We are living in a time where we are constantly "on the go." A lifestyle like this is highly encouraged while being still and taking a break is often considered non-productive and lazy. However, when the body is in constant flow, it undergoes a stress that could potentially be damaging both physically and emotionally. The body endures repetitive motions that can eventually lead to the overuse of muscles, hyper-mobility, injuries, numbing, and pain. One may even experience a "locked up" sensation in various parts of the body: the hips, the back, the neck, the shoulders from his overuse. These sensations settle into the connective tissues and joints of the body which decrease range of motion and even create emotional build-up in the body (i.e. stress). When it comes to finding a particular style of yoga that focuses on the healing aspect of the physical and energetic body, Yin Yoga can offer many rewards.
Yin Yoga is designed to directly target the connective tissues in which these locked up feelings are stored. To put it plainly for a better understanding, connective tissues are the fibers that support, connect, and bind other tissues and organs together in the body. In a sense, it's what holds our body together. When our bodies experience this bound-up collection of fibers and tissues, it takes a a deliberate and dedicated therapeutic treatment to help remedy this. By accessing these lines of connective tissues in Yin Yoga, the body essentially opens up both physically and energetically.
As mentioned, we have lifestyles that support movement. In yogic terms, this would be considered Yang energy (or Yan). It focuses on rhythm, movement, and repetition involving the Yang tissues of the body: skin, tendons, and muscles. Many yoga classes are directed toward this Yang energy (e.g. Power Yoga). In a vinyasa flow yoga class, for example, the yogi holds poses like Warrior Two that involve muscle engagement to sustain the posture. Further, poses like Warrior, are not held very long (perhaps 5 to 10 breaths). One flows from one pose to the next. Yin Yoga essentially does the opposite. It focuses on connective tissue, scar tissue, facia (the fibrous "webbing" throughout the body that encases all of your muscles, veins, bones, etc.), and ligaments. In a Yin Yoga class, the postures are non-weight bearing and multiple props are used to support the body. Muscular tissue basic "turns off" in the sustained, long-holding yoga postures of Yin. The idea is allow the weight of the body to release - to surrender - in order for healing to occur.
Eighteen yoga poses have been designated as effective Yin energy postures for this style of yoga. Some common poses include Pigeon Pose (for outer hips and thighs), Dragon Pose (a deep lunge for the legs and pelvis) and a Reclining Twist Pose (for the low back). Rather than flowing from pose to pose, the practitioner holds each pose for at least five minutes to delve into the connective tissues for the intended release. Yin Yoga truly has a deep healing component. And although there is a relaxing nature to the practice, there also can be a level of discomfort due to the specific postures used to experience release in the connective tissues and joints in your back, neck, and shoulders. The overall result, though, is physical, energetic, and emotional release that contributes to improved well-being. If you're a highly active or athletic person or someone that likes to take physical and emotional challenges, then Yin Yoga may just be for you. On one level, Yin Yoga brings relief to an over-taxed body. On a deeper level, a consistent Yin Yoga practice may result in your ability to sustain challenging life and emotional situations. It can ultimately produce a shift and change in the body and mind that is quite profound to the practitioner.