According to Taoist tradition, everything is created in balance with a Yin and a Yang side.
In the 21st Century, many of our lives may naturally accumulate a heavy Yang or fast-paced style.
Even when having typical 'downtime' - like having a bath - we are often racing to finish a book, thinking about the next day or listening to a podcast. Studies show that sleeping - the cornerstone of our resting time - is also being compromised, with around one in every three of us struggling to sleep well every night. In my own life, juggling a full time Primary teaching job with teaching Yoga most evenings meant I was rushing around to classes, lessons and appointments: hectic!
Yin yoga has helped me to balance out this energy and is a lot more than just lying around...
What is Yin?
Yin is rooted in the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang and works with meridian lines in the body (millions of energy lines that acupuncturists use). Yogis call these nadis. In addition, recent research has shown that Yin yoga stretches or 'unpins' fascia (an all–encompassing connective tissue) in the body. More on the benefits of this later...
In a Yin Yoga class, we aren't attempting to create change, we are observing the body and mind as it is in a particular moment. In a similar way to meditation, this allows us to rest in the present and for the mind to settle. These classes offer only a handful of postures, held for 3-5 minutes or longer and involve a lot of props. Unlike Vinyasa classes, we aren't trying to find our 'edge' straight away. In order to change the connective tissue (fascia) map, we need to stay still.
Benefits of the Practise
Yin yoga has a powerful impact on the mind and body in a similar way to meditation. Through long-held poses, we can begin to slow the mind down and focus it on the sensations of the body. Especially in holding uncomfortable poses, I have found that Yin enables me to send love to all corners of myself and has increased my self-compassion and patience.
Physically, Yin yoga impacts on an important connective tissue called fascia. Fascia helps to keep our body supported by creating adhesions between tissues; ageing, poor posture and habitual patterns can create 'jams' of these adhesions around the body. I like to think of Yin as a deep snow plough, clearing the energy roads (or meridians), leaving us feeling more flexible and restoring our range of motion.
Through a deep stillness and focus on the breath, Yin yoga taps into our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the antithesis to the fight or flight mode that modern life can throw in our path; in this mode, the brain is calm, stress minimised and organs get a chance to detoxify. For me, the stress-reducing impact of this practise has been profound; we should all take more time to sit in a loving stillness and gently notice what comes up.