What Is Yin Yoga? Yin Yoga Benefits & Poses

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Among the different styles of yoga, Yin Yoga has a special place because it is considerably newer. It’s based on the older teachings and traditions, yes, but the execution and goals differ somewhat. Those who enjoy mainstream yoga will undoubtedly also get a lot out of this particular practice. What is Yin Yoga? Yin Yoga benefits and poses are definitely something worth delving into.

I got into yoga early, left it for some years, and made my way back (albeit never as intense as in the beginning). Nowadays it’s an on-and-off thing for me. I think that if I wasn’t relatively healthy and fit through other means, I would feel more pressure to continue. I will get back at it someday, but right now it is not as high on my list of priorities.

Nevertheless, that’s just me and my experiences. The advantages and benefits of Yin Yoga are many, and we will talk about some of them now. As opposed to other forms of more active yoga, this one has a stillness about it that is endearing.

What Is Yin Yoga? Yin Yoga Explained

Woman laying on a mat doing yoga

Woman in childs pose. 

Yin Yoga is also known as “Yin and Yang Yoga”. It‘s a form of yoga first introduced to the West by Paulie Zink, a teacher and martial artist, in the 1970s. Yin Yoga is a style which effectively blends Taoist practices with the “mainstream” Hatha Yoga, and combines it with poses and teachings which Zink himself has brought to light.

Some consider Yin Yoga to be a side dish of sorts. A complementary activity that goes with the more active forms and styles of yoga, also known as Yang Yoga. Others consider it to be a standalone practice; a style which is standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were, and which advances the technique and wellbeing of those who engage in it. More than anything, it probably depends on your familiarity and experience with other styles.

I can definitely see how Yin Yoga evolved into a standalone practice, particularly for those who use it as a pre-meditation activity. It is a more meditative type of yoga in nature, and it allows you to reflect and experience the stillness while your energy courses and your body’s full of life. It’s something else, for sure, and compared to an “ordinary” yoga class, the flow is noticeably different.

Plainly put, the goal of this kind of yoga is to open your chakras and light up those meridians. Those paths of energy are gently manipulated, with the help of the various poses and postures which Yin Yoga teaches. While it’s true that healthy and beneficial energy-channeling is basically part of any type of yoga, Yin Yoga remains different.

Yin Yoga For Beginners

Right off the bat, I will say that Yin Yoga can be easy to get into. Now, if you have a background in Hatha Yoga, and are familiar with sequences and breathing techniques, there is a good chance you will be able to get comfortable with it despite the change in pace. Also, those who are already practicing yoga or who are familiar with it may possess increased flexibility and stamina, which are always big helpers.

As for absolute beginners, it can still be easy to grasp (if not applicable). You get into an appropriate pose, maintain it, and breathe. This is the essence of the practice. While Yang Yoga styles use more force and are more active, Yin Yoga is almost passive by comparison, with advanced users sometimes staying in poses for long minutes at a time. This can be seen by some as being easier, but it’s not; simpler, perhaps, but not necessarily easier.

Yang Yoga spends a few breaths in each pose, whereas Yin Yoga is about feeling out that pose and paying closer attention to the way in which it interacts with our body, our nerves, and our feelings. It provides space and time for guidance since less force is used. The mild pressure which one applies to the body during a Yin Yoga session is precisely that – mild; as such, it gives way for other sensations and experiences to present themselves and come to the foreground. 

Yin Yoga Benefits For Your Body And Mind

Woman with eyes closed and hair blowing.

Relaxed woman.

Look, yoga in and of itself is an amazing practice. Earlier, I mentioned not engaging in it as much as I have in the past. Regardless of my current situation, I can safely say that no matter your style, there are many great things to be had. Many benefits of Yin Yoga can also be attributed to ordinary Yang Yoga practices, although there are some differences.

Because of the still and meditative nature of Yin Yoga, the effects and benefits could be more difficult to spot at a glance. Here are a few of those benefits which Yin Yoga brings to the table. Some are based on my own experience, others on friends and colleagues’ experiences.

