Find out why balancing your fitness regime with some Yin Yoga can be beneficial for your overall health.
New start, new you. A few months ago, ‘normal’ life faced an unexpected hiatus and no one knew how long it would last. There was a surge in demand for fitness ideas and inspiration as people saw an opportunity to try something a little bit different. Skipping. Five minute plank challenges. Home HIIT. garden games. While Coronavirus has given home workouts a whole new meaning, there is more of a need than ever before to follow the path that leads to sustained health and happiness – and that path requires balance.
Yin / Yang are descriptive terms that are used to describe all levels of phenomena. Yin refers to the principle of stability – what is fixed, slow, patient, detached, and non-efforting. Yang refers to the principle of change – what is exposed, strong, the outer layer, hot, and dynamic. According to Chinese Yin and Yang theory, these two aspects always coexist. Everything can be described in terms of yin and yang – there are yin-yang aspects to all things both animate and inanimate, from rocks to bodies to thoughts. We can use yin/yang to inspire us to find counterbalancing activities or options to expand our nature.
We encounter examples of Yin and Yang every day, everywhere, in everything. Sometimes changes in the relationship between Yin and Yang can be dramatic. For example, some species of fish have females that transform quickly into males when the population of males isn’t enough. But generally speaking there are very few static entities. Most aspects of Yin and Yang flow and change over time, like how the day gradually flows into the night. Or how as the Earth spins through the seasons, the length of day and night appears to ge longer or shorter.
In terms of Yoga itself, Yin Yoga works mainly with the lower body, from the navel down. It was developed to offer deeper access to the connective tissues of the body with the aim of lubricating and protecting the joints. On the other hand, Yang Yoga is the more popular flow or hatha based practice which places emphasis on building heat and strength in the muscles.
Unlike Restorative Yoga, the goal of Yin Yoga is not simply to relax, but specifically to stretch the connective tissues in the body for better joint health. One of the principles of Yin is to hold each pose for between 3-7 minutes, in order to work into the yin-like tissues in the body such as tendons, ligaments and fascia. Yin not only encourages flexibility in the physical body but also promotes mindfulness, patience and acceptance. The practice allows you to develop endurance as you learn to commit to stillness through the prolonged sustainment of the postures.
Yin has a much slower pace than other styles of Yoga, with a focus on breathing that is very meditative and relaxing. It allows access to a true sense of calm whilst relieving the kind of muscular tension that causes headaches and fatigue. Practising Yin can ultimately transform your relationship with anxiety and self-criticism in a fundamental way, teaching you how to tap into an inner sense of love and self-acceptance that you may have previously been unable to access. Allowing time to relax deeply into each posture quietens internal chatter and helps undo stress-related breathing habits.
It is natural to struggle with mental OCD; repeating thought patterns about yourself and your life. Yin is an excellent practice to cope with stress and anxiety, as well as making the mind more stable, calm and focused.
Wisdom can be used to balance fear and anxiety. When you adjust your focus you can often see where these emotions are coming from and gain clarity about how best to address the issues that accompany them.
Are you looking to slow down a little? Here are 3 popular asanas you would find in a Yin Yoga class –
From all fours, slide one knee forward towards your wrist. You might want to slide your heel towards the opposite wrist. This pose opens the external rotators of the hips including the piriformis muscles. You may modify this pose with a rolled up blanket or block underneath your hip to give it support if it’s lifting away from the floor. Alternatively a bolster or pillow could be used to elevate both hips to lessen the stretch in the front leg. Hold each side for about 3 minutes then release back into Child’s Pose to reset for 2 minutes.
Sit up tall and stretch your legs out in front of you. Lengthen the spine and then fold forward any amount that you can. If there is any space between the knees and the floor, bring a rolled blanket or bolster underneath to allow you to completely switch off the muscles. You may also like to sit on the edge of a folded blanket to help you relax. This pose stimulates the urinary bladder meridian lines to help relieve backaches, headaches and mental problems, and targets the commonly tight areas of the hamstrings, knees and back.
From lying on your back with your knees bent, cross your legs and scooch your hips over to one side as you allow your knees to drop over to the opposite side. You may be able to let your knees rest on the floor or you can support them on a rolled up blanket, bolster or block. Supporting the arm if the shoulder is away from the floor will also enhance relaxation. This pose works on releasing tension through the spine.
Give Yin a try next time you find yourself in an exercise rut to experience it’s many physical and mental health benefits for yourself! OFA streams a live Yin class at 2pm every Sunday during lockdown which is recorded and sent to our Online Members to practise throughout the week. See you on the screen!