You may not know the benefits of yin yoga. After all, dynamic vinyasa flows and hot stretching sessions have long dominated class schedules and social media. However, yin – where the poses are performed at a much slower pace than you might be used to – is a practice that comes with a host of benefits for your physical and psychological well-being. These include increased flexibility, improved health, and calmer thoughts.
Indeed, if you want to learn how to relax your mind through yoga, then yin is a very good starting point. As you will discover, research has shown how effective the practice is in relieving stress and anxiety. We enlisted experts to explain the many benefits of yin yoga, as well as how it differs from other forms of practice and how best to add it to your fitness routine, including the pitfalls to avoid. All you need is to roll out one of your best yoga mats and breathe…
Benefits of yin yoga: what is it?
You’ve probably heard of the vinyasa or hatha forms of yoga, but maybe yin isn’t on your radar yet. The main difference is that it is much slower, making it an ideal yoga for beginners. “It’s a meditative practice that helps slow down both the body and the mind,” says Leah Bush, yoga teacher and yin teacher at REPOSE.
There is no acceleration of flows, poses are usually held for several minutes at a time. “Unlike traditional ‘yang’ practices, it taps into the cold tissues of the body – connective tissues, ligaments, tendons, fascia,” she explains. Because you’ll be in the same position for longer, you’ll want to be comfortable, so investing in one of these best thick yoga mats might be worth it.
Where is he from ? “The concept of yin yoga consists of postures derived from traditional hatha yoga,” reveals yoga instructor Yesim Yuva. “Furthermore, it is complemented by various influences from Indian yoga and Chinese Taoism, as well as insights from Western science into body structure and internal organ function.”
The 4 Key Ways Yin Yoga Can Improve Your Wellbeing
1. Builds Resilience
Although it may seem easier at first glance than other forms of yoga, it will actually put a lot of strain on your body, allowing you to derive greater benefit from your stretching session. “It’s a slow practice that challenges people in unexpected ways because you hold the poses for longer periods of time — traditionally more than four minutes per pose,” says Bush.
In this way, it can force you to sit still, promoting a kind of meditation and mindfulness. “Slowly allow the body to open up and create space to begin looking at the mind in stillness,” Bush adds. All of this builds patience and inner resilience.
2. Helps relieve stress
It is really effective in helping you relax. “It calms and balances the mind and body, which reduces stress and anxiety,” notes Caroline Lucas, yoga teacher and founder of Karma Studios. A study found that it increased mindfulness and reduced long-term stress and anxiety levels.
However, unlike sitting with a meditation app, even useful in an awkward moment, this practice works great for combating ongoing stress and anxiety. “On a psychological level, blocked emotions can be released,” says Yuva. “Since yin yoga is a meditative approach to your inner life with a simultaneous focus on your own anatomy, energy flows are stimulated which helps to rest the mind.”
3. Increased flexibility
“In addition to affecting you emotionally and psychologically, yin yoga affects you physically,” says Yuva. “The whole body becomes more flexible with regular practice. By staying in the poses for a long time, shortened muscles, stiff ligaments, connective tissue and stuck fascia are re-energized and muscles are stimulated.”
This is a great practice for stretching specific areas and overcoming discomfort. “You may be able to locate tension or pain in your body and then release it specifically through exercise by allowing your body and mind to let go,” notes Yuva. “Connective tissues and muscles become more flexible.”
4. Improved health
This style of yoga can help improve overall health. Indeed, Lucas points out, it triggers the release of the fascia – or connective tissue – that surrounds all the muscles, joints and organs of the body, and it also increases circulation.” Research has even linked the practice to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, simply slowing down the breath can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Its activities include inducing relaxation, stimulating digestion and activating metabolism, and it is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which drives the “fight or flight” stress response. “Yin yoga is great if you’re tired, or if you’re over-stimulated and have ‘too much’ energy because it allows you to slow down,” says Lucas.
What is the best way to practice yin yoga?
- Go slowly— “Don’t expect that the first time you come to your mat that you can clear your mind and relax in calm,” Bush says. “For most of us, this is unnatural. Slowly allow yourself time to explore the practice.”
- Accumulate— “In yin yoga, we hold the forms longer than a normal yoga class to allow the fascia to break free,” Lucas explains. “So start by holding a pose for one to three minutes, before moving to five minutes.” And then beyond that, sometimes people last up to 15 minutes.
- Acquire help— “Use as many tools as possible,” advises Yuva. “For example, cushions, blankets, straps, blocks, and sandbags. These accessories will help you deepen your practice and stay longer in the poses that will ultimately make you feel more comfortable. “
- Let yourself be guided— “If you’re a beginner, start slow with an in-person class so the teacher can support and help you as needed,” recommends Eloise Skinner, yoga instructor. “After the class, observe your body – see what kind of impact the practice has had on a physical level.”
- Not moving— “This is a more meditative practice, so do your best to find stillness in each pose,” Lucas suggests. “Try to gently release yourself into them, without fidgeting or fidgeting too much.”
- Avoid discomfort— “Obviously, if you feel a sharp pain during your practice, slowly come out of the pose,” Yuva explains. “Don’t stay in it because your teacher told you to. Listen to your body and your nervous system and enjoy the process.”
- Breathe properly— “The challenge of the practice is to allow your body to go into the depth of the postures without too much restriction or tension,” explains Skinner. “Use your breath to support the movement and only go as far as you can maintain a feeling of openness and release.” Learning to breathe better will also help you in other areas of your life.
- To be open— “Yin yoga is a calm, meditative yoga practice that will help you surrender to your emotions,” adds Yuva. “It can be quite difficult – some people start to cry, which is a positive sign. Let your emotions rise, welcome them, then slowly let go of anything that no longer serves you.”
w&h would like to thank Leah Bush, yoga teacher and yin teacher at RESTyoga teacher Yesim YuvaCaroline Lucas, yoga teacher and founder of Karma Studios and yoga teacher Eloise Skinnerfor their time and expertise.