Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures or asanas that are held for comparatively long periods of time, five minutes or longer per pose is typical. It was founded and first taught in the United States in the late 1970s by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Yin-style yoga is now being taught across North America and in Europe, due in large part to the widespread teaching activities of Yin Yoga teachers and developers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers.
Yin Yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues—the tendons, fascia, and ligaments—with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. 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. Improved flow of qi is hypothesized to improve organ health, immunity, and emotional well-being. Yin Yoga as taught by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers is not intended as a complete practice in itself, but rather as a complementary practice to balance the effects of more active forms of yoga and exercise. Paulie Zink’s approach includes the full range of Daoist yoga and is intended to be a complete practice in itself. Sarah Powers has developed a system called Insight Yoga which features both Yin poses and more active Yang poses.
Warm Therapeutic Yin 60 w/ Music
Yin yoga directs the stimulation that is normally created in the asana portion of the practice deeper than the superficial or muscular tissues. This 60 minute class is practiced to soothing music in a warm studio. It is designed to release deep tension residing in the connective tissue (ligaments, bones, and joints of the body) and provides opportunity to explore a deep release of the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Suitable for all levels, this class is a perfect compliment to the dynamic and muscular (yang) styles of yoga that emphasize internal heat as well as the lengthening and contracting of muscles. Everyone welcome.
Occasionally this class will be accompanied or followed by a Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep)
History of Yin Yoga
The practice of holding yoga poses or asanas for long periods of time has always been a significant part of traditional yoga practice, both in the Hatha yoga tradition of India and in the Taoist yoga tradition of the greater China area. Some regard Yin yoga is the oldest form of Hatha yoga, since it is an effective method of physical conditioning for prolonged meditation, which was the principal concern of ancient yogic practitioners. Contemporary schools of hatha yoga have also advocated holding some poses for relatively long periods of time. For example, BKS Iyengar recommends holding the Supta Virasana asana for 10–15 minutes. Taoist yoga practices from China also included yin-style poses in the Taoist system of “Internal Alchemy”—practices for the purpose of improving health and longevity. For that matter, long-held stretches have been and are commonly recommended in other physical disciplines, such as gymnastics and dance, to increase flexibility. It is traditional for ballerinas, for example, to open their hips by approximating the splits position for long periods of time.
Techniques for stretching of this type have been practiced for centuries in China and Taiwan as part of Daoist Yoga, which was sometimes known as Dao Yin. Taoist priests taught this knowledge, along with breathing techniques, to Kung Fu practitioners beginning 2000 years ago, to help them fully develop their martial arts skills. What later came to be known as Yin Yoga, in which a series of long-held poses are performed one after the other, was introduced in North America in the late 1970’s by Paulie Zink, a martial arts champion and Taoist yoga teacher.
The Physiology of Yin Yoga
Yin yoga targets connective tissue, specifically ligaments and tendons in the joints and spine. Over time, practice of Yin yoga can lengthen these tissues, increasing range of motion. To give an idea of the role that connective tissue plays in determining range of motion: muscles account for about forty percent of the resistance against the body’s flexibility, while connective tissue accounts for about fifty percent. The intensity and physical benefits of the practice depend on two variables: duration of the asana, and the temperature of the muscle.
Duration of Asana
In order to lengthen the connective tissue, the practitioner holds an asana, engaging in static stretching. This applies stress, in the form of tension, to the muscle and connective tissue in the targeted region. The muscle, more elastic than the connective tissue, responds immediately, lengthening to its limit. When the muscle is fully stretched, the stress reaches the connective tissue, which is not elastic and does not immediately lengthen. In order to affect the connective tissue, stress must be applied for several minutes at a time. In Yin yoga, asanas are usually held for three to five minutes, but can be held for as long as twenty minutes. Because of the long duration of asanas, patience is another of the key values cultivated in the practice of Yin yoga.
Influence on biochemistry and the meridians
According to the research of Hiroshi Motoyama and James Oschman, loading the connective tissue during yin or yang yoga stimulates fibroblasts to produce more hyaluronic acid (HA). Motoyama and Oschman say that HA may be the key to understanding the acupuncture meridian system. They explain that HA is a primary component of synovial fluid, and has the property of strongly attracting water, a good electrical conductor. If the theory is correct, it would explain why, by stimulating the production of HA, Yin Yoga strengthens both the body’s meridian system and the joints.