Find Your Yin-side: The Benefits of Yin Yoga
By Abaigéal Warfield, owner of and teacher at Dragonfly Yoga Ireland.
Do you sometimes feel like life is moving too fast? That you are frantically rushing from one thing to another? In today’s world it can be hard to find a moment of stillness, away from technology and the distractions and pressures of everyday life. Yin Yoga can help you slow down, recharge and reconnect.
It was only after I took my first Yin Yoga class that I realised that I had too much Yang in my life. I was moving too fast, physically and mentally. I cycled a lot, I ran, I did hot sweaty vinyasa classes. I worked in a fast competitive research driven environment. I was constantly powered on, ready to go for the next challenge. The only time I sat still was when I was struck ill or sleeping, otherwise it was go go go.
Does this sound familiar? If so, Yin Yoga could be exactly what you need.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is a form of yoga that became popularised in the 1990s. It was named Yin Yoga to easily differentiate it from the more Yang styles of yoga such as Vinyasa, Astanga and Power Yoga. The asanas, or postures, practiced in Yin are thousands of years old, so it has deep roots. Unlike Vinyasa or Astanga, Yin is practiced with the body cold. There are no sun salutations, chaturangas, or planks—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Yin yoga is not restorative yoga, and although poses can sometimes look easy they are often physically or mentally intense (especially if you are not used to sitting still with your own thoughts).
In a Yin class we practice slow, deep, mindful movements. The class sequence usually includes only a handful of postures. Each pose is held for a long period, ranging from 2 to 5 minutes. Each pose works on specific target areas, such as the inner groin, the hips, or the side body. The poses mostly focus on the lower body, from the knees to the navel, especially the hips, sacrum and spine. Students are encouraged to use as many props as necessary to help them get into poses. This means most Yin Yoga poses are easily accessible to all levels. The rule in Yin Yoga is that once you are feeling it in the target area, you are doing it!
Playing Your Edge
Yin Yoga should never be painful, but it can be uncomfortable. We can hold on to a lot of tension in our deep connective tissues. When you come into a pose, you should only come to the point where you begin to feel a mild and moderate sensation in the target area(s). This is called your first edge. The beauty of long holds is that there is no rush. There is time to melt. During Yin Yoga you turn you attention and intention to relaxing the areas of tension.
After holding a pose for a while, you check in with how it feels and play your edge accordingly: asking yourself can I go further or should I ease off? Only you know what is right for your body. For this reason, Yin Yoga really invites you to listen to your body. It helps you to accept your own limits in a non-judgemental way—and this is only one of the manifold benefits the practice has to offer.
The Bountiful Benefits of Yin Yoga
There are many other amazing benefits to be gleaned from a regular yin yoga practice. Here are the top 8 reasons to get on that mat for some Yin time.
Regular Yin can:
1. Reduce Anxiety
New studies have shown that practicing Yin Yoga just twice a week for five weeks can significantly reduce anxiety levels. When I find myself feeling ungrounded and worrisome you’ll find me on my mat creating space for Yin time.
2. Promote Better Sleep
Are you sick of restless nights? Are you making to-do lists instead of sleeping? It was found that people who practiced Yin Yoga twice a week for 60 minutes reported that their insomnia improved, leading to better, more restful sleep. Now where’s my pillow?
3. Increase Mindfulness
Yin Yoga provides you with the opportunity to get into the present moment. There is nothing to do in each pose except just ‘be.’ In addition, the postures help open the body to make seated meditation more comfortable.
4. Improve Flexibility
Through releasing tension in the deep connective tissues you may find that your range of motion is enhanced through regular Yin Yoga practice. It didn’t take me long to see that my Yin practice was positively affecting my Yang practice, especially in postures that required openness in the hips.
5. Help you Learn to Accept Yourself
Acceptance is the key to yinning. In Yin practice you strive to treat yourself with compassion and kindness. You learn to accept where you are, who you are and how you are. It is only when you accept and acknowledge where you are that you can implement meaningful changes in your life.
6. Strengthen Joints
While our muscles like strong quick repetitive motions our ligaments, tendons, and deep connective tissues respond better to longer, softer more passive holds used in Yin Yoga. By applying heathy and moderate stress on target areas Yin Yoga prevents muscular atrophy and strengthen joints.
7. Re-connect your Mind and Body
So often we are in our minds. Yin Yoga allows you reconnect with the body. To feel connected and grounded. It can help you become more embodied. Off the mat, it helped me to reconnect with my body, it allowed me to rediscover the simple warmth and magic of a hug. I didn’t realise how much I was in my mind until I came back to the body through Yin.
8. Foster Strength
In Yin Yoga you may not be building muscles or standing on your head, but you are building mental perseverance. As mentioned above not all poses are easy and sometimes you may have to sit through some discomfort—but it is from sitting with this discomfort and coming through it that we can grow. Finding calm in discomfort is life-skill for on and off the mat.
Life is all about balance, however striking the right balance is an art-form in itself.
If you are ready to bring some Yin to your Yang and find your Yinside you can check out Abaigéal's Yin Yoga class every Sunday at Durga, Maynooth, at 6.30pm. Spaces are limited and advance booking is essential, contact Abaigéal at Dragonfly Yoga Ireland for more details.