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Yin Yoga: How it works!

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 340 views

Mindfulness and relaxation are the focus, Yin Yogis rarely break a sweat: Yin Yoga is a very soft and passive training. The individual positions are held for a long time, which is particularly effective for the fascial tissue, joints and ligaments. In addition, yogis find deep inner peace here. Read everything you need to know about Yin Yoga here.

What is Yin Yoga?

“Our goal in life is not to become perfect, our goal is to become one with ourselves.” This is the view of Bernie Clark, one of the most renowned yin yoga teachers and author of The Great Yin Yoga Book. As he writes in it, the calm yoga style is specially designed to train ligaments, joints and bones in the body and thereby gain space and strength in the joints.

The special thing about a Yin Yoga class: The individual exercises are held for between 1 and 20 minutes. As a result, the training initially appears to be little varied and very soft. However, yogis quickly feel the challenges involved: they learn where their physical limits are and how it is possible to stay in one position for a longer period of time. They also gain better access to themselves and become more mindful.

Ying yoga styles work by applying pressure to one part of the body. It persists for a long period of time. The affected area is stimulated and strengthened. As Bernie Clark explains in his textbook, the tissue is first deformed, then reformed. The consequence: it becomes stronger, thicker and longer. Remaining in a certain position also stimulates the acupressure points and the meridians . The latter run through the entire body directly under the skin . According to Traditional Chinese Medicine ( TCM ), there are twelve different meridians. The so-called life energy Qi is distributed through them. Meridians also connect the organs to each other.

The philosophy of yin and yang

The terms yin and yang come from Taoism. They describe two sides of existence. They can’t live without each other, they complement each other. While the yin character refers to the shady side of the hill or river, yang represents the sunny side. Both parts are in constant flux and changing. Serenity is a foundation of yin. It is indulgent, allowing and nurturing. Yang, on the other hand, stands for activity and wants to make the world lively. The universe is trying to balance the two sides. An example of this from modern everyday life is the following:

  • If someone works a lot (yang) over a longer period of time, it may be that the body is forcing them to take a break (yin) due to illness.

An imbalance can exist on both the yin and yang sides. In both cases it is about using the opposing energy to balance it out. The creation of balance also plays a role in other forms of yoga. Typical yang yoga, hatha yoga , for example, is about achieving balance between body and mind through physical and breathing exercises and meditation.

Yin and Yang in the human body

Yin and yang are relative terms, meaning they need context. In relation to the body, this means that ligaments, bones and joints are part of the yin tissue. Muscles, blood and skin, on the other hand, are yang tissues.

Yin and yang are not strictly separated in the human body. Elements of yin are present in the yang tissue: 30 percent of what is called muscle is fascia, which belongs to yin. They are responsible for the range of motion in the muscles. The yang elements in the yin tissue, on the other hand, include elastic fibers containing the fiber protein elastin.

A young person is usually very mobile. It is therefore important for him to train his muscles so that he gains stability (yang). Between their mid-20s and 30s, a healthy adult is in balance between yin and yang, i.e. between stability and mobility. After that, as a result of the aging process, Yin increases and the body becomes stiffer. A special Yin training compensates for this.

Ying styles use pressure to reshape the weave. First, the tissue is stressed, then it should rest.

The three principles of Yin Yoga

The yoga expert Sarah Powers from the USA took a closer look at Yin Yoga and derived three different principles:

1. Test limits

The aim of Yin Yoga is to optimally stress the tissue. The rule applies: if it is under-challenged, it atrophies. Overuse leads to degeneration. Yogis should therefore only go so far in an asana (posture) until they feel a clear resistance. A short break is then important. This gives the body the opportunity to loosen up. This is usually the case after 30 seconds, a greater depth can be reached. If not, it is better to listen to the body and not go further. Where the limits are can vary from day to day as the body is constantly changing. Accepting this is an essence of yin. A mantra that sums up this principle: “We don’t use our body to find a position, we use the position

2. Determination to rest

Once the yogi has found his personal limit, his next goal is to settle into the position and come to rest. This is done by waiting in the posture without moving. There are only two exceptions to this rule:

  1. He is in pain or struggling to hold the position.
  2. The body has opened and invites you to go deeper into the position.

