After Yangin’ it up on celebatory champagnes at Koh Samui’s Nikki Beach, there could be no better cure than a bit of Yin Yoga to get the balance back.
Yin yoga is a restorative practice with slow, passive movements that target the deep connective tissues in our body.
There are no downward dogs, no back-bending sun salutations, and no warrior ones, twos, or threes. There are no standing tree poses, and no cows, or cats. In Yin yoga, the pace is slow and you don’t need to break a sweat in order to reap the benefits.
Like many other practices, the asanas (postures) are mostly performed in a seated or lying down position. You can expect the likes of a wide-kneed child’s pose, a gentle backbend, and forward bends with your legs together.
While the practice of holding yoga asanas for extended periods of time has always been a part of traditional yoga practice, it is the length of time each pose is held that makes Yin yoga different.
Beginners are often instructed to hold their posture for a minute or two, whereas the more experienced usually hold for three to five minutes. It’s not uncommon to see advanced practitioners stay in a single pose for up to 20 minutes.
Yin yoga’s tranquil tempo is known for grounding us in the present moment and connecting us deeply with our mind, body, and soul.
Everything about Yin yoga ties it back to the Taoist concept of yin and yang–the opposite and complementary principles of nature. Yin can be described as slow, steady, feminine, passive, and cool. Yang, on the other hand, is known to be changing, fluid, masculine, active, and hot.
Despite a deep-rooted history in the East, Yin yoga was actually founded by a practitioner from the West.
Paulie Zink spent 10 years studying with Cho Chat Ling, a Kung-Fu and Taoist yoga master from Hong Kong specialising in Tai shing pek kwar (Monkey Kung Fu). Taoist alchemy also greatly influenced Zink.
It is a method of exhibiting the energetic attributes of various animals and five alchemical elements believed to be contained in the body’s energetic field.
In the late 70s, Zink decided to move away from his martial arts and combine all his teachings into one discipline. Zink’s teachings are known as Yin and Yang yoga and include long-held postures (the Yin) and faster-paced movements tying the postures together in practice (the Yang).
Fueled by personal insights, he also blended together elements of Hatha yoga, and Taoist yoga, as well as postures and movements that he developed himself.
His original concepts were thrown slightly off balance in the 1980s when Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers came onto the scene with a desire to separate the passive and active aspects of Yin and Yang yoga.
They encouraged practitioners to focus only on the slow, restorative aspect of the original discipline in pursuit of cultivating inner stillness, preserving Zink’s original belief that Yin yoga’s deeper purpose is to “open the heart and invoke the primal self.”
From this process, the Yang was dropped and Yin yoga, as we know it today, was born.
Yoga for the Mind
In our fast-paced, over-stimulated world filled with deadlines, commitments, and incessant electronic notifications, Yin yoga allows us to press the pause button on life.
The practice is often considered an effective method of stress relief, as the slow pace of movement is an excellent primer for meditation. Through a long, deliberate focus on the physical self, you begin to naturally bring stillness to your thoughts, creating the perfect conditions to clear the mind.
At first, the practice may be a little uncomfortable or create feelings of agitation. But over time, learning to surrender to the postures teaches you to surrender your mind.
Yoga for the Body
From a physical perspective, Yin yoga brings about all of the benefits of other conventional yoga practices, as well as some additional positive benefits for the body.
Increased muscle strength and tone, energy, vitality, and metabolism, together with improved cardio and circulatory health, respiration, and overall athletic performance are just a few of the myriad physical benefits. The focus on the deep connective tissues, as opposed to only muscle activation, means that Yin yoga boosts circulation around the joints and drastically improves flexibility.
Further, Yin yoga is specifically designed to help you sit longer and more comfortably, making it an excellent precursor to developing helpful meditation practices.
Yoga for the Soul
Finally, with roots in spirituality, Yin yoga is like food for the soul, providing emotionally therapeutic release.
The poses are said to stimulate the meridian points and relieve blockages in the subtle body–a combination of the mind, intellect, and ego, and that which controls the physical body. Releasing these helps us achieve a state of spiritual equilibrium.
On an emotional level, it allows for thoughts and feelings to arise that would otherwise go unnoticed in a faster paced practice.
It’s an intimate experience that allows time to cultivate awareness of silence, to truly be present and connect with our inner self. You leave with a sense of harmony and contentment, taking you back to where it all began–with Yin, with Yang, and with balance.