Yin Yoga is one of the most powerful styles of yoga and has many benefits. I’d love to tell you how I was introduced to the practice, tell about the transformation I experienced, and offer you 10 reasons why you should try it too!
A few yoga teacher colleagues encouraged me to check out Sarah Powers around the year 2003, feeling that I would resonate with her style & message. In this first workshop with her I was introduced to Yin Yoga. I loved her deep, philosophical approach. Sarah was the teacher I had long been seeking, so I continued to study with her as often as possible. I also had the pleasure of studying with Paul Grilley in a week-long Yin Yoga teacher training they did together in Winter of 2005.
Sarah & Paul both talked about Taoist philosophy & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Meridian Theory in our Yin sessions together. I was very intrigued by this brief education in TCM and felt inspired to look into it further. I credit this training for helping me take the plunge in obtaining my Masters Degree in TCM the following year.
Through Yin Yoga, I was able to achieve a depth in my practice I had never experienced before. It also had a profound affect on my teaching style. Once it became a part of my personal practice, teaching became almost effortless. A few regular students commented that my teaching “turned a corner” and my classes began to steadily build. Yin Yoga helped me find authenticity and confidence as a practitioner and a teacher.
Obviously, I think Yin Yoga is pretty awesome. And even though we may have different experiences with the practice, I think it can really help you too.
Here Are 10 Reasons Why You Should Try Yin Yoga!
1. It increases your flexibility and keeps you juicy
Most styles of Yoga are considered “Yang” because the focus is on movement, strength, engagement, and using a lot of muscle to produce heat. Yin Yoga is called such because it is the opposite. It is a slow practice (postures are held for 2-5 minutes each), it requires us to let go of muscular effort, we yield to gravity’s pull, become quiet & inquisitive, and it’s very cooling.
When we let go of the muscles in the stretch (which is safe to do if we approach it slowly, mindfully, and close to the ground) we’re able to access the deeper tissues. It’s the fascia, the tendons, and ligaments where tension likes to accumulate throughout the years.
Yin Yoga increases flexibility not only because deep-held tension is being released, but also because blood is able to circulate better in areas that were previously deprived.
2. It’s an effective way to relieve stress
Naturally, when we’re able to consciously let go of tension, the body relaxes it’s stressful approach to what’s happening around us. The parasympathetic nervous system, our “rest & digest” mode, is activated and we experience more ease in the body and mind.
3. It helps you let go of negative mind patterns
When you’re this still for this long, you’re going to hear the mind speak. And what you hear may not serve you well.
We start to notice how we talk down to ourselves, how harshly we judge our experience and other people, how we like to reduce the things we experience into ways that fit our current belief systems. We gravitate to those who accept our own ideas and beliefs and our perspectives on life become very small.
With a sustained Yin practice, we are able to shift our perspective and include more in our experience. Just like the layers of tension we’re peeling off gradually, these unhelpful patterns of the mind can release too and we can replace them with a more positive, inclusive outlook on life.
4. It’s a great introduction to meditation
After a few Yin sessions when you’ve adjusted to the approach and have witnessed the mind habits mentioned in #3, we can use this time to tame the mind.
In meditation we often use an anchor to help keep the mind present. It could be watching the breath, focusing on a certain place in the body, concentrating on sound, etc. With Yin Yoga, we also have the strong sensations from the stretch to focus on.
Many people who have a hard time sitting with their thoughts in simple meditation find Yin Yoga more approachable. They are more in touch with their bodies, less so with their minds. By first focusing on the sensations of the stretch and opening up & strengthening the mind gradually with Yin, it can be more interesting for them. As they value it more, they are able to sit longer with less sensation.
5. It help you process strong emotions
Yin Yoga gives you the time to vent strong emotions. Many times I’ve watched my worry & anger (my main go-to emotions when I’m out of balance) shift and have moved into a state of equanimity by the end of the practice. I’ve helped students deal with fear and grief as well. Contentment is possible, but only after we’ve accepted what is present in the heart.
6. It prepares the body for sleep
Stress, tension, and obsessive thinking are some of the biggest triggers for insomnia. Yoga is a great way to relieve stress and tension. But some form of meditation is necessary to help with an occupied mind. Yin Yoga addresses it all.
7. It helps you develop tolerance and grow
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
Holding the Yin shapes for 2-5 minutes is not easy. The sensations you’re feeling, especially in the hips, can be quite intense. It’s necessary to move through the discomfort to experience freedom and ease in the body once again.
Isn’t this true for anything in life? If you want to experience something different from what you’re used to, it can be a bit scary and uncomfortable. Let your Yin practice help you build your capacity for tolerance and push your limits of what’s comfortable. What you’re working on in the practice will permeate into your life to help you create new and exciting things.
8. It helps you appreciate simple moments
The biggest complaint I’ve heard about Yin Yoga is that it’s boring.
Have you seen what a bored child can do? When given the space to sit with themselves a bored child can tap into their imagination and do amazingly creative things. And they will play by themselves for hours once they really get going.
Why are we adults any different? Because of all that stuff mentioned in #3. Somehow, long ago, we decided that we didn’t like hanging out with ourselves and that there are more important things to do. That is very sad.
As we engage in Yin Yoga, we are able to watch our experience breath by breath. By shifting our perspective we can appreciate each new breath as another moment of our precious lives. Even the boring and dull moments have value.
9. It’s like an acupuncture session you can do by yourself
The TCM meridians that we stimulate with needles in acupuncture to direct the flow of vital energy (qi) and blood, run along the deeper connective tissues of the body that we’re focusing on with Yin Yoga.
Taoists and Yogis know that energy/qi flow where the mind goes. We place ourselves in shapes that help access these deeper tissues and direct the mind and breath into those areas, and can thereby dilate the meridians and mobilize the qi & blood. When the qi & blood are abundant and free, we experience health and well-being.
10. It helps you stay grounded amidst chaos
Yin Yoga is very grounding in nature. We are able to observe all that is happening within us and around us with a calm, clear mind.
We live in a culture that is fast-paced, values work over rest, values financial gain over personal growth, etc. Our yoga practice can be a way to bring balance to our lives and those people we share it with.
What does the world need more of? Peace, tolerance, acceptance? You can answer that question for yourself and perhaps cultivate that in your practice.
I can’t wait to hear about your experience with Yin Yoga! Are any of these 10 reasons to try it resonating with you? Please let me know in the comments! If you enjoyed this post, please share with your friends! Well wishes to all…