Opening the body and mind; creating balance
A great hip opener, and decompression for the lower spine when folding forward .
Yoga in general and Yin yoga in particular can bring physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual benefits.
Most modern (western) yoga is dynamic yoga designed to target the muscular Yang part of our bodies, making muscles stronger by rhythmical and repetitive exercise. Yin yoga targets the connective tissues; ligaments, tendons, fascia and even bones. All these tissues need to be exercised in order to stay healthy. However connective tissues are dryer and less elastic than muscles and need to be exercised in a different way; they require gentle pressure applied for longer periods of time, in order to be stimulated to grow stronger and more flexible. Through our yoga practice we build stability (a Yin quality) and mobility (a Yang quality), the practices very much complement each other.
Yin yoga also targets the fascia which creates an integrating mesh enveloping our bones, muscles and organs and which is most healthy when it’s hydrated. When we have restriction in our body, our fascia becomes dehydrated, stiff, weak and stuck. Yin yoga can restore our fascial fluidity and changes our connective tissue so we can promote relaxation and flexibility.
All yoga is based on the idea that it prepares the body and mind for meditation, but the beauty of Yin yoga is that this next layer -the emotional and spiritual benefits- seem to be easier to access, than in a dynamic yoga class. The postures are held for a longer time, work on energy lines and are taught in combination with mindfulness which makes that body, mind spirit connection easier to create. There is more time and more stillness.
Sequences can be designed to create meridian-specific postures which creating health benefits similar to acupuncture as Yin finds roots in Chinese medicine too. Yin-Yang organ pairs can be targeting to ensure for an optimal flow of Chi - life force/energy- and creating emotional balance. The mindfulness meditation is also developed during the practice, becoming very much aware of the physical body, and its subtle energies. It helps us to reconnect in an age which is increasingly making us disconnected (from others but also from ourselves). It helps us transfer from our headspace, to our heart and belly space or dantian, our energetic centre in the belly.
Yin yoga is a crucial antidote for modern life and will create a harmonious balance in body and mind.
In yin yoga the props will support release and are especially useful/necessary for yogis who are relatively restricted in their movement. We come into the pose, find our edge, resolve to become still and then aim to relax and soften the muscles, so that the stretch can reach the deeper tissues of the body. More often than not, in order for the muscles to relax, release and soften, we will need to use support - under our knees to relax the thighs, under our seat to be able to tilt pelvis and round the spine safely, under the forehead to support neck.
But there is that ONE difference when using props in restorative and yin yoga - in yin the aim is not to take out sensation completely nor to force the body to pause and stay at that initial edge. You will find, that after a minute or two in the pose, body releases tension and softens, so you might be able to move deeper - not with force, but by responding to the natural opening in the body. That is one of the aims of the practice - to stay mindful of what is arising and then respond accordingly.
There are several options for coming into this pose. One way is to begin by kneeling on all fours then place one knee behind the other and sit back between the heels. A second approach is to begin by sitting on your heels and then slide onto one buttock and bring the outside foot over toward the opposite hip. A third approach is to begin by sitting cross-legged and then draw one foot under the opposite thigh and the other foot over toward the opposite hip.
Try not to sit on the feet but slide them as far forward as they can go. Anchor both sitting bones to the ground.
If hips are tight, sit on a bolster to tilt them forward. If the bottom knee complains, do the pose with the bottom leg straight. If the top knee complains, place a bolster or blanket under that knee. If this is still too hard, sit cross-legged and fold forward.
When folding forward, you can support the head with the hands, leaning the elbows onto the thighs or a block or bolster.
Hands can be to the side or in front of the body, or stretch the arms back behind the body.
If sensations are too intense in the hips or knees, remain upright or take more weight into the hands and arms.
To come out of the pose, lean back to release the hips and slowly straighten the legs.
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