People tend to be drawn to yin yoga for two reasons: it’s quiet and it’s slow. While all forms of yoga promote flexibility and can help decrease tension, yin takes it to another level by allowing for more time to be spent in each pose which can help some folks find relief from stress, tensed ‘pro-aging’ muscles, anxiety, and to manage thoughts or emotions that are uncomfortable. Keep reading to learn more about the healing potential of this type of yoga practice.
What is the Healing Potential of Yin Yoga?
One of the core principles of yin yoga is the emphasis on stillness. In our busy modern lives, we are often constantly on the go, multitasking, overstimulated and pushing ourselves to do more. Yin provides you with the power of stillness, an opportunity to slow down, to be present in the moment, and to cultivate a deeper sense of awareness. Yin yoga provides a unique opportunity for self-care and self-inquiry. As you hold poses for a few minutes and begin to embrace stillness, you are encouraged to turn your attention inward and listen to sensation in your body and notice thoughts in your mind.
This heightened self-awareness allows you to cultivate a deeper connection with yourself and to become more attuned to your limitations, boundaries, and areas of tension or discomfort. For some this discomfort is from the deep stretches or poses themselves, but for others, the challenge may be the quiet, the stillness, the not-doing. This time for self-inquiry allows you to develop a better understanding of yourself, your feelings, and thoughts and can lead to profound healing and transformation. As you become more attuned to sensations, thoughts, and emotions, you have an opportunity to respond with kindness and compassion.
In addition to deepening self-awareness and encouraging self-care, yin can foster healing through the art of surrender. You are encouraged to soften and to let go of tension whether it be physical, mental, or emotional and to explore your edge, without pushing past it. This noticing, feeling, and being can be intense, but you get to decide the level of intensity to pursue and it’s up to you to discern, navigate and honor the terrain of your being each time you practice. Your instinctual response initially may be to move away from discomfort, but with careful attention and practice, yin can teach us resilience and perseverance.
Why Practice Yin Yoga?
Yin poses’ long holds offer you a chance to marinate in stillness which can be appealing to folks for a number of different reasons, one of them being that magical stillness. In short, the theory behind yin and yang energies is to always have a balance between the two. You could think of yin as the perfect type of cross-training for life; whether you engage in other more rigorous (yang) types of activities or exercise, or simply lead an intense, fast-paced life, yin is the perfect compliment to traditional exercise and a great antidote for stress, anxiety and feeling disconnected from oneself.
The hype (and research) around mindfulness and meditation is real, and some may seek out or stumble upon yin as a means of learning or practicing mindfulness, which is our ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. People who incorporate it into their lives often report heightened levels of happiness, patience, acceptance, and compassion, as well as lower levels of stress, frustration, and sadness. Yin certainly provides the space and stillness for such a practice and often guidance and reminders from the teacher if you’re participating in a group class setting.
Yin yoga is often touted as a beginners practice, and while most styles of yoga can be done by someone who’s never done any type of yoga before, yin seems to be recommended often likely because of it’s slow pace and fact that only a few postures are done within an entire class. While these are great reasons for a beginner to try yin, it’s important to note that those same qualities can also be extremely challenging, especially for someone that’s new to yoga.
Whether you’ve never taken a yoga class or are a seasoned practitioner, incorporating yin yoga into your life has so many benefits. Kerry offers weekly yin classes in person and online, geared especially for those in midlife and beyond. You can also explore free pre-recorded yoga practices on her Youtube Channel.