Yin Yang Yoga blends two styles of yoga into one practice, bringing together the benefits of passively holding yoga poses with more dynamic sequences and standing postures. Yin and Yang are the Taoist concepts which describe the two relative qualities present in everything. Yin is more internal, passive and calm. While Yang is more external, dynamic and warm. Yin Yoga is a slower practice pose for the deep, dense connective tissues and joints in the body. Yang Yoga, in contrast, refers to a more active practice for the muscles and blood flow, building strength, stamina and flexibility. Yang styles of yoga are those with rhythm and repetition like Vinyasa Flow. Gayatri Tagore
, a Yoga expert discusses the benefits of Yin Yang Yoga.
A Yin Yang yoga class may start with Yin yoga, to calm the mind and work on the joints before the muscles are warmed up. Alternatively, the class may start dynamically and end with longer held poses to relax and calm the nervous system. The practice of yin-yang yoga helps us learn about stillness in movement and the flow in stillness. It combines both Yin and Yang elements in one class, provides a balanced practice and can have a powerful effect on energy levels as mentioned. For example, if you are feeling low on energy, starting with some Yin poses can be a good way. Alternatively, starting with Yang and finishing with Yin, will leave you feeling calm and grounded. It can be a good way to practice if you are doing yoga in the evening. This is really beneficial for those of us who are inclined towards competitiveness or striving in asanas.
Yin Yoga stimulates the meridians, the energy channels, bringing balance to the organs in the body. It improves flexibility and mobility of the joints. It calms and balances the mind and body and reduces stress and anxiety. Yin is an introspective practise that offers a chance to turn inward and nurture the calm, quiet centre that is innate in all of us. It is a practice in stillness, patience, and non-reactivity. Through yin yoga, we become adept at self-care. We become better listeners and wiser, as we get to know ourselves from the inside out. We become more curious about the world through the exploration of our own inner worlds.
It strengthens and tones the body. It improves flexibility and increases stamina. It calms the mind by inviting us to synchronise movement with breath. It removes tension and obstacles in the body, to allow prana to flow.
As you hold a yin pose, the subtle release that takes you deeper into the pose is the tissues lengthening, hydrating, and becoming more pliable. If you pay close attention, you can sense the tissues being stretched, squeezed, twisted, and compressed. A yin practise can leave you feeling as though you have had a massage. Yin offers a unique opportunity to cultivate gratitude for the body. The simplicity of a yin practise allows us to return to our bodies and to see clearly just how remarkable we really are. Journeying into the deeper layers of ourselves, we tune into our inner workings, connecting to respiratory and circulatory functions, internal organs, and sensations within the muscles and joints. This heightened awareness of the physiological processes of the body ultimately gives us a sense of contentment.
It forces us to slow down
Yin poses’ long holds offer a chance to marinate in stillness. Deadlines, commitments, pressing matters, and to-do lists fade to the background, leaving tremendous space for rest and renewal.
It teaches us self-compassion
The ability to tend to all facets of ourselves, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual is fundamental to our well-being. The yin practise provides an opportunity to observe, nurture, soothe, and calm ourselves. The act of carefully taking a posture and tending to your body’s unique set of needs is a form of self-care. It teaches us how to be gentle, patient, and non-reactive.
Surrender is a common theme in yin yoga, and giving up the need to control a situation is a lesson that we can carry with us into our day-to-day lives. The ability to adapt to the ups and downs of life and to manage change with grace can reduce our predisposition to stress.
It helps us to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system
Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is a powerful way to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. We spend our days locked in sympathetic nervous system overdrive, constantly being pushed from one overly important deadline to another. Belly breathing can be a quick and easy way to change this. Pay close attention while breathing from the abdomen and in no time you will notice a significant shift. It may feel like a wave of relaxation washes over the body. The deepest layers of the belly soften, the forehead tingles, and the brain relaxes as if the whole body takes a prolonged sigh. As you move deeper into the yin practise, the breath slows down significantly, drawing you deeper and deeper into relaxation mode.
If you look at the yin/yang symbol, you will see that they are in perfect balance and harmony. Many of us live very active (yang) lifestyles and leave little or no time to foster the quiet, introspective side (yin). Over time this can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Through the yin practice, we can restore equilibrium and feel whole within ourselves.