The Yin Approach
The key aspect of Yin is that poses are supported. This allows holding for three to five minutes typically. In this way, under gravity, in stillness with no forcing, a deeeep stretch happens. This contrasts with dynamic schools such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga, or traditional hatha where the body supports itself. The Yin approach involves a certain ‘sitting with’ as new layers of tightness – mental, physical and emotional – reveal themselves and resolve (or not).
Yin and Yang Yin yoga is contemporary pastiche, originally developed in the 1980s by a yoga practitioner who was also a Daoist (Chinese philosophy) to counterpoint his ‘yang’ practice. Yin-Yang – you all know the black and white symbol – is about relative polarities: male-female, solar-lunar…surface-deep. Whereas there’s a strong, muscular, blood-pumping and athletic pole in yoga practice, yin explores the soft, yielding and introversion.
Key Benefits Yin tissues are deeper: the bones, ligaments (what join the muscles to the bones) and fascia, a web of connective tissue through the whole body that has only recently come under scrutiny. These tissues are ‘cold and dry’ in Chinese medicine and lose juice as we get older. Yin practice brings them under traction so that the body’s rest and repair mechanisms are stimulated. Prevention of joint rigidity and increase in synovial fluid around the joint capsules for instance, are promoted. For people who do power sports, or a lot of sitting, this lengthening brings great relief from tightness.
Go with the Flow Yin yoga, as hatha, also works on the level of subtle energy and life force (chi or prana) to release blocks that cause pain and disease. The Chinese system focuses on meridians of flow associated the vital organs such as the heart, liver and lungs. When you come to class you don’t need to know too much though. What’s best is simply to be present to any stuckness and flow, and listen to your mind-body-soul. Relax and surrender. The result is a feeling of ease.
My journey with Yin I decided to train in yin because I found after a class that I invariably felt vulnerable and emotions arose, a way I first felt when I came to yoga. I had seen a really useful and profound excavation then, and knew it as an opportunity to let go of ‘stuff’. It’s said that if you practise traditional hatha for a long time you are likely to develop a yin approach in any case, and this has been the case for me.
It’s great if you have a mature practice as yin will make a lot of sense but it’s also available to people who may be new to yoga who are comfortable with stillness.