What is yin yoga and why practise it?
Physically the primary tissue we are addressing in yin is connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, bones and fascia. Connective tissue plays a large roles in our long-term mobility. It benefits from slow gentle traction over a longer period of time. It behaves very differently than muscle tissue. A yang practise involves quick, dynamic, stimulating postures with shorter holds while yin involves slow, static, calming postures with longer holds ranging from 1-10 min. Most yin practises have 3-5 min holds.
Mentally the longer posture and times of stillness are wonderful to cultivate mindfulness and meditate.
Some principles for yin yoga are:
Come to an appropriate depth for your body in the pose. This means you have sensation of gentle stretching but not pain. Low level discomfort is ok but if you are wishing the pose would end soon because you are so uncomfortable you have probably gone to far and could benefit from a lighter variation or more props. No sharp, electric shooting pain. We consciously soften muscles away from bone.
Resolve to stay still. The therapeutic benefit for connective tissue requires passive slow gentle traction. Lengthening tissues is an integral part of what makes our yin yoga practice so impactful. Physically bouncing, quick or unnecessary movement can stress and damage the connective tissue we are working on. Mentally practising any mindfulness techniques that help keep you in the present moment and help to calm overly stimulated minds.
Stay a while. The length of time is a key factor in benefitting connective tissue. Our tissues do have a protective mechanism that helps us stay aware of how much stress is too much, this will present itself by muscles starting to tighten and contract. Sometimes the depth of a pose can be suitable at the beginning but part way through if your muscles starts to contact it is asking to to come out of the posture and find a more appropriate version. The time also allows for a wonderful opportunity to see thoughts rise and change in the mediation practise.
Exit the posture slowly and create new movement or counter movement. Moving quickly increasing the change of damaging tissue as they are not as protected and stable. Incorporating gentle movement or counter movement after the pose encourages blood flow.
Always pay close attention to the signals your body is communicating to you as you practice. It is also best to check with your Doctor if yin yoga is suitable for you.