Yin is the stable, unmoving hidden aspects of things, connective tissues & stillness; (Yang is the moving, changing, revealing aspects of things(muscles & movement).
For Yin purposes, connective tissues are the ligaments and fascia, and the word “muscle” refers muscles and their tendons in a Yang practice.
In Yin, we are on the edge of a pose focusing on connective tissues, and are still; in a Yang practice we strengthen our pose focusing on muscles and keep the energetic movement with us as we transition after few breaths. This is YIN in a nutshell—oh, but there is so much more.
I became interested in YIN because of the stillness (being that Kapha-Pitta person that I am) and the possibility of opening my hips more. I had been a Yoga student since the mid-90s and there was an underlying discouragement of NEVER being able to sit in Easy Pose (blankets, bolsters, blocks – height did not help) due to a structural imbalance in my right hip bone. I thought that if I was able to target the connective tissues in the joints, I might be able to sit more comfortably. After completing my 200hr. Kriya Hatha Yoga Cert. in Tucson, AZ, I continued to learn more about YIN and completed a 200 hr. YIN Cert. under Bif Mithoefer. The practice called to me as a compliment to my daily Yoga practice, another way to delve deeper into meditation and fascia/connective tissue expansion since the poses primarily focus on the area from the navel to knees.
The fundamental characteristic of Yin Yoga is holding poses from 2 to 5 minutes, typically and directing our focus and breath to the connective tissues that may be talking to us in a pose. Imagine our connective tissues are like taffy, pull strenuously for a few seconds not much happens, pull so hard it snaps; but, if gentle pressure is applied, eventually it opens and accepts the pull and becomes pliable.
Our muscles around the joints need to be relaxed in these poses for the tissues to accept the stress. Open your right hand and engage the fingers and hand, try to pull the middle finger.. now relax the fingers and palm the pull the middle finger and it is felt thru the palm. Or, imagine wearing orthodontia braces that are too tight and pull your teeth to bleeding, opposed to gentle pressure over a year and the mouth AND teeth adjust to the new positioning. This concept applies to Yin Yoga.
Yin and Yang yoga compliment one another .. Yin is a Dao yoga .. life of balance. Our bodies and mind need gentle pressure to lengthen and relieve stress and then, move against pressure and strengthen in order to hold in place.
- Every time you come into a pose, go only to the point where you feel a significant resistance in the body. Going further is ego.The essence here is to yield and allow your body to invite you to go deeper.
- Resolve to be still. Moving requires engaging muscles which are there to protect our joints. We want the effect of this deep stretch to sink into our joints.
- Stillness of breath—unforced yet steady and regular and even.
- Stillness of mind. Commit to stillness and allow whatever rises to be just what it is.
- …and finally hold, allowing the stillness of breath, body and mind to open the connective tissues and allow greater movement and openness in our lives.
This is the beginning of a Yin practice.