07 Sep The physical benefits of Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga Explained
Many people are familiar with the more ‘yang’ styles of Yoga, such as Power, Hatha, Iyengar and Vinyasa Yoga. Less well known, or perhaps less understood is Yin Yoga.
‘Yang’ Yoga utilizes more rhythmic repetitive movements that stress the muscle fibres, promoting strength, while Yin Yoga targets the connective tissues of the body – muscle fascia, ligaments, tendons, bones and joints.
Yin tissues are drier and less elastic than muscles, and easily damaged if approached in a traditional strengthening manner. These more plastic tissues respond best to gentle pressure, held for longer periods of time. A Yin practise positions the body into a shape, which is held for a period of time in stillness, accompanied by breathing techniques.
Fascia is a mesh like structure that envelopes bones, muscles and organs. Each muscle group, down to the smallest muscle fibre has its own layer of fascia. Proper functioning of this network greatly influences our health, movement and communication of the bodily systems, resulting in quicker response time, sensory acuity and increased mental clarity.
Fascia surrounding muscles eventually becomes tendons, which then becomes bones. During times of intense extension and contraction, it is not generally the muscle itself that is damaged, but the weaker links in the chain, most often the MT junction, where the muscle becomes tendon – it is here that many sports injuries occur. Yin practise works with these areas, reorganizing the muscle and fascia fibres, to promote strength and length and decreasing the risk of injury.
Muscle fibres, blood vessels and nerves are realigned, allowing proper transmission of force, and the fascia surfaces (and there are many!) are lubricated, promoting deeper range of movement and the prevention or decrease of scar tissue build-up.
Spaces in the body that are stiff and tense, due to tissue inflexibility, injuries, stress or inflammation begin to ease and release, allowing body fluids and energy to move more freely around the body and into denser spaces, promoting healing and recovery.
Yin Yoga is particularly beneficial to those who participate regularly in yang activities such as high intensity sports, gymnastics and dancing as it provides a counter balance. As Bernie Clark writes in his book ‘The complete guide to Yin Yoga’, “Athletes, dancers and gymnasts may well be trying to maximise their range of motion, but this does not mean they are getting healthier. Quite the contrary: many athletes and dancers have significant joint issues later in life because they dangerously stressed their bodies to obtain maximum performance when they were younger”.
While Yin Yoga is slow, it is not Restorative Yoga, which is a completely different and equally beneficial style. Positions in Yin are held anywhere from one to twenty minutes, and so can be quite challenging, both physically and mentally.
This article has focused on the physical benefits of Yin Yoga. The energetic and spiritual benefits and the origin in Chinese medicine and meridian lines have not been explored, but are equally important, and certainly equally, if not more, powerful.
To receive the full potential of the physical benefits, Yin Yoga is best done early in the morning, before the muscles are warm, however, it also lovely to do just before going to bed, as it promotes mental relaxation and a deep sleep.
For further reading, I refer you to ‘The complete guide to Yin Yoga’, from which much of the information provided here is based from.