What Is Yin Yoga? The Nourishing Self-Care Practice You Need In Your Life

November 4, 2022

You’ve likely heard about Yin and Yang and the importance of balancing both forces. However, unfortunately, many of us lead highly Yang lifestyles, resulting in a chronic imbalance of energies, leading to stress, insomnia, anxiety, and a host of mental and physical illnesses. 

If you feel like you are always on the go, rushing from place to place or task to task without a moment’s pause, you likely need more yin activity in your life. This is where yin yoga comes in. The slow, passive yoga style invites stillness into your body and mind, allowing your nervous system to find equilibrium. 

What’s even more awesome about yin yoga is that it is incredibly accessible. So even if you have low fitness levels, past injuries, or existing health conditions, you can still experience the wonderful benefits of yin yoga. Intrigued? Read on to learn what yin yoga is and how it can benefit us.

What Is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a slow, passive and meditative practice featuring long-held stretches. Most poses are floor based (seated or reclined), and you typically hold each pose for 1 to 5 minutes. 

Unlike dynamic styles of yoga like Vinyasa, there is no flowing between poses. Aside from being much slower and more static, yin yoga targets different tissues in the body than “yang” yoga styles. For example, Hatha yoga stretches the muscles, which are superficial tissues, while Yin yoga stretches the tissue that sits below the muscles, like the fascia, tendons, and ligaments.

Another unique aspect of Yin Yoga is that it is the only yoga style to incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. As a result, Yin postures target particular meridian pathways, which can help to release physical tension and improve how you feel mentally and emotionally.

Yin is one of the newest yoga styles, introduced in the 1970s by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Since then, it has quickly grown in popularity across North America, Europe, and beyond as yogis worldwide find it a complementary practice to yang yoga styles and their fast-paced lifestyles. 

Benefits Of Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is well known to be a calming and de-stressing practice, capable of relieving both physical and mental tension. This is due to slow breathing, deep stretches, and the stimulation of the meridian pathways. Practicing yin yoga calms the nervous system and evokes the “relaxation response,” leading to many wonderful benefits, such as:

  • Lower stress levels
  • Reduced anxiety 
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduced insomnia
  • Improved flexibility and mobility (as it lengthens connective tissue and releases fascia)
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Better low of chi/prana (life force)

5 Common Yin Yoga Poses

Many postures in yin yoga are also present in Hatha yoga and other styles. However, they are practiced differently, held for longer, and often have different names. 

Here are five of the most common Yin asanas that you can start practicing right away. We recommend practicing them in the evening to help you wind down and prepare for a great night’s sleep!

Butterfly 

Yin yoga butterfly pose
Butterfly Pose, Card 12 from the YIN Deck

In other yoga styles, Butterfly Pose is known as Baddha Konasana (or Bound Angle Pose), where you bring the feet together to stretch the inner hips and groin. In Yin, you can do the Butterfly Pose seated (sitting upright or folding forwards), or you can do it reclined with the support of a bolster. The latter is particularly nourishing as you rest your head and spine over the bolster and can place blocks under your knees for additional support.

Shoelace 

Shoelace Pose, Card 43 from the YIN Deck

The Shoelace Pose is the yin version of the seated asana Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana), where you stack the knees to bring a deep stretch into the outer hips and glutes. Typically in yin yoga, you do this posture holding onto the feet or folding forwards rather than binding the hands behind your back. You can also do the half variation with the bottom leg straight.

Sleeping Swan 

Sleeping Swan Pose, Card 44 from the YIN Deck

Sleeping Swan is another posture you may be familiar with, as it is known as Pigeon pose in other yoga styles. It is an excellent pose for increasing flexibility in the hip flexors and stretching the lower back muscles. However, as you hold this posture for 2 to 5 minutes, it can be among the most challenging yin asanas for many!

Supported Bridge

Supported Bridge Pose, Card 50 from the YIN Deck

As the name suggests, Supported Bridge is a supported version of the Hatha Bridge pose. Instead of holding it for five breaths in the traditional way, you place a block under your sacrum and maintain the posture for a few minutes. This makes it a gentle and restorative backbend that opens the heart, stretches the chest, and relieves low back pain. 

Bananasana

Banana Pose, Card 9 from the YIN Deck

Bananasana or Banana Pose may be a new yoga posture for you. You do this gentle posture in a reclined position by bringing your body into the shape of a banana. For example, you’ll shift your hips to the left as you move your arms and legs as far to the right as possible, stretching into the left rib cage and side body. 

You can also do a supported version of Banana Pose, laying on your side with a bolster under your side body (just above the hips and below the rib cage).

How To Start A Yin Yoga Practice

As mentioned earlier, despite containing some of the same postures from other yoga styles, you practice these asanas differently in yin yoga. Generally, you hold the stretches passively, so in a seated forward fold, you relax your hands by your legs rather than grab your toes and pull. 

In addition, the duration you hold a posture will depend on that specific asana and the part of the body it targets. For example, you generally stay in upper body stretches for less time than lower body ones, as the tissue there is weaker. 

Because of this, guidance is needed when starting a yin yoga practice, even if you already practice other styles. You can find this in the PlayPauseBe Yin Yoga deck, an innovative deck of cards solely dedicated to this therapeutic style. 

The YIN deck – discover more by clicking the image.

The deck contains 60 illustrated yin poses with focus phrases, chakra and meridian indications, and bonus cards to help you understand how to work with these energy channels. It also has a complete manual with detailed instructions and contraindications for each pose.

The PlayPauseBe Yin Deck alone will help you create and follow a regular yin yoga practice with endless sequence ideas. However, opt for the Yin Yoga PRO package if you want to experience maximum benefits from this nourishing yoga style. 

Along with the deck, this incredible deal includes the official Guidebook with many pre-made sequences and the comprehensive Yin Yoga course. The course features in-depth breakdowns of every Yin pose in the deck and lessons on how to build sequences and tailor your practice to your unique needs.  

Click on the image below to discover more!

The YIN Yoga PRO Bundle – discover more by clicking the image.
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Gemma Clarke

Gemma is a qualified Yoga teacher and freelance writer. She has over 4 years experience teaching Vinyasa, Hatha and Yin yoga. She has also studied Buddhism, Yoga Nidra and Thai Yoga Massage. Gemma is passionate about spreading the benefits of mindfulness and yogic living through movement and words.

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