fbpx

Yoga Hero: All of Yoga Podcast – Episode 11

Styles of Yoga – Yin Yoga

Navigating your way through the different styles of yoga can be a bit of a minefield, so, in this episode we break down what Yin yoga is, the benefits of Yin yoga and some bits and bobs to bear in mind when you’re practicing, and then we’ll let you know how you can practice Yin with us at Yoga Hero if you’d like to. 

Yin yoga is, in essence, a slow, passive style of yoga, that’s all about letting go. In yin yoga, the postures are held for minutes, rather than breaths, which means that the body weight and gravity work together to release holding patterns, tension and stress. This style of practicing isn’t necessarily ‘easy’, although yin yoga is great for beginners to yoga as there’s plenty of time for you to get in to the pose.

Because of the nature of holding the poses for longer, the poses are usually seated or lying down, so you won’t find yourself in a plank or a challenging standing pose for a couple of minutes. (phew!) This is because, rather than targeting the muscles, like a Flow or Ashtanga class does, Yin yoga targets the connective tissues. You may have heard people take about connective tissue, or fascia, recently, it seems to be coming much more known about.

Connective tissue connects , protects and supports the body. The ENTIRE body. There’s a body stocking of connective tissue that sits just underneath the skin, there’s connective tissue surrounding all our bones, nerves, blood vessels, muscles, organs, lymph nodes; basically everything in the human body is connected, protected and supported by connective tissues – and here’s the really important thing. It’s all connected. The tissue underneath the skin on your little finger is connected to the tissue surrounding your stomach, which is also connected to the tissues that wraps around your thigh bone; it’s all connected. Yin targets the connective tissue to help us let go; of tension, stress, things that are outside of our control… all of it!

Yin yoga also integrates learnings from traditional Chinese medicine, from yoga philosophy, from western anatomy; it’s a place where all these valuable insights come together, so if you’re keen to learn more, do check out our yin yoga training, which is open to people passionate about yin, who want to learn more, as well as yoga teachers. We’ve had physiotherapists, massage therapists, social workers, counsellors, body workers and so many more professions and interests get an incredible amount from this training in the past.

As always, we would love to know what you think of the Yoga Hero: All of Yoga Podcast, do leave an honest review if you can, or drop us a message @beayogahero

Listen to ‘Styles of yoga – yin yoga’ where you get your podcasts:

Thank you, and happy listening!

Styles of yoga – yin yoga – Transcript

Yin yoga is, in essence, a slow, passive style of yoga, that’s all about letting go. In yin yoga, the postures are held for minutes, rather than breaths, which means that the body weight and gravity work together to release holding patterns, tension and stress. This style of practicing isn’t necessarily ‘easy’, although yin yoga is great for beginners to yoga as there’s plenty of time for you to get in to the pose, unlike other styles of yoga which are faster, and you might find yourself moving on to the next poses before you’ve got to grips with the one you’re on!

Because of the nature of holding the poses for longer, the poses are usually seated or lying down, so you won’t find yourself in a plank or a challenging standing pose for a couple of minutes, phew! This is because, rather than targeting the muscles, like a Flow or Ashtanga class does, Yin yoga targets the connective tissues. You may have heard people take about connective tissue, or fascia, recently, it seems to be coming much more known about.

Connective tissue connects , protects and supports the body. I’ll say that again, connective tissue connects, protects and supports the body. The entire body. There’s a body stocking of connective tissue that sits just underneath the skin, there’s connective tissue surrounding all our bones, nerves, blood vessels, muscles, organs, lymph nodes; basically everything in the human body is connected, protected and supported by connective tissues – and here’s the really important thing. It’s all connected. The tissue underneath the skin on your little finger is connected to the tissue surrounding your stomach, which is also connected to the tissues that wraps around your thigh bone; it’s all connected.

Connective tissue reads our positioning all the time… it does this because it wants to help us save energy, save calories. Remember a few podcast episodes ago – episode 4 ‘the thing about thoughts’ where we talked about how our brain is very similar to that of our Palaeolithic ancestors? Well, one of the hangovers of this is that our brain thinks that energy, calories are scarce and is always trying to save energy, one of the ways is by using muscles as little as possible. So, the connective tissue constantly reads our position, our posture, and if it senses that we keep coming back to a posture, or the posture is somewhere that we stay a while, it puts extra layers of tissue down to support our body in that position, so that there’s less demand on the muscles. So. What does this mean in real life? Well, something we might return to time after time, could be a golf swing or a tennis serve or a running stride or having a handbag always on the same shoulder; repeated actions. And a position that we stay a while… such as sitting at a desk? It’s really common to think that the hip flexors; in essence – the muscles running up the front of hips are tight from desk work, and that could well be true, but it’s likely that the connective tissue has got involved, to help the hips stay in that seated position.

