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What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is, as the name suggests, a softer version of the physical movement that we know as yoga. It’s based on asanas, postures, that are very calming for the nervous system and for the mind. Instead of aiming at raising the energy to generate heat in the body, like in Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga, it works on opening the body slowly through long-held poses, deep breathing and stretching. Some of the poses are held between 45 seconds and 2 minutes, for more advanced practitioners this may even go up to 7 minutes in one posture. 

WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF YIN YOGA?

The origin of Yin Yoga dates back to the late 1970´s in the United States, where martial arts expert and yoga teacher Paulie Zink invented a new form of yoga called Taoist Yoga as a mix between asanas and Taoist practices. He had studied with a Chinese Kung-Fu Master for more than 10 years and became black belt champion several times in martial arts championships.

His first students were primarily his martial arts students, who had great strength in the body but were lacking flexibility. Therefore, his teachings where based on long held yin style yoga postures to open the body, combined with more strenuous flows like Hatha and Ashtanga to increase strength and energy in the body. Influenced by his Taoist Chinese Master he also taught a third combination of both Yin and Yang postures called Taoist flow, and gave classes of Chi Kung and spiritual teachings on the cultivation of the mind.

Yin Yoga later on became popular under the name Yin Yoga through the teachers Paul Grilley, a strong student of Paulie Zink, and Sarah Powers, a student of Paul Grilley, who both developed the style further in their own way and renamed it to Yin Yoga.

Paul Grilley added theory on Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and anatomy to his approach, and specifically studied in-depth in this field with other teachers. He developed his postures in such a way that acupuncture points were targeted similar as they would be treated in Chinese Medicine.

Sarah Powers included Buddhist psychology and teachings on the energy flow of the meridian system in her classes and trainings. She also emphasized a systematic approach to breathing in her classes, to cultivate qui, vital energy, in the body in combination with deep stretches. Her book Insight Yoga shows sequences of Yin postures in relationships to the meridian system.

Yin Yoga has by now become so popular that it has spread all across the US, Europe and Asia, with teacher trainings held in many different countries, including Bali, Australia, Germany, Spain and more.

THE HEALING BENEFITS OF YIN YOGA

Yin Yoga`s magical power lies in the opening of the fascia, the connective tissue between the ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the body. Through deep breathing and long stretches, the body becomes more flexible and tension that is held deep within the tissue is slowly released. The by-product is increased blood circulation in the joint areas and muscle tissues of the body, heightened awareness and a meditative state of mind.

The combination of breathing into these long held stretches, coupled with awareness on that particular body part is what often brings long lasting changes and healing in the body. It also helps to re-adjust any misalignment between the vertebrae, the ligaments and the muscles in the body, therefore having a therapeutic and osteopathic approach to the body, similar to Iyengar Yoga.

As Carlos Romero explains in here, Yin Yoga is like an Ocean of Consciousness:

As the poses apply gentle stress to the connective tissue, the awareness shifts towards this part of the body and therefore brings full attention to the stretch. In that state, which travels between uncomfortableness and deep relaxation, old emotions can be liberated and stuck energies are set free. The result is that the fascia becomes softer and more flexible over time and the body movements allow for a greater flow of energy through all energy channels in the body.

The power of Yin Yoga also lies in the stretching of body parts, which are usually neglected and don´t get as much attention in other fast paced yoga styles. It particularly works on opening the hips, the area around the shoulders, the chest and the spine. Some poses are held in twisted positions to increase breathing in different parts of the lungs, some are supported with blocks to open the heart, some use belts to allow for deeper stretches in the legs, or cushions for more relaxation in challenging postures such as forward folds. Some classes also include the use of tennis balls for deep massages around trigger points and larger muscle groups.

Next to specific postures that only appear in Yin Yoga, this style also includes modifications of Hatha Yoga asanas with greater emphasis on deep relaxation. The modification of the postures, especially with supporting elements such as cushions blocks, allow the body to gently ease into the posture.

– Article by Anna Sofia 

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