Basically, people strive for three types of rest. The body should first become still. For this it is important that the muscles are inactive. Only when they are still can the effect of a deep stretch reach the joints. Secondly, when the body comes to rest, this has an effect on breathing: it becomes effortless and easy. Third, the mind also seeks rest. It is inextricably linked to the breath. When the mind is restless, the breathing is ragged. If breathing slows down, this in turn has positive effects on the mind.

3. Hold the position

When the yogi has reached his limit and is calm, the last task is to hold the position. Because the yin tissue is not elastic, it requires sustained traction in order to be stimulated. For this reason, Yin positions are held for at least a minute, sometimes up to 20 minutes.

Going deeper in Yin Yoga means holding a position longer. How long? This is different for each individual. If a duration is specified for exercises, this is usually a recommendation. Every yogi can decide for himself when his limit has been reached.

Yin Yoga: The energy flows

In addition to the physical and psychological level, energy plays a major role in Yin Yoga. In order to stimulate their flow in the body, the yogi applies pressure along the body’s meridians, the so-called TCM channels. In addition to holding the positions, there are two other tools: the so-called simple awareness and the breath.

Simple Awareness

When attention is consciously focused on a specific part of the body, activation of the parasympathetic nervous system occurs. This slows the heartbeat and dilates the blood vessels. The result: More blood and energy can flow into the corresponding regions. Through this simple awareness, energy comes to the point where the yogi focuses.

controlled breath

The breath can also be directed to a specific body region. When the simple awareness and the breath directed into the region combine, the flow of energy flowing in that direction doubles.

There are several situations in which Yin Yoga is very effective:

  • Before bedtime, Yin Yoga is helpful to calm the mind.
  • Yin Yoga is well suited before high-energy Yang training.
  • Since spring and summer are yang seasons, yin yoga is useful as a balance.
  • When life is very hectic (yang energies), Yin Yoga serves as a counterbalance.
  • Long journeys are also dominated by yang. Therefore, a Yin Yoga training afterwards is beneficial.
  • Women can receive energy through Yin Yoga during the menstrual cycle.

This is how Yin Yoga works

About 35 different postures belong to the Yin Yoga repertoire. Since an asana is held significantly longer on average than in other yoga styles, fewer of them are used than in other types of yoga.

One hour begins with an opening meditation. This is followed by asanas that loosen up the body but do not warm it up. The muscles should remain cool so that the stress extends deeper into the connective tissue . The following asanas are suitable for this:

  • Butterfly: relaxes the hips and spine
  • Position of the child: grounded and calmed
  • Frog (the tadpole version): loosens the hips and upper back

This is often followed by connections of asanas, so-called flows, on a specific topic or for a specific purpose. Selected final exercises herald the end of an hour. These poses allow the body to fully relax and become loose. This is followed by the resting phase, also known as Shavasana. If there is not a final meditation, a yin yoga class ends with it.

The Effects of Yin Yoga on the Body

The positive effects that Yin Yoga has on the body are numerous:

  • Improving range of motion and flexibility
  • strengthening muscles
  • Boost collagen production for thicker and stronger ligaments
  • Improving the mobility of the joints
  • skin rejuvenation
  • flushing of toxins from the tissue
  • Restoring the natural curve of the spine
  • Prevention and reduction of joint stiffness
  • Reducing the risk of osteoporosis
  • Strengthening the mobility of the joints
  • Improvement in heart and lung function

Effect of Yin Yoga on Heart & Mind

Yin Yoga also helps to be more mindful of yourself. Being consciously in the here and now strengthens you physiologically, energetically and mentally. As soon as we breathe consciously and calmly, the stress level decreases. This has the following effects:

  • Improvement in blood pressure and reduction in heart rate
  • Reducing stress and inflammation
  • Improving digestion and the immune system
  • Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the resting nerve. It is part of the autonomic nervous system and has an influence, for example, on building up the body’s own reserves.

For whom Yin Yoga is suitable

Because Yin Yoga is very slow and gentle, there are no restrictions or requirements to try it. Especially people over the age of 35, whose mobility is slowly decreasing due to the aging process, can use this form of yoga to restore their balance. In addition, stressed people find a very intense haven of peace.

Where Yin Yoga classes are offered

In Germany, Yin Yoga is mainly offered in yoga studios. It is also often called fascia yoga. Numerous health insurance companies subsidize Yin Yoga courses.


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