Yin Yoga & the benefits of slowing down
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
In a fast-paced, achievement oriented world, slowing down is a rebellious act. Yin Yoga is an opportunity to return to life as a human being, not a human doing.
Yin Yoga was developed in the 1970s: a slow-paced style, that incorporates principles of traditional Chinese medicine, with asanas (postures) that are held for several minutes. The postures are usually on the floor, with the body as relaxed as possible, whilst feeling some sensation from the posture. Blocks, bolsters and blankets can be used for support and to avoid over-stretching.
It has multiple benefits for our bodies. It focuses on the hips, pelvis and lower-back, parts of the body that are prone to stiffness and injury, particularly as we age. It targets connective tissue (ligaments, fascia, tendons) with gentle long holds so they become longer and stronger. After just one class I hear people say that their body feels stretched out and more relaxed, that they notice the release of aches and pains. A regular practice will increase your joint mobility.
Personally however I value the practice of Yin Yoga most for the effect it has on my mood and emotional wellbeing. If I’m fatigued, feeling overwhelmed, or under the weather, eventually I remember that things will seem better if I pause and take just a few Yin poses.
The Value of Stillness
It’s easy to numb or stimulate ourselves when we are feeling less than great: alcohol, immersion in work, shopping, food, social media, Netflix… But in the last few years I have learned that taking the time to find stillness, to feel everything happening in my body and the emotions moving through me, is the most effective way to shift myself to a more peaceful and relaxed state. I may try wine and chocolate first, but a mindful Yin session always brings longer-lasting results.
The wealth of media at our fingertips has made it harder than ever for us to be simply present in our body with our feelings. But if we want to understand the depths of our complex internal world, to allow emotions, our creativity, intuition and sensitivity to surface their messages, we must pause so they have our attention and time.
Yin Yoga gives us the opportunity to be present with all our layers – physical, mental and energetic. This awareness combined with pressure on our physical body can help release emotions and tensions in our tissues. Some practitioners believe that Yin Yoga taps into the Meridians (energy channels) of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which are said to affect the flow of our emotions and our wellbeing.
Sometimes slowing down and looking inside is a scary prospect, but the breath is our resource throughout. With each exhale we can let go a little of whatever we are holding onto, and each inhale brings in fresh life and possibility.
With practice we can loosen our attachment to the changing thoughts, moods, and feelings that are constantly passing through us. And hopefully we finish our Yin practice feeling a little lighter, softer, more embodied and at ease.
Read more about The heritage of Hatha Yoga, and how this practice could help you.