Yin Yoga, a brief introduction
“We do not use our body to get into a pose, we use the pose to get into our body”
~ Bernie Clark
Yin Yoga is distinguished from other styles of yoga mainly from the way the asanas (yoga poses) are performed and the targeted areas. Yin Yoga asanas target connective tissues, which need to be exercised in Yin manner in order to maintain health of the tissues. Exercising the tissues in Yin manner refers to the way Yin asanas are performed, which relies on body weight and gravity (applying passive traction). Due to the characteristics of connective tissues, the asanas in this style of yoga need to be hold in longer time to allow for the connective tissues to respond to the passive traction. In addition, Yin yoga asanas are also to be performed in relaxed manner. Any muscle contraction would prevent us to reach deeper into the articulations because muscle contractions were actually designed to protect internal organs as well as articulations.
Referring to the Daoist philosophy of opposite Yin-Yang, Yin yoga practise is more static, cooling and quiet, compared to its counter-part Yang asanas, which are more dynamic, working on muscle flexibility and strengths. Under the Yin-Yang frame, Yin asanas mostly targets lower part of the body, which is the Yin part of the body. Yin yoga comprises only part of the Yoga practice, or currently, the missing part.
It was discovered that energy lines known as meridian or pranas in Eastern medicine, actually lie in the connective tissues. This brings another benefit from the practice, which is to improve the meridian and in turn, improve health of vital organs such as kidneys, liver, heart and lung.
Yin Yoga is also very close to meditation practice. The long time held asanas give opportunity to observe what is happening in the mind and body, to withdraw all the senses within, the practice of patyahara, one of the eight limbs as being taught in the celebrated Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Stillness of the body is also supportive to reach certain level of stillness in the mind and the practice brings qualities of patience, surrender, acceptance and gratitude to the mind.
It is with this approach to yoga asanas, one begins to experience and then comprehends the union between body, mind and breath. Practised mindfully, yin yoga asanas give ample of opportunities to observe how the mind reacts to physical sensations (as with anything else in life) with likes and dislikes. This would in turn, allow for the mind to observe without being agitated. When the mind is relaxed, the body would also be able to open, lengthen the tissues. When the mind is tense, especially in response to the physical sensations during asanas, the body would accordingly become very tense, contracting various muscles unnecessarily. As both body and mind are tense, the breath would follow suit, it would be short and ragged, very uneasy.
After a while, observing how the body and mind react to each other would tend to become a habit. With it, one gains better understanding of what is happening, especially at subconscious level, simply by observing the state of our body and breath at any given time. This usually provides many insights to our decision making process and also takes care of any stresses to the mind, before they build up.
It is only this understanding of mind and body that makes yoga practice really matters.