“You need to experience this to really know what Yin Yoga is all about. After you have experienced it, even just once, you will realize that you have been doing only half of the asana practice.”
― Bernie Clark, YinSights
In my eight years as a yoga student, I have tried almost every style you can find: Vinyasa, Kundalini, Jivamukti, Moksha, Bikram, Anusara, and Iyengar, to name a few. I have learned and grown from each style, but the one I truly fell in love with was Yin Yoga.
The name Yin Yoga can be understood from the Yin Yang sign. Yin represents the expansive, cool, feminine energy. Contrast this with Yang energy, which is active and fiery and characterizes more physical forms of yoga, such as Vinyasa.
In a Yang style class, we flow through a series of physical postures, building heat and strength in our bodies and using our breath to help carry us from pose to pose. We work our muscles as we flow and twist and balance and invert.
A Yin yoga class looks much different. There is no flow. Instead, we settle into specific poses, which are generally held anywhere from 2-10 minutes. Rather than working our muscles, Yin focuses on releasing the connective tissue in the body, which allows for a much deeper opening. True Yin requires you to surrender into the pose.
What you do to your body, you do to your mind. Yin Yoga can offer you an expansion – not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. I like to think of a Yin class like a deep internal spring cleaning. It helps to open up the places that may be tight or stuck, and it allows you to release stagnant energy. Yoga teaches that emotions are held in the body, so when we stretch our tight places, like our hips and spine, we help to release negative emotions from the body.
I love Yin because of the feeling of release it gives me. It forces me to be alone with my breath. While the stretches may feel very intense, the aftermath is one of peace and expansion. It can be easier to distract your self in a Yang class because there is constant movement, but with Yin, it is just you, your breath, and the sensations that arise.
As Bernie Clarke pointed out in the opening quote, Yin needs to be experienced to be understood. If you are looking to open up on a multitude of levels, I highly recommend that you give my favorite style of yoga a try.
Kate Horodyski is a freelance writer and traveler based in Halifax, Canada. You can find her on Instagram at @myspiritualroadtrip.
Image: Creative Commons user ejmc (no changes made.)