Yin Yoga was initially known as “Daoist Yoga," and it is a style of yoga that targets the deep connective tissues of the body instead to point only toward the superficial muscles. The fascia that covers the body plays a vital role in the practice of Yin yoga, which ultimate goal is to regulate the flow of energy in the body.
We have to thank Bernie Clark to have developed this practice to the west and one of his students Sarah Powers for naming it more simply “Yin Yoga.”
As Hatha Yoga teacher, I recognize the incredible importance and necessity of practicing Yin Yoga to balance the quality of life nowadays. The high speed we continuously live with to perform our daily duties both at work and at home with our family is overstressing our entire body, overloading our nervous system. Yin Yoga with its passive postures, mainly performed on the floor and limited to about three dozen, helps the whole system to slow down, regenerate and rebalance.
The first time I practiced Yin yoga, I immediately noticed that the emphasis is on finding the point in which you relax into the posture, which makes Yin Yoga unique and entirely different from the more diffuse styles of yoga we know today in the west. When I started to practice Hatha Yoga many years ago, this was the same focus. As yoga developed and became more popular in the West has diverted the attention toward a more Yang energy practice which emphasis is on active movements, superficially stimulates the muscle, and force practitioners to always be in search of balance to never find the stillness that make the practice of yoga so regenerating.
Yin Yoga softens the muscle and moves the action closer to the bone giving broader access to the body. In Yin Yoga, we hold each of the postures for a very long time from a minimum of 3-5 minutes up to 20 minutes, so it is easy to understand that this length of time for each pose can quickly transform a yoga posture in real meditation.
However, I believe that in today practice there is as much need of the Yin practice as well as the Yang practice, one would improve the other bringing natural harmony to our mind, body, and soul.
When we practice only Yang type of yoga, we overload the sympathetic nervous system, and with time we might risk procuring injuries to the body because the superficial modality we practice these postures create constant stress on joints, muscles, and ligaments. Additionally, Yang energy has a warm quality, so if we continually push our body under a warm input soon or later, we procure inflammations to our physical body. Moreover, we live our lives mostly on a Yang energy mode, always running from place to place and from one task to another, so to bring balance into our lives, we need to integrate with Yin energy which is a bit cooler and calmer. For instance, Yin type of yoga helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which regulates sleep to name one of its functions, and when we start to activate also the parasympathetic nervous system our entire energy finds a new level of harmony.
Some of the benefits of Yin yoga are:
* Calming and balancing to the mind and body
* Regulates energy in the body
* Increases mobility in the body, especially the joints and hips
* Lowering of stress levels
* Greater stamina
* Better lubrication and protection of joints
* More flexibility in bones & connective tissue
* Release of fascia throughout the body
* Help with TMJ and migraines
* Deeper Relaxation
* An excellent way to overwrite anxiety and stress
* Better ability to sit for meditation
* Ultimately you will have a better Yang practice
As the years went by, I felt the need to change my approach, since also Kundalini Yoga was stepping too much into the Yang energy that dominates the yoga world today, and I felt people needed more of this yin energy to benefit from any types of yoga.
Therefore, I started to direct more Yin energy into my Kundalini Yoga practice and my teaching. The beauty of bringing Yin energy makes Kundalini Yoga a more sensitive method that can move your energy more harmoniously, which effects can last longer because awareness makes them real. In my opinion, the problem with Kundalini Yoga nowadays is that increasing Yang energy made the class effects of Kundalini Yoga not real enough, and only temporarily. People go back to classes to feel the same experience of highness they felt at the previous class again and again. As a result, teachers by allowing this process create students co-dependency. Like any form of codependency soon or later it breaks revealing the truth, which is that students do very little work on themselves and much work still need to happen. When we bring Yin energy into our Yoga practice, we change the games because the teacher guides the students to go within and leads them to take responsibility for what they feel; therefore, students learn to rely on themselves, to discover imbalances and redirect the flow of energy to allow reharmonization. Yin energy builds confidence and inner strength while Yang energy makes muscular strength that is neither mental nor is it emotional empowerment, which means that Yang yoga type creates an illusion of power, but we are not stable, and we are even less empowered.
I do believe in middle ways, and I know for experience that if we join forces between Yang and Yin energy we can create harmony as the sacred Daoist symbol representing the Yin and the Yang. The two parts of this powerful symbol belong to one another, and they need one another to create the perfect circle of nature and bring harmony and balance to all that exists, and ultimately peace and stability are essential to building a life in full health and prosperity.
Written by Dharma Devi
Yin yoga Teacher Training coming up soon