  • More noticeable afterglow. Something which I find I feel after meditation, not surprisingly, is also something I feel after Yin Yoga. This kind of low-key post-orgasmic feeling of elation. It may last, it may not – that depends on what you do with that vibe. But it’s definitely there, for me anyway.
  • A soft landing. If you are not used to meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, and/or physical movements of that nature – this could be a great springboard to all of the above. As far as beginners of concerned, Yin Yoga instructors will often focus less on the precision of the pose, and more on the mental/emotional side of things. Your mileage may vary, depending on your teacher.
  • Flexibility. I mean this in several ways. First off, literally – the flexibility of the body, which can be improved. Second, there is the flexibility of being able to practice Yin Yoga just about anywhere and everywhere. The emphasis is on stillness and breath, so basically there is nothing that stops you from getting into a pose and holding it. Third, there is a kind of temporal flexibility that I have found to be more closely associated with Yin Yoga as opposed to Yang styles.
  • A reduction of stress and anxiety. This is very much related to that “afterglow” I spoke of. I don’t think I’m alone here when I say that yoga of any kind can help you melt stress and anxiety away. But this one is extra special because it is about being more aligned with your sensations at stillness, rather than when you are active. I don’t know if I can properly articulate it, but Yin Yoga manages to approach stress and anxiety from a different angle, so the results differ accordingly.

3 Yin Yoga Poses To Try Today

Woman doing knees to chest pose.

Knees to chest yoga pose. 

This style of yoga is mostly conducted on the floor, in sitting or lying positions. Holding a pose for a longer amount of time is what this yoga is about. It allows you to find focus through stillness, and alignment through breath. Things tend to quiet down and even melt away once you are more acquainted with staying still and being mindful. Here are 3 Yin Yoga poses you can try out today.

  • Meditation Seat. A classic which remains a classic for a good reason. Some poses never go out of style, and this is definitely one of them. Half or even quarter lotus position is fine for this pose. Mind your breath, pay attention to your feelings, and allow yourself to be in the moment to the best of your ability. 
  • Knees To Chest Pose. Another seriously popular pose which is present in different forms of yoga. Although the idea is to stay still, I can’t help but fall back to older habits of rocking side-to-side when I am in this pose. It’s one of the most relaxing positions there are, and it allows to get intimately close with yourself. When held for longer amounts of time and in stillness, it produces wonderful sensations.
  • Corpse Pose. Seemingly, not very yoga-ish, right? Wrong! Just lying down might seem like it’s nothing, when in fact it can be a way to take in everything. A corpse is a dead body, a vessel bereft of its vital spiritual force. The Tao teaches that only by emptying ourselves can we remain full; likewise, by lying down and keeping still, we’re able to remain right-side-up and continue moving

Conclusion

I absolutely adore the fact that more people are living with yoga, and I would love it to become a more significant part of my life again. I am planning on it since it is a practice that is not easily left behind. The benefits of yoga, and Yin Yoga, in particular, are debatable (obviously). However, what cannot be debated is the way that it makes me feel, inside and out. And I can tell you that yoga, and its sacred origins, have had a profound effect on me and the way that I perceive my mind, body, and spirit, and the relationship between them.

Now, you don’t need to go whole-hog on this. You can practice yoga and Yin Yoga as a way to improve health and wellness, without anything attached to it. Posing, breathing, flow – these are some staples of yogic disciplines, but each style may place an emphasis on different techniques or ways of practicing and connecting.

Many studios and establishments all over the country offer Yin Yoga. Its popularity is rising, and I think that as a way to calm the body and mind, and as a kind of intro to meditation, it has a ton of potential and offers many benefits. Again, it isn’t about one style being better than the other. It’s about yourself, and where you want to go in this life.

Yin Yoga is calling out to us all, saying: take a break, live better. Learn to empty yourself in fullness. Practice the art of surrender and submission. You are the one who has the power, and it is in subtle and delicate action that peace, balance, and humility can be safely acquired.