The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”
― Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times
The essence of Yin Yoga I discovered while doing Ashtanga practice. It came in personal
practice which was Yang in nature. Still remember, I was doing Ujjayi breathing, sweating,
getting frustrated with the fact that my hands are not able to grab hold of the feet in
Paschimottanasana, in spite of good flexibility. With the frustration I was ‘attempting’ to
get hold of feet and do the next 5 breath; suddenly within that moment, a voice from heart told to leave the conflict between the body and mind and to focus on breathing and to extend the exhalation. Keeping eyes closed I started noticing the breath and gradually tight fascia opened up as I am able to hold the feet in a relaxed manner. I noticed how the body became softened and that allowed me to move forward further, that really surprised, able to hold the pose for more than 5 breathe and felt more relaxed when came out of practice.
Yoga is changing evolving with time; there are different dimensions and unions of
techniques to this scientific tradition. Today two styles of popular yoga practises are
famous; first is physical/dynamic practice focus on strengthening and toning of the body
Ashtanga Power and Flow Yoga. The second style is passive Yin or Restorative yoga
approach leads to softening, flexibility and relaxation.
Yin Yoga is an intensive, seated, floor-based passive asana postures that target the
connective tissues like fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. Emphasis is to hips, pelvis and
lower spine. The practice is slower and meditative yet very dynamic for the effective
functioning of the bodies’ immune system. Yin Yoga poses held for anywhere between
one and 10 minutes. The intention here is to building muscle strength, increasing the
flexibility and stretching the deeper connective tissues as well as to sit with physical
discomforts, and thoughts to focus on breathing to release and let go of the stored
emotions or feelings. The practise allows us to create a space to move inwards and
perceive the needs of physical, emotional, mental and prana or energetic bodies.
Yin and Yang – History
Yin and Yang originally come from the Chinese Taoist philosophy. Yin and Yang are two
opposite forces are connected to bring balance in life. The concept is relative to each other and mutually dependent, as Yin exists with Yang and cannot exist in itself. Yin and Yang yoga styles move energy in the body and improve the physical emotional and mental wellbeing.
Yin Yoga has two aspects focusing on stillness and deeper stretching of the tissues
with a passive movement. Yang focus on muscle, fast phased movement.
Yin Yoga came into the West due to the efforts of Paulie Zink, Paul Grilley and Sarah
Powers. Paulie Zink was teaching long-held static pose which contained both Yin and
Yang practice referred to as Daoist Yoga. Paul Grilley became the student of Paulie Zink
and created the structure of yin yoga practice later including the energetic meridian
system (he studied under Dr Hiroshi Motoyama) and combined it with the anatomy. Yin
Yoga became a popular style of Yoga in the West due to the contribution of Sarah Power
is Paul Grilley student. In her practice, she explored the idea of using Buddhist Meditation practices to feel the benefits. Sarah Power used the term ‘Yin Yoga’ that has the blend of
Yin and Yang Poses, Meridian theory and Buddhist Philosophy and Mindful meditation.
Yin Yoga Practice
Yin practice focus is on creating a good stretch and to encouraged to relax by focusing on breathe and stillness and surrender the body to gravity. Three main principles or tattvas of every Yin Yoga practice is that,
1. Find the Edge in the pose. Recognise as when to stop going deep into asana for creating a balance of holding the pose for a long time and fo acknowledging the sensation that is arising in the body. There shouldn’t be any pain yet may have experience discomfort; it’s a sign that the connective tissue around the joints is stretching. Being feeling discomfort can aid in developing flexibility and range of motion. Props can be used to in asanas to explore the edges and acknowledge the bodies’ needs and honouring its limitations.
2. Next focus is on remaining still in the pose, to notice the mental distractions with a
witnessing attitude and to move into a meditative state. Here there is the application
of Sthira sukham asanam or done with steadiness and ease as described in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. After 1-2 minutes in the pose, the body opens to new edges becomes aware,
consciously move deeper into the asana and rerun to stillness and breathe. Acknowledging the discomforts and gradually come out the pose.
