Yin yoga gives you an opportunity to take the time to nurture your body, mind and spirit, and is an integral part of an ayurvedic lifestyle. This type of practice releases stresses that have built up over time, and works on a deep level to unravel emotions and energy that affect your physical and mental well-being.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga is a relaxing form of yoga that is mostly passive and receptive. Unlike yoga classes that involve a flow, in yin yoga, you flow with your breath in poses that are held for about 3-5 minutes or more. I say “mostly passive” because with my EmbodYoga® training, I do have you flex your feet, or root your heels into your mat, for example, but it isn’t on a scale at all like the vinyasa class. You are not expected to do anything but breathe and listen to your body. If your body wants to go farther into a pose, it will. You also have the opportunity to meditate during your practice, either by focusing on your breath, silently repeating a mantra, or focusing on a specific intention. You’ll most likely find that your mind naturally falls into one of these meditative practices. The practice allows your body and mind to release stress on a deep level, which promotes healing within the body, mind and spirit.
This practice involves the use of props like blocks, blankets, straps, bolsters, and even walls. Props are used so the body feels completely supported and safe, allowing you to “get into” the body’s fascia and joints. It’s a very therapeutic practice and one that many of my students practice to reduce stress and maintain balance in their lives. I believe a yin practice is a necessary component of a complete exercise program, and should be added to any cardio workout.
5 Benefits of a Yin Practice
1. Yin Yoga Helps Reduce Stress
My guess is that either you or someone close to you suffers from stress, anxiety, and/or depression. Technology is addicting. We are living in a time where our instantaneous response is rewarded through social media, emails and a tech-based lifestyle. Technology is good but too much can make our bodies tense and our minds race.
Yin yoga works to relax the body’s conditioned impulse to react. Poses and breathing techniques in yin yoga work on the parasympathetic nervous system to promote calmness and allow us to enter a state of blissful awareness. This reduces our heart rate, improves hormonal balance and digestion, and decreases our propensity for a “fight or flight” response throughout our day.
2. Yin Yoga Helps Boost Your Body’s Immune System
Yin yoga helps the body to reduce secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn lowers blood pressure and reduces blood glucose. It also reduces congestion and sinus pressure. A nurtured and relaxed body has the energy to support a robust immune system.
3. Yin Yoga Helps Balance Female Hormones
A regular yin yoga practice, with it sweet and steady breath and restorative poses, helps to balance hormones and alleviate PMS systems, including bloating and cramping.
4. Yin Yoga Helps Balance Your Energy
Our emotional state is interconnected with our subtle, or energetic, body. We have an invisible field of energy that runs along channels (nadi) in our body and moves prana or life force energy. (Western science calls this energy meridians and has proven its existence.) This flowing energy meets in seven major centers that run along our spine, known as the chakras. In the yogic tradition, it is said that when these energetic centers are in balance, we experience health and well-being. Yin yoga promotes vital balance and awareness of the chakras.
When we are stressed, our energy cannot move freely as designed, creating blockages. These blockages create imbalance in our body and make us more susceptible to illness and injury. The various poses practiced in yin yoga work to release blockages of prana at corresponding chakras, and place us in a state of ease. Breathing through the poses allows us to consciously experience tension release.
5. Yin Yoga Helps You Recover from Injuries
Because restorative yoga brings about homeostasis, the body’s natural way of regulating itself, it helps the body recover from injuries. Certain poses reduce compression and promote pain relief. While yin yoga is recommended for people with back, neck, wrist and joint pain, you should always inform your yoga teacher of any injuries because modifications may be necessary. Also keep in mind that while a yin yoga pose may be uncomfortable, it should never hurt. Always inform your teacher if a pose hurts so he or she can provide modification suggestions.
Keep in mind that all of these benefits come from a regular yin yoga practice. While you will most likely see immediate benefits from your first practice, you’ll feel the most when practicing regularly. The most important part of a yin yoga practice is learning how to listen to your body and following its needs. Your yin practice takes away the distractions that cause us fear, stress, and pain, and allows us let go and just be. It’s a practice for your mind, body and spirit.
“May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.” – Rochelle
About the Author
Rochelle Barcellona is an animal-loving, family-and-friends-embracing, yoga-meditation-and-ayurveda-teaching, happy red-headed yogi who owns Nourish Mind Body & Spirit in Northern California. You may learn more about Rochelle here. Rochelle may be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and 916-353-5200.
(Photo of Rochelle courtesy of Bella Barcellona Photography.)