Yin practice helps our body restore its range of motion.
To have a healthy range of motion, layers of connective tissue must allow muscles to glide over each other. Over time, injury, and our daily postural habits, can affect these tissues and they start to stick together. They begin to restrict that needed movement between the sliding surfaces of the muscles. Like a traffic jam, they block the flow of nutrients and energy through the body, causing pain and limiting mobility. Holding poses that gently lengthen the muscles and fascia helps break up these adhesions, and at the same time putting mild stress to joints and connective tissues helps increase their range of motion.
Yin revitalizes body tissues.
The tissues of our body can be revived in the long holds much like a long soak in the tub. As you hold your yin pose, a subtle release happens that takes you deeper into the pose. The tissues lengthen, hydrate and become more pliable. With practice and paying attention you can begin to sense them being stretched, squeezed, twisted, and compressed. A yin practice can feel as good as a massage.
Yin time offers the opportunity to cultivate gratitude for the body.
The simplicity of a yin practice allows us to be present with our bodies and see just how remarkable we really are. Going deeper into our layers, we become more sensitive, tune into our inner workings, connect to respiratory and circulatory functions, internal organs, and sensations within our muscles and joints. This heightened awareness of the physiological processes of the body ultimately moves us closer to santosha, or contentment.
Yin gives us the time to slow down.
The long holds in a Yin practice give us the change to be still. We are able to become present and notice the almost imperceptible shifts that occur while holding a yin posture, time begins to open up. All those pressing deadlines and commitments start to move to the backdrop and we can truly find space for rest and renewal.
The long hold times of a yin practice offer the chance to sit with our emotions.
Our bodies store emotions, and it’s not uncommon for sensitive thoughts, feelings, and memories to surface while practicing any form of yoga. Yin teaches us how to be gentle, patient, and nonreactive. When emotions bubble to the surface, the conditions are safe.
Yin teaches self-compassion.
The ability to tend to all facets of ourselves (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) is fundamental to our wellbeing. The yin practice 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 for the duration of the hold is a form of self-care and loving kindness.
Yin helps us become more resilient to stress.
Holding a pose for several minutes can provoke anxiety. But when we approach it with tenderness, the body acclimates. 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. Being able to adapt to the ups and downs of life and to manage change with grace can lessen our predisposition to stress.
Yin moves us more into the parasympathetic nervous system.
Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is a powerful way to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. You may have heard some of the reasons activating the parasympathetic nervous system is beneficial (stress, tension, blood pressure, sleep, digestion, immune function, hormones, etc)—and that most of us don’t do it often enough. Instead, we spend our days locked in sympathetic nervous system overdrive, constantly being pulled 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. It’s as if the whole body takes a prolonged sigh. As you move deeper into the yin practice, the breath slows down significantly drawing you deeper and deeper into this parasympathetic, or relaxation, mode. This is where the internal organs get a chance to catch up on their to-do list (digest, eliminate toxins, heal, repair).
The stillness of a yin practice primes us for meditation.
Meditation is not necessarily something you have to find; sometimes it finds you. The yin practice sets us up to tap into the meditation bandwidth. We rarely see who we really are because the cloud of thoughts and distractions block the view. When we create opportunities for physical stillness in a yin practice, we also create the perfect conditions for the brain to become clear. In these precious moments, we are able to see our true selves.
Yin yoga cultivates balance.
Often we are in constant flux with our health and wellbeing trying to keep balanced. The yin/yang symbol shows white and black forms in perfect balance. Many of us live very active (yang) lifestyles and spend little or no time on our quiet, introspective side. Over time we can burn out physically, mentally, and emotionally. Through the yin practice we can restore balance and feel whole.