I have been writing a lot about Restorative Yoga lately. It’s a practice that has many incredible benefits. However, there are also countless Yin Yoga benefits as well. Yin and Restorative Yoga have become my favorite types of yoga and after hearing about their amazing benefits, it will be easy for you to see why.
Yin Yoga is a passive type of yoga used to gain flexibility and reduce stress. The poses are held for an extended amount of time. Beginners can hold poses for up to 45-seconds, but more advanced practitioners can hold poses usually 2-5 minutes, sometimes longer. It applies moderate stress to the connective tissues and increases the circulation of joints.
In this post, I will cover the history, philosophy, and benefits of Yin Yoga. Specific benefits of ten poses, my favorite Yin resource and a video of the Yin Yoga practice from Yoga with Cassandra is also included.
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Yin Yoga History and Philosophy
There are two basic types of yoga, yin and yang. Yang Yoga works our muscles and Yin Yoga works our ligaments, joints, and bones. In today’s yoga culture we mainly focus on the yang. In Vinyasa, Hatha, Power, Ashtanga, etc. the main focus is our muscles. But, in order to have a balanced practice and to avoid injury, we should also be practicing Yin Yoga.
Yin Yoga is thought by some to be the oldest form of Hatha Yoga. The roots of Yin Yoga are in India and China. Ancient yoga practitioners sat in poses similar to Yin poses during their meditation. In addition to this, thousands of years ago Kung Fu practitioners were taught to hold poses for an extended amount of time while practicing varying breathing techniques.
Yin Yoga in the Western World
Yin Yoga was brought to the Western world in the 1970s by Paul Grilley. His original form of Yin Yoga was called Daoist Yoga, after changing the practice to help the body energetically it became what we know of as Yin Yoga today.
Paul is also seen in the yoga community as an expert on anatomy. His DVD, Anatomy of Yoga with Paul Grilley, was a requirement for me during my yoga teacher training. If you want to learn more about the anatomy of the body and how it is affected by yoga I would highly recommend this DVD.
Sarah Powers was a student of Paul Grilley and helped him refine the practice. She is the one how ultimately came up with the name “Yin Yoga.”
Yin Yoga Benefits
There are many contraindications (including pregnancy) for yoga poses, which is why consulting your doctor before practicing yoga is essential. You should also have a certified yoga teacher to learn and practice under.
Yin Yoga benefits are wide-ranging. It can be extremely helpful in having a balanced yoga practice.
- improves range of motion
- improves flexibility
- decreases stress
- lengthens muscles
- reduces adhesions
- hydrates tissues and muscles
- thickens and strengthens ligaments
- lubricates joints
- hydrates skin
- reduces degeneration of tissues
- normalizes curvature of the spine
- increases the mobility of joints
- reduces osteopenia and osteoporosis
- helps to prevent fusion of joints
- calms the nervous system
- increases the level of GABA (help’s the body respond to stress)
- balances prana
- slows the mind
- grounds us
- gives us a more meditative practice
My History with Yin
I first went to a Yin Yoga class in Duluth. Because I was staying for a week and wanted to do as much yoga as possible, I purchased an unlimited pass at a local studio. There were several classes offered a day, but I knew that doing two “yang” classes each day would run me down. So I tried the Yin Yoga class. I could tell immediately that it was something that was missing from my yoga practice. I was hooked. After the class, I felt amazing and knew that I would continue to learn about and practice this type of yoga.
So I tried the Yin Yoga class. I could tell immediately that it was something that was missing from my yoga practice. I was hooked. After the class, I felt amazing and knew that I would continue to learn about and practice this type of yoga.
After just one time of practicing, I could feel the Yin Yoga benefits. But once I started a regular practice, those benefits increased dramatically. The biggest benefit I feel is the release of tension knots in my upper back and shoulders.
A Yin Yoga Resource
To help me with my Yin Yoga practice I purchased the book The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. I had researched a ton before deciding on this book.
I was looking for a book that had:
- good reviews
The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga had all of these things. It quickly became one of my favorite yoga books and a book that I recommend to all of my students. Sarah Powers, whom I mentioned earlier in the history of Yin Yoga, wrote the forward of the book and sings its praises.
My favorite part of the book is the Yin Yoga Flows section. There are flows for beginners, spines, hips, legs, whole body, etc. The flow that has helped me the most is “A Flow for the Shoulders, Arms, and Wrists.” The knots that I frequently get in my shoulders and upper back disappear when I do this flow.
If you are interested in Yin Yoga I would highly recommend getting a copy of the book.
10 Yin Yoga Poses and their Specific Benefits
While the practice of Yin Yoga as a whole has many benefits, each pose has specific benefits as well.
- Anahatasana (melting heart): opens the shoulders, stretches the upper and middle back
- Butterfly: stretches the lower back, benefits kidneys, prostate gland, and regulates periods
- Half Butterfly: stretches the lower back, good for digestion, benefits the liver, kidneys, and spine
- Camel: stretches the back and hip flexors, opens the top of the thighs, ankles, and shoulders, improves posture
- Child’s Pose: aids digestion, reduces stress
- Dangling: stretches the lower spine, hamstrings, quadriceps, massages the abdominal organs, relieves menstrual cramps, slows heart rate
- Deer: helps to rotate hips, aids digestion, helpful during menopause and pregnancy, can be beneficial for those with high blood pressure and asthma
- Dragon: stretches hips, groin, quadriceps, can be beneficial for sciatica
- Frog: opens groins, aids digestions, relieves menstrual cramps
- Happy Baby: opens hips, relieves pressure from SI joints
Yin Yoga Video
I would highly recommend giving this Yin Yoga for Upper Back Knots video a try. Yoga with Kassandra is one of my favorite YouTube channels.
Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga are often confused. People tend to talk about them as if they are interchangeable. However, they are very different practices. Read my post-Yin Restorative Yoga: What is the Difference? to help you understand the differences from these yoga practices.