I've been practicing yoga for about a year now, but I didn’t begin with yin yoga. I became acquainted with yin long after my first yoga class. Like most people, I began with vinyasa. While vinyasa yoga boasts an enormous number of wonderful health benefits, it can also have some disadvantages depending on the person and their energetic constitution and environmental factors. I want to make a case for the importance of understanding ourselves, including our own unique circumstances and needs, in determining whether we should limit the amount of vinyasa yoga we practice or even replace it with yin yoga entirely.
I remember when I first began taking vinyasa yoga classes. I was living in Los Angeles, an exciting, dynamic, and creative city—a city that was nevertheless a source of continual work, stress, and exhaustion. Constant traffic, billboards, Hollywood, endless possibilities for activities, and people upon people upon people—this environment had me moving without stopping for nearly four straight years.
In my vinyasa class, I would move up and down and all around in quick succession. My heart would beat. My pores would drip with sweat. By the end of the class my shirt was soaked, and I was thoroughly fatigued. And this was all great—at least that’s what I believed. What I didn’t realize is that I was working too hard and too fast. I was out of breath too often, and I was tired too often. I needed something else, something that would bring my body into balance, not out of it.
For me, that was yin yoga—a slow, restorative style of yoga. Yin gives back so much more strength and energy than it takes away. When I began practicing yin yoga, I learned how to relax my body and really feel into each and every part of my body, especially the areas of pain.
As a result, I felt much more balanced and less restless. When you breathe in, you are acknowledging any suffering that either you possess or that exists in the world around you, and you are accepting that suffering totally and unconditionally. When you breathe out you are giving rise to love, compassion, goodwill, kindness, surrender, or any number of positive attitudes you can generate.
Here are five signs that you might need to consider replacing your vinyasa practice with a yin practice: