Yin yoga is a wonderful complement to more vigorous movement practices, such as weight lifting, hatha or vinyasa yoga, running, etc. because it is all about taking time to slow down. Where these more vigorous practices are faster moving, warming practices, yin yoga is cooling and very slow.
Poses in yin yoga are held typically for a minimum of 3 minutes, and sometimes up to 10 minutes or more! The reason for doing this is that it allows the muscles to relax, and allows us to access and work on the connective tissues in the body, such as the fascia. These tissues are much less pliable than the muscle tissues, so extra time is required to manipulate them.
Bernie Clark, one of the founders of yin yoga, states on his website that there are 3 main principles that should be followed for a practice to be deemed a yin practice:
1 Come into the pose to an appropriate depth
2 Resolve to remain still
3 Hold the pose for time
The appropriate depth is one at which you can feel tension in the pose, but at which there is no pain of any kind. Do not try to force any pose, try to relax into it. Use awareness of your breath to help guide you into this depth… if breathing is laboured in any way, if you are unable to breathe easily, you have exceeded your appropriate depth.
Sometimes this practice of slowing down and taking time can be more challenging than moving through a faster movement practice. This practice asks that we sit with ourselves, with no interruption, in some discomfort (again, no pain), and try to find a peaceful mind.
Some of the potential benefits include increased ability to focus, more patience, more physical flexibility and greater range of motion in the joints.
The first time I ever went to a yin yoga class, I was fairly new to yoga in general, and I hated it. Every time we would start a new pose, I would catch myself thinking that I didn’t think I would be able to handle it. More than once I considered leaving the class. But then, at the end, when we reached savasana, I felt so much peace. As I stood up to walk out, I noticed that I felt taller, and much more mobile than when I had come in. My entire day after the class was AMAZING. I can’t promise that you will experience all or even any of these things, but they are the reasons why I have come to love the practice of yin yoga, and why I wish to share it with you.