Introducing… yin yoga

The term ‘yin yoga’ comes from daoist philosophy. This emphasises balance between the yin and yang.

Yang is active, dynamic, strong and striving. Yin, in contrast, is relaxed, responsive, full of ease. Yang is putting effort into the world to get predetermined results. Yin is having faith that we are on a journey with many winding paths. The lessons will come to us.

Yin yoga is the perfect balance for our Western yang styles of yoga. These tend to emphasise strong, dynamic, challenging, and even competitive yoga asana.

Power yoga, acro yoga, rocket yoga, hot yoga vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga are all yoga approaches which emphasise yang qualities.

Yang yoga uses muscular control.  We use the strength of our bones and muscles, and load the joints so that we get stronger.

Yin yoga, in contrast, is all about the soft tissues.  Primarily connective tissue, or fascia.

Fascia is incredible webbing, or wrapping, which weaves around our muscles, tendons, ligaments and internal organs.  It can be very thin, like cling-film, or more accurately, like the criss-cross filaments of spider-webs.  It can also be incredibly thick and strong, able to hold the entire body’s weight, in the case of the fascia of the spine, abdomen and foot.

We have continuous sheets of fascia wrapping our entire front and back body, stretching head to foot.  We also have deep lines of fascia crossing and re-crossing the body, both superficially and deep inside our bodies.

Healthy fascia moves freely, making use of its natural strength, mobility and elasticity.

The continuity of fascia means that what is going on in our feet affects what is going on in our neck and head, and vice versa.  If we habitually put our weight through one leg, this is going to result in some constriction in fascia affecting our knee, hips or shoulders.

Injury or surgery, or poor posture and repetitive movement patterns can all result in restricted fascia.  Slumpasana at the laptop, or whilst using our mobile phones, will result in some compromise for the fascia.  It might get sticky and stuck, resulting in restricted movement, or tightness and pain.

Yin yoga involves seated, reclined and prone postures which are held for 3-8 minutes.  This holding allows the tissues and fascia to release held patterns of tension.  Free-flowing movement and integrity of the whole body is restored.  This might take time, and we certainly get better into tuning in to what we might need to soften in one area of the body, in order to release another area of tightness.

It is an internal experience.  We are developing our interoception.  In yang styles of yoga, we develop our proprioception: where our limbs are in space.  Yin yoga develops interoception: what is happening inside our body.  This includes breath awareness, and its affect on the heart-beat or tension in the body. Interoception can help us to identify which muscles are held, which are soft, and where our ‘edge’ of appropriate sensation or stretch is. 

We get to know our bodies better, so that we can integrate this knowledge into our daily movement patterns and posture. When we feel ourselves tightening up, or some area of constriction in our lower back, or tummy, or shoulder, we know what to do.  We have the tools, our awareness and interoception, to release it.

Yin yoga supports yang yoga.  It is all about balance. 

We need muscular strength and integrity.  We need to bear weight and load our bones and joints to maintain bone health.  We need to strengthen and lengthen our muscles so that they don’t waste away.  This is where yang yoga is helpful. 

But we also need to release deeply stuck fascia and to allow our fascia to move freely around our internal organs, to achieve comfort and ease in our daily lives.

And this is why I am excited to share yin yoga in additional to our regular yang practices.  Yin will improve your interoception, so that you have more awareness of what to open or release in your yang practice.  Yin will help relieve any unconscious holding patterns so that in your yang practice you are able to recruit the deep muscle support that makes standing postures easeful and graceful.  Yin is also deeply releasing, relaxing and restorative.

It is all about balance.

I look forward to sharing it with you!