Anything in life, including yoga or other forms of movement, can be classified as yin or yang according to their inherent qualities. There are styles of yoga (Bikram or Ashtanga for example) that are more yang-like, with their focus on strength and heat-building, dynamic movements. Yin yoga however, is completely different, with an emphasis on long-held poses done on the floor and the cultivation of mindfulness and inner peace. I have found yin yoga to be a truly transformative practice, here are 5 reasons to give it a try:
1. It will enable you to deal with the stresses of everyday life.
Western culture places a lot of value on yang-like qualities such as productivity, working hard and achieving external success. This can certainly help us to achieve our goals – but when out of balance it can lead to burn out, restlessness, anxiety and depression. We must remember to honour yin qualities as well, such as the ability to slow down, take it easy and enjoy what we have in the present. One way to counter-balance our chronic addiction to being busy, it to practice yin yoga.
2. It will release knots and ease aches in your body.
If you have ever spent too long at your desk and felt pain and stiffness in your neck and back afterwards, then you know what physical tension is! We often think these kinks arise in our muscles, but really, they form in the connective tissue or fascia. One of the number one boons of yin yoga is that it works specifically on the fascia and the long duration of the postures enable a deep release of any contractions in the fascia and a feeling of looseness and spaciousness in the body.
3. It will shift you from “doing” mode to “being mode”.
In yin yoga, the poses are held for quite a long time, from between 3 – 8 minutes. This allows you to rest deeply in the pose, and to observe the breath in a very mindful way. While it may feel difficult at first, over time you will be able to simply surrender and just “be”, and your body and mind will be able to slow down and find a sense of inner peace. It is a good preparation for meditation and mindfulness practice as well.
4. It will complement your other workouts.
Running, swimming, sports and working out at the gym are all “yang” forms of movement due to their repetitive, forceful nature. While very important for strength and fitness, they can also lead to joint wear and tear, injury and habitual tightness in specific areas of the body. Yin yoga can deeply stretch tight areas and reduce the risk of injury as well as help to cultivate an awareness and acceptance of the body’s natural limitations.
5. It will improve your attitude to life and make you a calmer person.
Definitely the most powerful benefit of an ongoing yin yoga practice is how it can slowly change your attitude to, and experience of, life in general. As you begin to cultivate patience, acceptance and compassion towards your body in the long-held poses, these same qualities will also arise in your daily life as well. From becoming more tolerant with difficult people who would normally drive you nuts, to being more compassionate and accepting of yourself, yin yoga will transform your outlook on life for the better.