Yin Yoga has many specific and unique benefits. Here’s a list of the benefits you can get by practicing Yin Yoga.
Yin yoga is a relatively recent addition to the growing list of yoga styles that lead us down the path to health and peace.
Originating from Chinese Taoist practices, it came into its own and achieved a separate identity in the late 1970s. A reflective and meditative yogic practice, it involves long, deep stretches mostly done lying on the floor.
Although its poses look easy to practice, Yin yoga stretches can push your physical and mental limits and significantly enhance flexibility. Read ‘Yin Yoga what is it and who is it for’, to understand more about Yin yoga benefits.
The Essence of Yin Yoga
The name Yin is itself suggestive of the nature of the practice, the passiveness of the style and the Yin tissues it targets. Unlike other modes of yoga, which engage with and enhance the Yang structures in the body such as muscles.
Instead of moving vigorously into active asanas, like in Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga, you gently ease into Yin yoga stretches and hold the poses for extended periods of time.
Once you enter a pose, you allow your body to open up and ask you to go deeper. You should listen to your body and respect its limits.
Once you understand the limits, you surrender to the Yin Yoga flexibility of the pose and try to achieve stillness. You use a pose to get into your body and not the other way round.
In a world constantly on the go, we are deluged by a non-stop flow of sensory stimuli that can overload our mind. The demands of our work lives and the constant effort to find a balance between the personal and professional, also leave us drained.
The long Yin yoga stretches lead us inwards into our body and mind to immerse ourselves in stillness. They release deeply embedded stress stored in our tissues.
As you experience the Yin yoga flexibility imparted by the stretch, you surrender to the emotions and sensations that arise, you acknowledge and release them.
When you learn to surrender, you let go of the need to constantly be in control of your life.
You learn to accept change and the ups and downs that come with it. You become patient. All leading to the ultimate aim of yoga: better health, reduced stress and spiritual development.
Yin yoga teaches us the art of slowing down. The meditative quality of Yin yoga calms an overactive mind, helps let go of mental clutter, and brings clarity and peace.
Physical Yin Yoga Benefits
1. Increases Flexibility
Yin yoga benefits almost every part of your body, most importantly your musculoskeletal system. It improves the flexibility of your joints.
The long Yin yoga stretches stimulate and improve the flow of blood and nutrients to fascia, the integrating connective tissue that envelops our muscles, bones and organs.
As we age, our ligaments contract. Ligaments are dense and fibrous connective tissue that joins bone to bone and support a joint.
Yin yoga flexibility achieved through stretching gently lengthens ligaments and enables optimum range of motion in our joints.
Tendons are similar to ligaments in appearance, however they connect muscles to bone. With age, tendons lose flexibility and shorten.
Any strenuous movement can easily lead to injury. Yin yoga stretches put gentle pressure on tendons to improve flexibility and retain their range of motion.
2. Lubricates and Protects Joints
Our joints bear the weight of our body and support our skeletal system.
A synovial joint enables the maximum amount of movement in our body. The synovial fluid in the joint capsule lubricates the synovial joint.
Over time, with age and modern lifestyles, the synovial fluid can dry out and decrease range of motion. Yin Yoga benefits synovial joints by revitalising and replenishing the fluid.
3. Lowers Stress and Boosts Stamina
The belly breathing practiced in Yin yoga triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and impacts various parameters of the body.
It reduces stress, tension and blood pressure, and improves hormonal balance, immune function, digestion, sleep, etc.
Yin yoga benefits the musculoskeletal system the most. It improves flexibility, the flow of blood and nutrients to joints, and the range of motion.
Psychological Yin Yoga Benefits
1. Activates Energy Meridians
Yin yoga stretches activate energy pathways or meridians that run throughout our body. Chinese Daoists call the energy that flows through the channels, Qi or Chi while Indian yogis called it Prana. Qi is the life force that infuses all beings and animates life in the universe.
