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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is Yin Yoga?

Yoga has been a part of my daily life for twelve years. The peaceful inner strength it fosters definitely shapes my writing, my outlook on life, my relationships, everything.

This past Sunday I attended a yoga workshop that was very new to me—Yin Yoga. Most strength-based practices are designated as Yang type, masculine and powerful. Yin is feminine and softer, a slow stretching of deeper tissues.

Yin yoga has been popularized in Western Culture by teachers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers. I own and use three recorded teachings of Paul Grilley—they’re wonderful. His technique incorporates ideas related to traditional Chinese medicine, qigong, and Taoist yoga. Yin yoga improves the flow of chi or energy through the body. It is often used to prepare the body for meditation postures, where flexibility is required in the connective tissue, ligaments and tendons of the hips and spine.

In a yin practice, the asanas or poses are held for much longer, usually three to five minutes, but can be held for as long as twenty minutes. The reason is while muscle, being more elastic, stretches relatively fast, the connective tissue requires much longer. Only after the muscle is fully stretched will the deeper tissues respond. Obviously, patience is needed.

By now I’m sure you’re thinking it hurts to hold a pose that long. Not really. The tissues soften and release. It is work, but more to embrace the stillness than to hold the pose. We want to move; seldom do we remain motionless. The only difficulty I had was getting out of a few poses. After loosening, it was sometimes tricky or unnatural to find the route back to where I began.

The practice is a wonderful balance to any strength training, whether Yang yoga, weight-training, or any muscle-building sport. Increasing your range of motion through Yin is a benefit those activities do not emphasize.

While I’ve practiced Yin with recordings many times, the live instruction was rewarding. It was beneficial to have an instructor help position me according to my specific body structure. The workshop I attended was taught by yogini Tiffany Cantrell.  I highly recommend her instruction or the study of Yin Yoga in general.


Art credit: Phantasien by Veronika Pinke