Why Yin Yoga might be worth a go?
Updated: Feb 12
Sore… Stiff… Anxious? Why Yin Yoga is good for these ailments.
Yin Yoga is often thought of as a ‘good’ stretch for the muscles. While you may walk away feeling like your muscles have had a good stretch, Yin Yoga is actually geared at stressing tissue – specifically connective tissue and yet it packs a much bigger punch than just a physical release. Yin yoga is also a guided class that offers a way to learn self-soothing and calming techniques – where you get to de-stress and reset. In fact, a recent study conducted by Winroth.D (2019) Acute Effects of Yin Yoga and Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety. Altern Integr Med 2019, Vol 8(2): 278, has shown that Yin yoga to significantly reduce level of reported state anxiety. And the best part of it all is that you do it laying down with minimal exertion, comforted by bolsters and props.
In a culture that seems focused on exertion, moving our bodies into a sweat and frenzy (which is a wonderful thing and I’m all for it in moderation) we also have this idea that it is our muscles that are stiff, yet often our stiffness is due to the fascia (a thin sheath that surrounds our musculature, think of it like shrink wrap over your muscles and joints) and connective tissue having become shortened due to lack of full range and mobility usage.
While our muscles respond beautifully to a contraction and release type of stretch and training, our connective tissues benefit and respond best to a steady, slow, static load. The body then kicks into gear, making them stronger and slightly longer – over time.
Yin Yoga primarily works towards increasing those plastic type tissues and non-malleable areas of the body like the lower spine, pelvis and hips. The poses in a yin class are quite different to that of a vinyasa yoga class. In Yin, the muscles are required to relax in order for the connective tissues to be affected. This is an essential point of difference – RELAX!!
Yin is done mostly on the ground, using a variety of props and supports. It encourages you to relax into a pose, which is held for about 3 minutes. This gives the body and the nervous system time to relax and release – amidst any surges of sensation or emotion. It is here, in this golden sweet spot of suspension, where the notion of non-striving surfaces and the real beauty and benefits of Yin Yoga lay.
There is nowhere to get to in a Yin pose! You sit, wait, watch, feel, release. Both physically and emotionally. You are given FULL permission to do nothing but receive – and in a world that promotes ‘busy’, encourages comparison and slathers you with guilt if you take time out, I know it can be a little daunting to think about becoming still in a Yin class.
As a person who has long suffered with intense anxiety, Yin has been my saviour. Quite naturally the anxious seek to be busy, strive for more – and often their anxiety gives them an energy level that allows them to be seen as high functioning achievers. Yet under the surface – they are burning out. Therefore, to take a Yin class and be still can be affronting to what a person with anxiety thinks and believes will be good for them.
I could go on and tell you how studies have shown Yin to reduce the stress response, reduces depression, turns off the flight-fight response, reduces blood pressure, heart disease and so on and so on. But if I’m to be brutally blunt here, no amount of research and ‘they say so’s’ will ever replace your own experience. I am a converted devotee of Yin yoga – both for its physical release on my body (and Lord knows I have a plethora of injuries which should have rendered me fairly useless) and for the relaxation and emotional release it provides me.
A tense emotive state and mind equals a tense body. If you have either one, then with a loving heart may I invite you along to one of our Yin classes to just see what unfolds for you!
Citation: Winroth D, Hassmen P, Stevens CJ (2019) Acute Effects of Yin Yoga and Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety. Altern Integr Med 8: 278.