At the sound of a gentle gong, a room full of yogis slowly uncurl from a seated forward bend. The class is Yin Yoga, which means the students have moved through fewer poses than most yoga classes, but they have held each pose for a longer time, generally from three to five minutes.
Yin Yoga classes are the ideal complement to more active, or yang, asana practices. While vinyasa flow and other active yoga classes build strength in the muscles and bones, holding poses such as forward bends, hip openers, twists and back bends for an extended time targets the deeper connective tissue around the joints.
Keeping the connective tissue long and strong can help you maintain flexibility. These tissues, which are found in ligaments and tendons, shorten and their elasticity diminishes with age and disuse, but they can be lengthened by relaxing deeply into a pose.
By the end of your first yin class, you may have a sensation of having released what was stuck.
By practicing yin poses regularly, you learn to surrender to gentle discomfort, which is a skill that can be transferred into your everyday life.
Four specific benefits of adding a Yin Yoga class to your yoga practice:
Flexibility: Use it or lose it. Increasing mobility in your joints is essential to preventing injury. Open hips, happy hamstrings and a healthy spine will keep you young.
Calming the mind: Even more so than traditional yoga, Yin Yoga is deeply relaxing and centering. Long holds help us to be comfortable with stillness. This makes Yin Yoga especially beneficial to those developing a meditation practice.
Balance: Enhance the blood-pumping and muscle-strengthening of your regular asana practice by digging deep with passive, sustained stretches and focused breathing. Treat the busy yang of daily life with a yin break.
Healing: Yin poses are said to help energy flow through the body through the connective tissue pathways, increasing circulation and releasing physical and emotional blocks. Breath moving through the body massages the internal organs and improves immunity. Yin Yoga is often used to treat anxiety, addictions, eating disorders and chronic pain.
How it works:
Bolsters, as well as gravity, play a part in easing the body into yin poses, which may resemble classic asanas but often have different names.
Your teacher will most likely walk you through several stages for each pose. The first is to find the edge or level of intensity appropriate for you and then to begin relaxing into the pose. Find stillness and hold the pose, usually starting with one to three minutes. (You’ll want to extend the length of holds gradually.) Finally, release slowly and carefully.
There's a lot going on in Yin at Valley Vinyasa these days! Elena King teaches a very popular weekly Yin Yoga class on Tuesdays at noon (one hour), so popular in fact, that we're adding a second Yin Yoga class on Saturdays from 11am-12pm with Valerie Love starting 2/28. In addition, Elena will host Yin Yoga workshop on Sunday, March 8 from 1-3pm accompanied by sacred music from Bradford Smith. You can learn more about the workshop and register on our Workshops page.