About yin yoga
Yin yoga invites you to give your muscles a rest whilst placing gentle stress on fascia (tissues that connect and run through muscles) and joints. The gentle nature of the practice and long holds of the poses result in it often being confused with restorative yoga, which is designed to place no stress on the body. Unlike restorative yoga, yin yoga benefits come through finding the right level of sensation, usually some discomfort but not sharp pain, and then staying still for an extended period of time. Yin yoga classes will usually ask you to hold a pose with your muscles relaxed for 2-5 minutes but more experienced students may wish to occasionally try classes or a home practice involving 10 minute holds.
One of my favourite aspects of my yin yoga teacher training was the emphasis placed on variable anatomy. Each of us has different proportions, shapes and angles to our bones, which means how we look when we practise physical aspects of yoga is also likely to be variable. It is also perfectly normal to have some asymmetry so our left side of the body might not be able to move in the same way as our right side. We can often get away with this in yang styles of yoga as we are using our muscles much more and moving in and out of poses quite quickly but in yin yoga, if we do not respect the natural limitations of our bodies and push to our end range of motion, at best we will be wasting our time, and at worst, we will be risking injury.
My view is that if everyone looks the same in a yin yoga class, at least some people are not in the pose. In my opinion, "progress" in yoga, including yin yoga, is determined by what it enables you to do differently in your life. We can't measure it very well and there is not an end point, just living a life that is meaningful for you based on your circumstances and values.
You will get the most out of your yin yoga practice if you:
- Focus on how it feels, not how it looks
- Let go of comparing how your pose looks with how other people's poses look
- Let go of comparing one side of your body with the other
- Challenge your belief that more is always better in yoga.