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We often talk about yoga as if it’s one singular practice. But it’s not. There are numerous different yoga styles, much like there are different styles of cardio and strength training. These styles range from Kundalini yoga to Hot yoga and more.
Understanding what each yoga style entails is important to finding, practicing, and even potentially teaching the one that resonates with you most. One style that you may enjoy is Yin yoga. If you’re not familiar with this yoga style, here’s what you should know.
Yin yoga is a slow and relaxing practice. Individual Yin yoga postures are held for extended periods, generally between three and five minutes each. This helps fully stretch the body’s connective tissues, elongating the fascia and ligaments.
Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink is credited with founding this yoga style. It was designed to increase awareness of our postures in both the body and mind. Specifically, it increases our awareness of our postures as they relate to the five energies of traditional Chinese medicine: Earth, water, fire, wood, and metal.
By holding a certain Yin pose, practitioners are thought to develop the energy that the pose is associated with. Some of these poses are inspired by certain animal characteristics. (For instance, one posture is similar to that of a frog.) Others are based on qualities of alchemical elements.
Yin yoga is similar to Restorative yoga in that it is slower-paced. But it’s also different from this style in that Yin yoga is all about optimizing energy flow along the body’s meridian. Restorative yoga is more about helping the body rest, heal, and recover.
The opposite of Yin Yoga is Yang yoga. Whereas Yin focuses on stretching connective tissue, Yang yoga concentrates more on stretching muscle. Yin yoga is also more passive while the Yang yoga style is more dynamic.
When compared to Hatha yoga, Yin yoga is more rooted in meditation. Hatha is more physical. It’s also more active, creating a different type of yoga session.
Yin yoga offers both physical and mental benefits. If flexibility is a concern, Yin yoga can help improve it. One way it does this is by easing muscle tightness. If you have tight hip flexors, for instance, certain Yin postures can help release them. If your upper back feels sore and tight, upper body Yin yoga poses can provide relief.
Mentally, Yin yoga benefits the mind by reducing stress. Research connects chronic stress with anxiety, mood issues, cognitive trouble, and decision-making issues. That’s in addition to the negative physical responses to stress, such as increased blood pressure, tight muscles, and faster heart rate. Making Yin yoga a regular practice can help ease these effects.
Other research-based benefits of Yin yoga include:
A 2021 study reported that a combination of Yin yoga and meditation helped reduce stress and anxiety in university students and faculty prone to high stress levels.
A 2022 study found that this yoga style improved mood in people with anxiety and depression disorders.
A 2023 study noted that Yin yoga could help promote weight loss in overweight teens.
Several poses can be used in a Yin yoga sequence. Here are 10 to try:
Bowtie pose. This pose is a good upper-body stretch. Specifically, it helps release tension in the shoulders and upper back.
Corpse pose. This yoga pose provides full-body relaxation. To ease pressure on the back, place a folded blanket or pillow beneath the knees.
Dragon pose. This Yin pose helps release tight hip flexors. Individuals with high flexibility can rest their forearms on the yoga mat. Others may want to use props, such as resting their forearms on a yoga block.
Half Saddle pose. This pose primarily elongates the quads. By creating this effect, it also helps the hip flexor muscles release.
High Flying Swan pose. This Yin yoga posture is also good for tight hip flexors. It provides a good stretch to the abdominal area as well.
Puppy pose. This is one of the yoga poses that stretches multiple areas in the body. You can feel it in the shoulders, arms, and upper back, as well as in the spine and abdomen.
Sphinx pose. This pose is good for stretching tissue in the abdominal area, also releasing tightness around the spine.
Tadpole pose. If you want to stretch the groin area, this pose is good for that. It also provides a good stretch to the lower back.
Thread-the-Needle pose. This is another good full-body stretch. Although, it targets many upper body areas (shoulders, chest, upper back, arms, and neck).
Wind-Relieving pose. This posture is a good stretch for the hamstrings. That makes it good for people with tight hips and lower back pain.
While you may enjoy Yin yoga from the very first time you do it, its many health benefits are only achieved by making it a regular practice. How do you develop a Yin yoga practice?
Living according to yoga philosophy is a good start. When you create a lifestyle consistent with yoga’s main ideologies and beliefs, doing Yin poses regularly is just another part of this alignment. You are naturally drawn to them because they are consistent with how you choose to live your life.
Another way to make Yin yoga a habit is to sign up for a class. One benefit of joining a class is that you’re less likely to skip because you paid for it. A class is also a great place to connect with other Yin practitioners. It provides a network that can motivate you to develop a long-term yoga habit.
Look for a yoga class in your area that utilizes a Yin style. If you can’t find one, an online Yin yoga class is always an option as long as you have a place to practice and a good internet connection.
If you’re passionate about Yin yoga and want to share this passion with others, you might want to go one step further and lead a class yourself. Yin yoga teacher training can help prepare you for this role. (There are several different types of yoga teacher training. So, be sure to select a program that focuses specifically on Yin yoga if this is the style you want to teach.)
It can also be helpful to see what other Yin yoga instructors are doing in their classes. A few Yin yoga teachers with an extensive number of teaching hours according to the Yoga Alliance include Bernie Clark, Christy Lynn Hicks, and Jo Phee. Check out their websites and learn from them.
If you’re interested in leading a different style of yoga class, teacher training can help with that too. ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy offers Yoga Teacher Training for individuals interested in learning how to lead a Vinyasa or Hatha yoga class. This training is offered online and approved by the Yoga Alliance.