2. Restores Flow of Qi
Any imbalance in the flow of Qi affects our health. When the flow becomes blocked or stagnant, organs in the body degenerate. Yin yoga benefits the meridians by removing blockages and restoring flow.
3. Resolves Emotional Issues
The major meridians in the body correlate and connect to the main organs in the body. Each organ meridian corresponds to a particular emotion.
Yin yoga stretches targeting a particular organ and can resolve the stagnation of Qi around it and the physical and emotional issues connected to the meridian.
4. Controls Anger
The liver meridian governs kindness and anger. When the Qi in the meridian is blocked or stagnant, it can show up in problems from lower back issues, to towering rages.
You tend to make rash, impulsive decisions. Yin yoga postures such as the Dragonfly or Frog pose can remove the blockage, restore smooth flow and activate healing.
5. Reduces Overthinking
The stomach meridian is responsible for satisfaction in life. Greed, doubt, bloating, overthinking, anxiety, nervousness, etc can result when the Qi there is out of balance.
The Sphinx and Seal Yin yoga stretches can remedy the imbalance and restore equanimity.
6. Fosters Healthy Relationships
The small intestines’ meridian relates to feelings of being content and connected. It fosters healthy relationships, love and joy.
When the Qi is in disharmony in this meridian, feelings of desperation, sadness and depression can occur. Frog and Child poses can relieve stagnation of energy and bring back happiness.
What We Learn
Imbalances in the vital energy that flows through the intricate energy systems within our bodies can cause psychological problems. Yin yoga stretches enable a smooth flow of Qi and the resolution of emotional issues.
Spiritual Benefits of Yin Yoga
1. Develops Spiritual Insights
Alternative healing practitioners emphasize that when you heal the body, you heal the mind and the soul. Yin yoga stretches heal your body and by extension your mind and soul.
Over time, you realise that it develops your insight and spiritual wisdom, the qualities of mindfulness and the ability of being present in the moment.
2. Helps to Achieve Stillness
Yin yoga takes us beyond the gross level of physical to the more subtle facets of your being. It teaches you to listen to your body and achieve stillness in it.
When you are able to sit still, undistracted by body sensations, Yin yoga becomes a pathway to spiritual enlightenment. You develop the patience and inner peace required to progress to the higher levels of meditation.
3. Awareness of Impermanence
As you observe the physical sensations that arise during the practice of Yin yoga stretches, you also become aware of emotions that come to surface.
You learn to become an equanimous witness of your emotions – observing and releasing them. You are not attracted to the pleasure of an experience or feel aversion to the pain in another.
As the sensations and emotions gradually vanish with practice, you realise the impermanence of experiences and indeed of our very existence in this world.
Yin yoga nourishes you physically and psychologically, and directs you on the path to spiritual development. Yin yoga stretches are the stepping stones to inner peace and meditation.
Morning or Night? The Best Time to Practice Yin Yoga
There is no absolute rule about when to practice Yin yoga. It depends on what you would like to achieve with your practice.
When we practice in the morning, it would seem counterintuitive because our bodies are stiff in the beginning of the day. However, because our muscles have not yet woken up, the Yin yoga stretches go deep into our tissues without the muscles absorbing the stretch.
When you use Yin yoga for sleep, you improve the quality of your sleep. The practice of Yin yoga after a hectic day at office can calm you down and balance your Yang energies.
In the evening, your muscles would have warmed up and lengthened and the Yin yoga stretches may not really reach the deep tissues, but the psychological benefits you gain will far outweigh the physiological benefits. The benefits of Yin yoga can also be experienced after a restless or sleepless night.
There is no right or wrong about when to practice Yin yoga. It depends on what you wish to get out of your practice. Whatever be the time or aim of your practice, you only stand to reap the benefits.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your objective – physical or mental health, improving your range of motion, stilling your mind or finding peace – the regular practice of Yin yoga can certainly help you achieve it.
Sign up for a class and discover the incredible benefits of Yin yoga. Take it up as a practice in itself or as a therapeutic release amidst other high-octane physical activity.
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