3. The aspect of Yin Yoga is holding the pose, as beginners can start from anywhere
between 1- 4 minutes of holding each pose. Practising with a timer will help in providing
equal time for both sides of the body. With the pose; can lengthen the breath and that can do by practising the principles of pranayama (observing, counting breathe, focus active exhalation). Practice with an intention; provide time in between for allowing the body to rebound before moving into the next pose.
Meridian Lines and Fascia
In Chines, Daoists believe there are pathways of Qi (vital life force or energy) that flows
through a channel they referred to as Meridians. Similar to the Concept of Prana where
energy channels move through the body in Nadi in Indian yoga philosophy. Qi controls
the flow of energy to different parts of the body. Healthy meridians boost longevity and
aids in the functioning of organs. Chronic stress, emotional imbalance, sluggish or chronic
digestive issues can create a blockage in the meridians; Qi may not function or flow as
easily in the body. The regular practice of yin yoga by stretching and deepening into poses stimulates the meridian lines and allowing for Qi to flow freely, opening up any blockages
and releasing that energy to flow freely and nourishing the organs. We can also focus on
one particular meridian when we know it’s unbalanced. Altogether there are 12
meridians in our body comprise of 5 Yin Meridians are Heart, Spleen, Kidneys, Lungs and
Liver; 5 Yang Meridians are Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Urinary Bladder,
Gallbladder. There are two more which are Pericardium and Triple Burner.
Fascia is a soft layer of the sheet covering the body and is part of connective tissues, and
meridians run through it. The scientist has discovered that longer stretches that we use
in Yin yoga ensure better healing of wounds in the body as well as helps in reducing
inflammation. Yin Yoga practice focuses on Immune system of fascia with a focus on
providing oxygen and nutrients and to take away the stored toxins waste materials from
the organs into lymph nodes and bloodstreams for the natural elimination process. Yin
Yoga practice aims to bring change in the state of our fascia and connective tissues. With
the mild stress on joints through gentle compression or traction and holding the floor based pose for several minutes. It will allow the restricted tissues to go through a phase
of change; that would bring a soft shift (supple and lubricated) and overtime freedom into
the range of motions in the joints.
As per Ayurveda, I have qualities of Vata mind race with thoughts, ideas and thinking. To
deepen my personal yoga Sadhana in summer and autumn months, I been focusing on Yin Yoga to discover the true potentials, secretes of our body mind and soul to heal and reenergise. Yin yoga is a lunar practice for the body with a focus on cooling and healing.
Immediate Yin yoga benefits for me I feel more energised after the sessions. My yoga
practise was 45 minutes to an hour consisted of 6- 8 poses. My breathing has improved
after the session with the release of tightness or tensions from the body. In practice, we
compress and decompress our digestive organs in the poses that aids in better digestion.
As a hyper extensive in hips and Pelvic, I have to move with caution and consciously to
use the props to support to focus on developing strength and release the pains from fascia than increase flexibility. What I liked is that it allows us to become aware of our own
I practice Yin Yoga mainly for Mental and Emotional Benefits. I am learning the significant
influence of mindful intention while making the movements. The holding of the pose,
softening into self and being in the body in stillness and open up the senses to perceive.
The meditative quality of the practice allows me to quiet down the overactive mind and
removes me from external stimuli and can focus on the present moment. I find a sense of
inner peace and clam. I started noticing different emotions that are living in the body by
staying in silent and allowing to listen bodies’ needs opened new paths in my healing
journey. Learning, reflecting and accepting about ourselves is a lifelong journey. As a
teacher, I have become more receptive to the ways I use language in my Yang based
classes as well; this is still work in progress. I am educating self. I prefer minimum cueing
class (not advised for beginners) most beneficial to feel our own experiences; slowly, I
am adopting it in my teaching.