An Introduction to Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga classes are starting to pop up more on the yoga schedules of studios in Southern California. You might be wondering, what is Yin Yoga? I'm so happy you asked! 

I knew from the first moment that I was introduced to Yin Yoga, that I wanted to dive deeper into this facet of yoga. And so I recently took an advanced training course, became certified to teach it, and immediately began offering yin yoga sessions to my students. 

To the left is the Yin/Yang symbol. You've probably seen it many times in your life. Yin and Yang represent the contrary forces that are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world. We need both Yin and Yang in our lives for true balance.

Most people in our society today focus on the Yang side of life, whether intentionally or not. We are so busy every day, we go go go, multi-task, and check off our to-do lists. We stress ourselves out, we flame out, we crash and there is always something more that needs to be done. 

Our workouts tend to be Yang. They are about "feeling the burn", sweating as much as possible, getting our cardio in, and we feel drained by the time we finish them. And there is nothing wrong with a workout like that. I quite enjoy that delicious sort of drained feeling at the end of a satisfying workout. A yoga practice that is more yang in its qualities will be fast-paced, muscle-contracting, and blood-pumping. Our ubiquitous SoCal Vinyasa classes fall into this category. We love our Vinyasa here! 

But we forget to balance that with the Yin side that we also need in order to balance both the internal and external world. And that's where Yin Yoga fits in so beautifully. Yin Yoga is a deeper, quieter practice that allows you to connect to your internal self while still working on aspects of your physical self. 

Physically speaking, in Yin Yoga you'll do mostly seated, supine, or prone poses and you will hold them with your muscles relaxed for between 1 and 5 minutes. The area that we are working on will feel stressed and the rest of the body will melt. This is the good kind of stress that we are talking about. It's a more accurate term for describing what is happening in the body as opposed to "stretch". We "stress" the tissues to create compression and traction in the body. 

It targets the deep connective tissues, fascia, and muscles in our body. The benefit of working on this connective tissue is that it will increase your overall flexibility, mobility and range of motion. It hydrates and reduces that stiff feeling in your joints. It will stabilize your joints by making the connective tissue stronger. Yin Yoga will improve the functionality of the organs in your body whose job it is to release toxins held in the body.  It's possible it might lower your blood pressure. It can also reengage the natural curves of the spine.

Internally, Yin Yoga has just as many benefits. First of all, it allows you to take a moment and pause. Our job in Yin, so to speak, is to give ourselves permission to let go, surrender, and allow the asana to work on you. It is a safe space to explore the sensations in your own body. Once you understand your body better, you will understand your own personal anatomical structure and this will keep you safer in all movement. 

Yin yoga releases emotional tension and stress in the body, while creating a more mindful attitude in both practice and in life. Yin is about accepting your world as it is right now. Allowing yourself to accept this is usually the hardest thing for people to do. But this is where the magic happens. 

Yoga is a dance between control and surrender - between pushing and letting go - and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.
— Joel Kramer