Do you want to take up yoga but are you looking to find out if Yin Yoga is right for you? Do not worry, this style of yoga-inspired by Chinese philosophy should bring you a lot. Are you looking for information on its benefits, principles, or history? In this article, I explain everything about Yin Yoga.
Let’s be honest. When was the last time you didn’t do anything? I mean, without moving, without thinking, without even… scratching your nose…. A long time ago, isn’t it?
Imagine stepping into a yoga class for the first time and really allowing yourself to slow down. You are lying on your mat, in a position that invites you to relax all of your muscles, to drop your body completely on the floor. And where you find stillness in your body, your mind finds stillness in turn. The race of thoughts stops. You press the “Pause” button.
Your concerns recede as the minutes pass through your posture. Two, five, or ten minutes… You maintain this position, without forcing, without pain, while feeling the intense stretch that is created in you. Motionless, calm, you observe what is released in you, simply through this absence of movement.
You feel perfectly calm, perfectly relaxed, and get up, for the first time in a long time, what is hidden behind your thoughts. Your true soul? Your inner strength? Tears of gratitude run down your cheeks. You are right where you need to be, learning to tame silence, pushing your anxieties away, a little more, with each breath.
This is pretty much how a Yin Yoga class will make you feel. But better than words to tell it to you, there is the practice … Let’s see what it is before you get on your mat for your next class.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is a style of yoga that originates from Chinese philosophy. Its principles are inspired by Yin and Yang. You probably know this symbol which actually represents two poles:
- On one side the yin, the black side, referring to the feminine, to the moon, to water, to the night, to fluidity, to passivity, and to slowness.
- On the other, the yang, the white side, corresponds to the masculine, to the action, to the sun, to the day, to the fire, to the speed, and to the assertion of oneself.
Whether we are a man or a woman, these two polarities reside in each of us, the key is to know how to balance them. Also, as you see in this symbol, there is Yin in Yang and Yang in Yin. This allows us to remember that everything co-exists together, that nothing is absolute (all white or all black). In each trial, there is joy, in each man, there is a part of the feminine, in each happiness, there can also be unhappiness …
Our way of life is very Yang-oriented. We are always energized and active, everything has to go fast, etc. Thus, practising a gentle and slow yoga-like Yin Yoga, allows us to find an inner balance and thus brings us a lot of well-being. Indeed, the risk, if one is too much in the Yang, is to know the negative aspects: exhaustion, irritability, burn-out to name a few …
From China to the United States, a little history of Yin Yoga
But where does Yin Yoga come from? This style of yoga was founded in close connection with Taoism and Chinese philosophy. It was created by an American named Paulie Zink at the end of the 20th century. As a teenager, Paulie Zink was trained for ten years by a master of martial arts of Chinese descent and became a master of kung fu. He thus discovered the Taoist culture and learned to observe nature and animals.
It is from this learning that he was inspired to create his own current of yoga, in connection with Taoist philosophy. Although he incorporated a form of Hatha Yoga into it, Paulie Zink developed his own variations, including meditations and a philosophy based on energy and his own mystical experiences. Yin Yoga as imagined by Paulie Zink is based in particular on the five elements: earth, metal, water, wood, and fire. He calls his style “Taoist yoga” and gradually begins to transmit it around him.
Development of Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga was then popularized in the United States by Paul Grilley, who learned alongside Zink in the 1980s. Paul Grilley was only able to receive the first level of art that Paulie Zink envisioned. However, he has long contributed to enrich this practice and transmitting it. Finally, yogini Sarah Powers has also had an important role in the history of Yin Yoga. After learning the basics of Taoist yoga, she continues to develop this style of yoga, which thanks to her will become Yin Yoga.
“The goal of Yin Yoga is to get us out of systems of social convention, indoctrination and mechanistic ways of thinking, not to reinforce them by requiring adherence to rigid and limited paradigms. […] To intellectualize the practice of Yin yoga would be to obstruct a deeper understanding of its essence. Its real power is to authorize the truth that is in each of us. ”
Master Paulie Zink
What are the principles of Yin Yoga?
In practice, Yin Yoga sessions consist of a series of positions and stretches, which will be held for 5 to 10 minutes, or even longer over the months of practice. It is a gentle yoga that invites relaxation and complete relaxation. It is mainly practised with ground positions. Its goal is to bring calm and relaxation to the body and mind. To achieve this deep meditative state, so dear to Yin Yoga, each part of the body needs to rest for a few minutes. This is why we will hold the Yin Yoga positions as long as possible.
The fundamental principles of Yin Yoga are as follows:
- Respect for the limits of the body: listen to your body, never be in pain, find the right degree to work without hurting yourself
- Calm and serene attitude: do not seek performance, take the time, focus on the present moment
- Prolonged maintenance in each position: immobility is important in Yin Yoga, we will also bring slow and deep breathing as well as a calm and attentive mind.
The specificities of Yin Yoga
In our ever-changing world, we often forget to do nothing. In our lives, there is no time to urgently pause, contemplate or even witness the silence. Suddenly, even when you want to do yoga, it is difficult to stay in place during meditation. Also, we gladly focus on dynamic yoga styles such as Vinyasa Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga. But now, our balance is also based on our Yin side. Our ability to slow down, to do things slowly, and to just be there, without movement, without urgency.
Yin Yoga is a yoga practice where the sessions are made up of only 6 to 8 postures. They are generally performed on the ground and held for several minutes. You can use yoga blocks or bolsters to keep your body weight in the position. In Yin Yoga, we let gravity work for us. We also let ourselves be inspired by our teacher, who slowly leads us towards a little more serenity.
It is a gentle yoga certainly, but not without intensity. You may not believe it, but you are going to work a lot in stillness. Yin Yoga is a style of yoga where one works in depth the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints… We practice a lot of stretching. It is therefore the ideal yoga if you want to improve your flexibility. Often the sessions focus on certain areas of the body. For example, opening the hips, stretching the lower or upper body …
You are not necessarily going to sweat while doing Yin Yoga. On the other hand, you will certainly have aches the day after your sessions, because it works the body in depth. Thus, it is a very beneficial and complementary practice with dynamic yoga.
Afraid to be bored? This is the whole point of Yin Yoga
During a Yin Yoga session, your body simply works through breathing and gravity, but your mind will have to work as well, so as not to sink into your thoughts. Personally, when I practice Yin Yoga, I always find it to be a particularly difficult style of yoga. Not that his postures are impossible to achieve or that his pace is too hard to keep up. But because it’s almost impossible for me to stay still for more than a minute. My body wants to break the stillness all the time: scratching, wanting to move my legs or hands, tingling… But the worst is my mind! I am very distracted by my surroundings and my thoughts are constantly bubbling. In reality, it is yoga that has its share of challenges but from which we always come out calm and very serene.
The benefits of Yin Yoga
The benefits of Yin Yoga are numerous. Of course, we could evoke all the benefits specific to a yoga practice. But it also brings other aspects:
- Yin Yoga promotes relaxation
- Helps to let go and relax
- Improves flexibility
- Develops attention and concentration
Yin Yoga is accessible to everyone of all ages, from beginners to the most experienced. It allows you to discover another approach to yoga that is different from that which can be found in Hatha-Yoga or in other styles of yoga.
You now know everything about Yin Yoga. All you have to do is unroll your mat and allow yourself to slow down during your next yoga class. Feel free to ask me all your questions in the comments.