By Kathryn Boger, RYT, The Yoga Studio of Blackstone River Valley
Step into a Yin Yoga class and you may wonder why everyone is just lying around on the floor. Hold a Yin Yoga pose for a minute and you will realize that this quiet practice works at a profound level. Yin Yoga postures provide a safe way to explore into deep physical and energetic openings in the body.
On a physical level, Yin Yoga goes beyond the muscles, to gently stretch the connective tissues; including ligaments, tendons, and fascia. The stimulation of connective tissue helps to keep the joints healthy and to improve fluidity of movement. On an energetic level, Yin postures stimulate the meridians in the body. The meridians (a term that comes from ancient Chinese medicine) represent a kind of map of the way energy flows through the body. A well-designed Yin Yoga class will help a student release deeply held tension, remove energy blockages, and restore a calm and balanced nervous system. The deeply relaxing effects of Yin Yoga make it an excellent practice for the end of a hectic day.
Most styles of Hatha Yoga emphasize an ideal form and teach alignment practices to help a student approximate that form in their own body. In Yin Yoga, there is no ideal form. Students are taught to pay attention to sensations arising in the area of the body that is being opened and then given the freedom to experiment with the form to enhance those sensations. Postures are held for three to five minutes; yoga props are often used to hold the postures comfortably. You do not have to be in great physical shape to get started. You do not even have to be particularly flexible. The postures are relatively easy to do. For these reasons, Yin Yoga is a very accessible practice for most people.
Yin Yoga was developed by Paulie Zink, and has been most widely disseminated in the West by his student, Paul Grilley. This system of Yoga is based on the spiritual/wisdom traditions of Taoism, Yoga, and the Taoist practice of Chi Kung (or Qigong).