You might think that a “good” workout involves a lot of cardio, sweating, and shortness of breath, but that just isn’t the case – especially with one incredibly beneficial practice known as Yin, or “Daoist” Yoga. Unlike some other, more popular and vigorous forms of yoga, Yin Yoga emphasizes flexibility and strength-building through deliberately posed extended stretching. Some of the world’s most elite athletes can’t even touch their toes – so many modern fitness trends forget how important good flexibility is to our overall fitness and injury prevention and recovery! But after just a few weeks of Yin Yoga practice, you’ll see and feel the difference – Yin Yoga helps the practitioner “limber up” – you’ll feel refreshed, stronger, and younger!
While we’ve all heard that traditionally popular forms of Yoga such as Hatha got their start in ancient India, the “Yin” in Yin Yoga actually refers to the Chinese symbol – Yin and Yang. In Chinese philosophy, the Yin and Yang represent opposing yet complimentary forces of nature. The “Yang” side refers to all things masculine, vigorous and moving – in terms of yoga, think of “Yang” like a vigorous Vinyasa or Ashtanga (“Power”) yoga session, where you move rapidly from asana (“pose”) to asana, sun salutation after sun salutation. The “Yin” of Yin and Yang, however, refers to all things feminine, calm, and still. This stillness is where the real benefits of Yin Yoga lie.
Unlike the movements of other forms of yoga, Yin Yoga focuses on holding asanas (“poses”), for prolonged periods of time, while the practitioner focuses on his or breathing and mental state. Watch a demonstration here to get a better idea of what a “typical” Yin Yoga session looks like.
Yin Yoga can do wonderful things for the body, mind and soul. Physically, you’ll find your muscles and joints have never felt better. Holding stretches for minutes on end and sinking deeper into them will target those deep connective tissue and muscle fibers that we so often overlook – your hips and your back will thank you! Not only will Yin Yoga help relieve joint pain and strengthen those key ligaments, tendons and muscles that keep us up and moving all day, but also such prolonged stretching will build key muscles as well – in your legs, especially in your thighs, and also in your back muscles. So much of the pain we feel on a daily basis that we ascribe to being “tired” is simply the result of poor muscle strength. By strengthening key muscles in our core (especially our backs), you’ll feel younger and stronger – truly a rejuvenating experience!
Mentally and spiritually, Yin Yoga is just as beneficial. Just like an endurance sport, holding a stretch for minutes at a time, and pushing yourself deeper into it, is an excellent way to both challenge your body and test your mental fortitude. As you hold each pose, Yin Yoga encourages reflection and meditation. Concentrating on the evenness and deepness of your breathing not only helps calm the mind, but furthermore helps push your body into deeper and deeper stretches in more challenging poses.
To try your own Yin Yoga practice, look up a local class in your area – or take a look at these extended videos to try at home!
For more info on yin yoga:
The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga