If you think yoga is slow and meditative, then consider the practice of yin yoga – a style of yoga that goes even deeper within to cultivate awareness and release tension. Yin yoga involves holding passive postures for extended periods of time, usually 3 to 5 minutes, though some postures may be held for as long as 10 minutes. Instead of targeting muscles, yin yoga poses target the connective tissue and deeper layers of fascia. By using long-held postures and applying mild stress to joints and connective tissue like ligaments, yin yoga helps to restore joint mobility and range of motion.
The postures in yin yoga work directly along energetic channels known as meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine. These postures enhance the flow of qi by opening up energy blockages and improving circulation, making the practice well-suited for Spring body types. Yin yoga is also especially beneficial for Summer body types, because it emphasizes yin to calm and restore the body. If Summer represents the active, hard-charging, blazing hot, yang energy of our overworked Western lifestyles, then yin provides the perfect antidote by offering a quiet, still, cooling dose of Winter. Depending on your individual needs and body type, yin yoga may not be your primary practice, but it can serve as a complement to yang-style yoga practices (e.g. Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga) and more yang activities (e.g. running and intense cardiovascular exercise).
In addition to its physical and energetic health benefits, yin yoga also provides an opportunity to enhance mental clarity and deepen spiritual practice. Because poses are held for long amounts of time, the ability to be still, mindful, and present becomes even more important. In this way, yin yoga is also a practice in allowance and receptivity – being able to observe and accept things even through periods of discomfort. Embracing the spirit of yin encourages us to quiet our minds, explore inner silence, and expand our consciousness from within. The next time you could use a break from the frenetic pace and energy of Summer, try adding some yin to your routine.
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