Yin & Restorative Yoga
Yin Yoga class is a meditative practice that consists of floor postures held passively for extended periods of time (1-5 minutes). The practice of surrender opens the body and helps students cultivate the ability to observe and stay with sensation.Suitable for all levels of practitioners.
Yin Yoga is a quiet and simple practice, but not necessarily an easy practice. Yin yoga works deeply into our body.
It targets our deepest tissues of the body, our connective tissues — ligaments, joints, bones, and the deep fascia networks of the body — rather than the muscles.
Energetically, yin yoga improves the energy flow, enhancing the flow of chi in the organs. To be healthy, we need healthy organs as well as healthy muscles.
Origins and History
Holding stretches for long periods of time and other techniques closely related to Yin Yoga has been practised for centuries in China and Taiwan as part of the Daoist Yoga, which is sometimes known as Dao yin. Taoist priests taught this knowledge, along with breathing techniques, to Kung Fu practitioners beginning 2000 years ago. Yin Yoga as we know it today was founded in the 1970s by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Yin style yoga has become popular due in large part to the widespread teaching activities of Yin Yoga teachers and developers Paul Grilley, Sarah Powers and Bernie Clark.
Philosophy and Principles
Yin and Yang
Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. Other yin-yang polarities include cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.
In the body, the relatively stiff connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia) is yin, while the more mobile and pliable muscles and blood are yang.
Yin Yoga works on the Yin tissues – also known as the connective tissues. Connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger—which is exactly what you want. Remember the principle of exercise is to stress the tissue so the body will respond by strengthening it.
Note: Yin Yoga requires the muscles to relax around the connective tissue in order to get a stretch, so not all yoga poses can be done safely or effectively when practicing Yin style. Thus Yin asanas have different names
Yin Yoga poses are also designed to improve the flow of qi, the subtle energy said in Chinese medicine to run through the meridian pathways of the body. It is suggested that these meridians are created by our connective tissue. Improved flow of qi is hypothesized to improve organ health, immunity, and emotional well-being.
Four Main Principles
When practicing Yin Yoga these principles should be employed:
1) “Find an appropriate edge”: Move slowly and gently into the pose, and looks for an appropriate amount of intensity, never stretch so far as to cause pain;
2) Stillness: consciously try to release into the pose, and to remain still, without shifting position;
3) Hold the position: beginners hold for 1-3 minutes, advanced hold for five minutes or more.
4) Release with care.
The practice of yin today
A class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body—the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues. In a Yin Yoga class, the poses are held for up to five minutes and possibly longer. Yin yoga is almost entirely passive, although some Yin asanas contain some Yang elements. During the asanas, muscles are relaxed to avoid muscle spasm, which could result from engaging muscles for long periods.
Benefits of a regular practice
- Increase circulation and improves flexibility
- Stillness: Calms and balances the mind and body
- Stress and anxiety reduction
- Fascial release
- Deeper relaxation
- Greater joint mobility
- Meridian stimulation brings balance to the organs
The idea of restorative yoga is to promote deep relaxation while holding the poses for longer periods of time, with the help of props.
The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, promoting relaxation, which helps balance and heal the body. This practice is great to balance an active yoga schedule or to give yourself a break when you feel under the weather.
Restorative Yoga balances a fast lifestyle and has an enormous capacity to heal physical and mental symptoms that are stress related
Origins & History
Restorative Yoga is derived from a yoga style that was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar is widely regarded as one of the greatest yoga masters in the world. Iyengar has been practicing yoga for over 60 years.
Iyengar’s vast teaching experience showed him how pain or injury could sometimes happen when you strain too hard in a pose. He developed and adapted asanas using props and modifications so that a student could practice without pain or strain. Upon exploring these adapted poses more, it has been seen that they also help people recover from illness or other existing injuries.
Judith Lasater, a student of Iyengar, popularised restorative yoga in the US in the 1970’s.
Philosophy and Principles
The main philosophy of Restorative Yoga is that by relaxing in poses, with the aid of props, without strain or pain, we can achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation.
Our parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated when we relax into poses, which promotes a relaxation response and reduces stress in our bodies. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for slowing your heart rate and breath and increasing blood flow to your vital organs, among other things.
The goal is to combat the physical and mental effects of everyday stress and ease common ailments such as headaches, backaches, anxiety, and insomnia with the use of restful poses and deep breathing techniques.
A principle of note includes cultivating the habit of attention. The mind should always focus on the breath. When you notice your mind wandering bring it back to the breath. Focus on where and how you hold tension and use the breath to release the tension. Breathe into the area identified and on the exhale release the tension.
Restorative Practice Today
Restorative yoga classes are usually very relaxing and slow paced. Don’t come prepared for a workout. A restorative class is about rejuvenation and renewal. The lights may be dimmed, with music playing and plenty of socks present! Props, like blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps: are used so that you are in your pose comfortably. You will then hold the pose for an extended period of time.
When you are practicing restorative yoga, you will feel a sense of motionlessness and shapelessness, and this can lead you to feel some emotional discomfort and vulnerability. Stay with the breath and allow it to pass. Many yoga instructors include some restorative poses at the end of their normal active routine.
- Enhances flexibility
• Deeply relaxes the body
• Stills the mind
• Improves capacity for healing and balancing
• Balances the nervous and immune system
• Boosts immunity
• Enhances your mood