I did this by accident.
I’d come home at the end of the day and just do some gentle stretches whilst my wife, Claire, was watching Love Island (I wasn’t watching…HONEST!).
I’d sit in each pose for what felt like a very long time before calmly switching to a different position.
And that to me was yoga.
To be fair, I wasn’t wrong but what I was actually doing was a very specific style of yoga. And that was Yin yoga.
So what is Yin Yoga?
I’m sure you’re all familiar with Yin Yang.
In Chinese philosophy, Yin Yang symbolises the duality of opposing yet complementary forces that exist to keep each other in balance, such as the sun and moon, masculine and feminine, movement and stillness, Batman and the Joker.
Together they form the whole and without each other…well…they don’t.
In yoga, yang is typically symbolic of styles that encourage movement, heat and outward energy, focusing on stretching the muscles. Think Vinyasa.
Yin, on the flip side, is a much more inwardly focused, still practice. More relaxing and more calm, with a focus on the joints, ligaments and tendons.
The focus is to relax into the poses and not be as active as you would be in Hatha or Vinyasa.
History of Yin Yoga
This style of yoga dates back to the 1970’s. Not too far back really.
It seems like the style was passed through a few teachers before becoming what it is today.
A chap called Paulie Zink, who was a martial arts champion and Taoist yoga teacher introduced this way of working to the western world. Paulie mixed yin and yang style practises together in the same session, speeding things up and slowing things down at certain points in the session.
One of his students, Paul Grilley, used his knowledge of the anatomy and chinese medicine to change the style a little bit before one of his students, Sarah Powers, took it even further with her knowledge of meridian systems (channels that conduct energy throughout the body) to bring the focus more on energy channels and breath.
Characteristics of a yin style practise
Here are the core characteristics of a yin session…
Poses are held for longer (3-5 minutes are common)
Majority of poses are either seated or lying down
Props are common, whether to be bolsters or blocks to support you or straps to help you into a position whilst remaining passive
Each pose is accompanied with deep breathing
Encouraged NOT to go to your end range, given the length of time in each pose
What are the benefits of Yin?
One of the biggest areas of improvement for me have been in my feet.
Before I started, I could not sit on my feet. True!
I was so inflexible that I couldn't get the tops of my feet to the floor, let alone sit on them. The pain was just INSANE, the soles of my feet would severely cramp.
I was one ankle slip on the pavement away from a serious injury!
So, with the help of yin and working through the progressions of hero pose, I can now not only sit with the tops of my feet on the floor but lay all the way back in full hero pose.
Doesn’t sound like much but it’s a big one for me!
So other than insane improvements in your range of motion and flexibility in the joints…
Lower levels of stress
Healthier and stronger joints
Balances energy in the body
Improves performance in a sport, gym...or just general movement.
The mistake I made
I personally think everyone should be doing some form of yin style work.
People don’t take care of their joints. They don’t until it’s too late.
This was the style that I just thought yoga was and couldn’t see this being the way I exercised.
I looked at it all wrong.
As the name and concept implies, yin doesn’t work without yang.
In other words, this should compliment whatever workouts you do, whether it be running, CrossFit, gym, sport, Vinyasa, whatever it is. 3x half an hour sessions a week will be fine.
Some yogis might shoot me down but I don’t see this as being the only way to workout...I see it as a supplement to an active lifestyle.
If your aim is to maintain your joints and try to decrease the risk of your joints failing you, this is the style for you.
Try this video from Yoga with Adriene and see what you think.
I hope you found this article Yin-teresting...Ok, I'll stop.
In a bit.