Origin of Yin Yoga
Yin yoga was originated in China, developed by Paulie Zink, after being trained in Kung-fu. He incorporated Hatha yoga essentials, which he had practiced as a teenager, and form this form yoga, now known as Yin Yoga.
What is Yin Yoga
Yin postures are primarily passive in nature and held anywhere from one minute to well over five minutes in order to target the body’s connective tissues, rather than muscle groups. Compared with more familiar “yang” practices (i.e., more active practices such as hatha, flow, and power-style classes, which typically focus on dynamic movement of both breath and body), yin classes have a much slower pace. Holding yin postures does often require a degree of physical effort, but it’s the mental work of long holds that is often the real challenge.
What are the general benefits of Yin Yoga
From a physical standpoint, yin postures are all about release. Postures and breathwork typically focus on manipulating the fascia—the deep connective tissues that fit like a sleeve around muscle groups and individual muscles.
Connective tissues such as tendons (which connect muscles to bones and help with skeletal movement) and ligaments (which connect bones to each other and help with overall stability), are also a focus of Yin Yoga. Since these tissues work hard to support and stabilize muscles and joints, they inherently resist changes from dynamic physical exertion. However, connective tissues lose elasticity if they are underused (which can happen if you have a mostly sedentary lifestyle) or as a natural byproduct of aging. This can present physically as stiffness, achy joints, or limited joint mobility.
By slowly loading various types of connective tissues with weight and maintaining long static holds, Yin Yoga aims to train muscular fascia to become more flexible and ligaments that support joints to become stronger. This creates space for our muscles to lengthen more in yang practices and our joints to safely enjoy an increased range of mobility during our daily movements.
And a regular yin practice might make it physically easier for us to sit comfortably for long periods of time—all the better for meditation!
Does alignment matter
The concept of alignment in Yin Yoga is different from the concept of alignment in yang yoga.
In yang yoga, alignment serves to keep you from overstretching, to direct strengthening and lengthening to specific areas of the body, and to avoid straining the ligaments of the joints. In a faster-paced yang class, addressing these concerns helps to avoid stressing or injuring the body.
Since Yin Yoga relies on gravity to support postures and targets some of the areas that yang alignment rules hope to protect (such as your ligaments), the rules are somewhat different.
For example, you may be instructed to relax your upper body completely, allowing the spine to round, in postures that you’re accustomed to maintaining a long spine in while hinging from the hips, like forward folds (say, baddha konasana, “bound angle pose”).
Additionally, some familiar postures are referred to by different names. Baddha konasana, for example, is called “butterfly” in yin. This distinction aims to prevent muscular engagement preconceptions that students may bring with them from their yang practice.