If we look at the ancient Chinese concept of yin and yang, we can see that within two opposing forces, there is interdependence, connectivity, and balance. Yang represents the qualities of dynamism, heat, masculinity, movement, activity and "doing." Yin represents the qualities of stillness, coolness, passivity, femininity, resting and “being”.
Yoga styles, or any form of movement, can be classified as “yang” or “yin” based on their inherent qualities. Ashtanga, for example, with its focus on strength, stamina and dynamic movement, can be classified as a yang style of yoga. Yin yoga, on the other hand, is completely different—think long-held poses done of the floor with an emphasis on mindfulness and surrender rather than strength and perfect form.
I have found yin yoga to be a transformative practice in so many ways. Here are five reasons why you should give it a try.
1. It’s an antidote to modern-day life.
Hustle. Lean in. No pain, no gain. Work hard, play hard. These could be the quintessential catch-cries of our Western culture, and certainly these mottos have inspired many of us to strive for and achieve our goals.
The trouble is, we have forgotten all about the flip-side: slow down, let go, surrender, take it easy and just be. Too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing, and our unbalanced approach to life is causing an epidemic of burn-out, exhaustion, depression and stress-related diseases.
I think it’s safe to say that we live in a very "yang"-based culture that values busyness, rushing, competing and chasing after external outcomes. So it is important to consciously bring the yin element into our lives to counterbalance this chronic addiction to doing. One way to do this, is to practice yin yoga.
2. It will release built-up tension in your body.
If you’ve practically sweat a river in more dynamic, vigorous, "yang-like" forms of yoga such as Vinyasa, Bikram, or Ashtanga, you’ll find yin yoga to be a refreshing change. Instead of moving quickly through strength-building standing poses that work on your muscles, the deep, long-held poses of yin yoga focus on releasing built-up tension in the fascia or connective tissue.(Have no idea what fascia is? You know when you feel like the hunchback of Notre Dame after sitting at your computer all day? That’s your fascia giving you grief).
3. It will shift you from "doing" mode into "being" mode.
The long-held poses also mean that, well, you aren't really doing a whole lot. This can be disconcerting at first if you are not used to being still, but if you can shift gears and just surrender, you will find that both your mind and body can enter into a deep state of relaxation. With the focus on noticing the breath and the sensations occurring in your body, it is also an excellent segue into mindfulness and meditation, particularly for thoseType A personalities that feel like they’ll go nuts just sitting upright in more formal styles of meditation.
4. It will act as a good counter-balance to your other workouts.
Practicing yin yoga is also a good counterbalance to other more yang styles of exercise, such as running or working out at the gym. These more repetitive, forceful types of exercise can not only lead to joint wear and tear, but habitual tightness in certain areas of the body. The deep stretching and releasing of the fascia in yin yoga can prevent the risk of injury and the mindful attention required by the practice helps to cultivate awareness and acceptance of your body’s natural limitations so that you are less likely to push yourself too far with other types of exercise.
5. It will transform your life off the mat as well.
Perhaps the most profound benefits of a regular yin yoga practice however, is the way it can start to transform your life off the mat as well. As you learn to be more patient, accepting and compassionate with your body and mind in a deeply intense stretch, you’ll find that these qualities are transferable to other areas of your life as well. Been working for 6 hours straight without taking a break? You won’t want to do that anymore. Feel like you want to scream at the painfully slow clerk at the post office – you’ll remember to surrender to the situation and just breathe. Feeling like a loser because you didn’t get everything done on your epic to do-list? You’ll remember that it’s not such a big deal and that is in fact ok to just be.
Wanna try a full-length yin yoga class for free? Watch or download my full 60 minute class here.