Yin Yoga: Life in the Slow Lane

Posted by in Paths Of Yoga

Yin yoga is not power vinyasa. It’s not fast, sweaty, or based in any thousand plus year old lineage. It’s new, like from the 70s new, slow, chilled and it’s getting more and more popular by the minute.

From Wikipedia: “Its teaching in the Western world, beginning in the late 1970s, was founded by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Yin yoga is now being taught across North America and in Europe, due in large part to the teaching activities of Yin yoga teachers and developers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers.”

It’s part of a cluster of slow-paced yoga practices, or “slow yoga arts”, along with restorative and anything that has you sitting for long periods like bhakti and some kundalini.

Yin is great for people who are not flexible, but it’s still not a beginner’s yoga, since you need a pretty tuned in level of body awareness to practice as well as some modicum of ability in focus and meditation. It’s a great way to prevent injuries and to help heal from surgeries.

A typical class will have students go through a brief warm up (not a sweaty one, just swaying and shaking off the dust type stuff), then each posture is held for 3-5 minutes. There are two ways to hold these postures: either you go in and stay for the full five minutes, mentally working through any resistance in the body with your mind and breath, or you can break it up into variations within the posture that total five minutes. Always start at 50% and work up to your max. You are working with your edge, not going whole hog into injury mode.

This type of long-hold, slow movement, works with the connective tissues like fascia and ligaments and they open like taffy: slowly. Even though they are made up of the same stuff as muscles, they take more time to loosen up, but the good news is that any amount of effort exerted into lengthening these tissues will last as long as you do it – so great news for the inflexible tribe, this could help build flexibility…in a way. It will at least make you more loosey goosey.

Some popular postures in yin are: deep squats (crouching tiger), deep lunges (dragon/gecko), forward folds (wide leg fold/frog/half dragonfly), backbends (supported bridge/fish) and savasana. In most classes, only 5 poses max will be taught.

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Yang (pronounced: “yawn”) is anything fast and tough like Ashtanga or a job in finance. Our world is very yang; the internet is yang. Yin is the balance to that, it’s the slow moving, chilled out, couching that needs to be done. The turning off, the tuning in. That’s what makes it hard for beginners, because it’s more about creating space than filling it and it can be hard to practice something so simple and slow and without structure. In yin, there isn’t even a breathing technique, just try to keep it light, deep and natural. It’s practiced in the afternoon and at night when you are already warmed up. Yang is a way to warm you up in the morning when you wanna get moving.

The longer I practice, the more I am drawn to this type of yoga. It’s extremely explorative internally. Yin can make people cry, like all hip openers can. There is an emotional release around the joints, when you start to open the tricky spots in the hips. It’s also a way to protect your mobility into your older years. Yin will help you take that walking tour of China in your 60s. It’ll keep you surfing injury free well into your twilight.

It’s also hella popular these days so don’t be surprised if you see it on most studio schedules. And please, try it out. You won’t regret it. Sometimes when you wanna go fast, you have to move slow.

**featured photo by Volkan Olmez