An introduction to the history and benefits of Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is a yoga style which is increasing tremendously in popularity. During Yin Yoga practice the poses are held for longer periods of time ranging from 3 to 5 minutes or longer. When you hold a pose for a longer period of time, you stretch the deeper body tissues such as the tendons, fascia, ligaments and other connective tissues. This will increase overall flexibility and improve circulation in the joints and other tissues.
During Yin Yoga, specific asana sequences are used to stimulate particular energy channels or nadis. The focus during the practice is inwards and meditative and the teacher can choose to guide the students into an even deeper meditative state by giving ‘Dharma talks’. These are monologues about the body, the poses or the nadis. The teacher can also share spiritual stories or even his own experience and wisdom.
Yin and Yang
When you want to understand Yin Yoga you have to understand the 2 concepts of “Yin” and “Yang”. They are two opposite forces in nature. They are not only present in the nature around us, but they are also present in our own body and mind. Yin stands for slow, soft, passive and cold. It is associated to water, earth, moon, femininity and night. Yang on the other hand stands for fast, hard, active and hot. It is associated with fire, sun, masculinity and daytime. Even though the two concepts are opposites, they complement each other and should be in balance and harmony. In yoga we see this difference in the practice of asanas. Some yoga poses are passive and activate Yin whereas other poses are more dynamic and active, activating Yang qualities.
History of Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is not a new practice but has his roots in ancient yoga practice. This yoga style was introduced in the West in the late 1970’s by Paulie Zink, a martial arts champion and Taoist Yoga teacher. He created ‘Yin and Yang’ yoga classes, combining asanas and disciplines from Hatha Yoga, Taoist Yoga and other disciplines he developed himself. This style was known as ‘Yin Yoga’. Paul Grilley, a disciple of Zink, adjusted Yin Yoga a little bit, using his knowledge of anatomy and Chinese Medicine. A student of Grilley, Sarah Powers, evolved Yin Yoga even further. She used her knowledge of meridian systems and made Yin Yoga sequences to stimulate the energy channels and to bring the focus more on the breath.
In Zink’s original Yin Yoga there is both activity and passiveness. It offers a combination between Yin and Yang. Grilley and Powers developed the yoga style and gave more importance to the passive part. Most poses are sitting or lying poses with a long hold. This is the Yin Yoga as known today.
Yin Yoga VS Hatha Yoga
Yin Yoga shares some similarities with Hatha Yoga but also has some significant differences. Because the asanas look alike, but have different alignment and benefits, the names of the asanas can differ.
Hatha Yoga is a combination of Yin and Yang: some poses help to warm up and activate the body and body systems whereas others aim to relax and calm down the body and the mind. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to learn to control the mind by controlling the body. Yin Yoga however only tries to relax and cool down and does not include Yang. The purpose is to relax completely into the pose. The longer you hold a pose, the more you can let go of tensions. Therefore in Yin Yoga you work more on the deeper tissues such as the tendons, fascia and connective tissues. Both yoga styles aim to create inner peace and a meditative state of mind, however in a different approach.
About the Author
Ram is Founding Director of the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams India and The Netherlands. Within the last 10 years, the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams have become renowned internationally for their professional yoga teacher training courses in India and Europe, and have up to present trained over 4000 yoga teachers from all over the world. Ram is also the lead teacher of the 50 hour Yin Yoga teacher training course that takes place twice a year in the Netherlands, as well as the Online Yin Yoga training.