stress brings into the body needs to go somewhere, so it ends up creating tension and heaviness in the body. When our body aches and constantly feel tight, it becomes difficult to concentrate on another else but finding relief. Yin yoga uses props to support the body so that the muscles can relax and come back into balance. Our thoughts and feelings can create tension in the body but yin yoga offers you plenty of time to become aware of these things and contemplate them and then eventually allow them to release. We hold each pose for at least 3 minutes because the muscles can only hold on for about 2 minutes before it transfers the stress to the connective tissue. Sometimes muscles get stuck which causes pain and yin yoga helps to unstick the muscles so that can go back to normal.

What do I need to Practice Yin Yoga?

Yin yoga is a slow, introspective style of yoga where the aim is to relax the muscles so that we can affect the fascia, or connective tissue, that wraps around and throughout the body. The goal in each pose is to get comfortable, then resolve yourself to be still for 3-5 minutes. In order to make sure we are comfortable, we use yoga blocks, bolsters and other props to bring the floor up to support the body. A yoga mat, 2 yoga blocks, a blanket are essential to practice yin yoga (You can practice with no props, but since the goal is to release the muscles, I recommend atleast blocks to make it easier.) You can also use a rolled up towel, yoga bolster, and a yoga strap, but I would say those are optional.

Yin Yoga Starter Kit

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