There’s one other thing to mention here. If you – if it’s safe, please be safe! – just  pinch the material of the top you’re wearing and twist it, you’ll see that the impact of that twist is seen right across your whole top. If you pinch and twist it down by your right hip, you’ll see the pulling even up to the left shoulder. This is sort of what happens in the connective tissue. If there’s an injury, a trauma, a pull in an area, it impacts on that entire body stocking.

So all of this is sounding full of doom and gloom isn’t it, sorry! Don’t worry, that’s all the bad news for now.

Why am I telling you about this doom and gloom? Because yin is such an incredible way to reset the connective tissue. To release the binds that have formed to ‘help’ you hold a posture, or in response to an injury. To free up movement. To release tension and stress. There is so, so much more to be said on this; more on why hyaluronic acid is important, how the connective tissue is a way the body communicates with itself, why yin and hydration are related and so much more, which is why we have our popular 50 hour Yin Yoga training – which is open to people passionate about yin, who want to learn more, as well as yoga teachers.

So how does yin help solve all this doom and gloom?

Well, if you put your body in to a yin pose and hold it for a few minutes, the connective tissue reads this new load and allows the breaking of  fibres that were built up to help you stay in a different position. So, let’s say you lie on your back, with the soles of your feet together and your knees wide, so your legs are in a diamond shape. The body reads this and wants to make space down the inner thighs – a place where tension is really common – and so the fibres down the inner thighs start to break, to make space. This sounds painful but it isn’t, well it shouldn’t be, but it probably IS full of sensation – sensation is something we’ll talk about soon.

So, that’s how yin helps to release tension, and invariably as we feel the tension leaving the body, that initiates the calming of the stress response, decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Yin is an incredible reset. Yin is often thought of as a compliment to a more yang style of practice, like vinyasa or ashtanga, and of course this is true, but in many ways, yin is a compliment to life. Think about it, when was the last time you paused for 3, 4, 5 minutes and did nothing, yet still ‘achieved’ something? This is what yin allows and encourages; time to be with yourself to listen to your body, to let go of things that have been going round and round your mind with no resolution…

Yin yoga also integrates learnings from traditional Chinese medicine, from yoga philosophy, from western anatomy; it’s a place where all these valuable insights come together, so if you’re keen to learn more, do check out our yin yoga training, and remember, it’s not just for yoga teachers. We’ve had physiotherapists, massage therapists, social workers, counsellors, body workers and so many more professions and interests get an incredible amount from this training in the past.

How do you practice yin yoga?

Nearly all yin yoga poses are floor based,;seated or lying down on your front or on your back. You can use props; if you’re in a yoga studio they’ll have bolsters, blankets, bricks, straps  – all sorts, to prop you up and keep the pose safe. If you’re at home you can improvise! A sturdy book can be a brick replacement. A pillow wrapped reasonably tightly in a blankets can be a bolster. Towels can be blankets (although blankets can be blankets, it just depends how many you have!) Belts you use to keep your jeans up can be straps, and so on.

There’s no one way to teach yin, if you try a class and don’t like it, try a different teacher before you write it off, its an incredibly personal experience and you might just need to find the teacher that’s the right guide for you. The way we tend to teach yin at Yoga Hero is to really take your time to get set up. This might a few minutes of fidgeting and faffing, so that you can then surrender in to stillness for a few minutes. Let’s say you’re sat on the floor, legs out in front of you about hip distance apart, and the pose is that you’re folding forwards over your legs, just as much as you can. As the risk of stating the blinding obvious, I’m not teaching you a pose here, just explaining the point. If you want to practice a yin class, check out the shownotes, there’s a couple of free classes linked to there.

Ok, so we’re imagining your sat on the floor in a forward fold. Now if you just try to to stay there for let’s say three minutes, as it is, probably, the back of your neck will get achey from holding your head in place. The backs of your legs will be maybe too full of sensation as they over-stretch, and intuitively, you know this isn’t quite right so the muscles your legs tense up a bit to stop the stretch… That doesn’t sound like letting go does it?!

Ok, now, imagine the same pose, but let’s imagine you take your bolster or your pillow behind your knees to support a bend in the knees. Then let’s imagine you take a brick or a sturdy book to rest your head on, so the muscles of the neck can surrender. NOW you can stay here for a few minutes – not introducing more tension in to the body, but releasing any tension that was there. Gorgeous!

So, all that to say we take the time to set up the pose at the beginning, so that there’s more value from the time in the pose itself.

That brings me on to the time in the pose itself – we really are aiming for stillness. No fidgeting, no movement, no nothing. So, the first priority is your comfort, if you’re experiencing anything that you would say is painful or uncomfortable, let’s err on the side of caution, and you’ll move mindfully to remove the discomfort. However as you practice yin, and yoga generally, more, you’ll be able to discern between what’s pain – bad, and what’s a strong sensation indicating positive change – good. But until you know for sure, err on the side of caution. The stillness in the pose means we get sooooo much more from the pose, from the class and from the entire practice of yin, than you would do if you’re fidgeting around every 30 seconds.

So, we’ve set up the pose, got the props and now what. Now, you’re looking for your edge. What’s the furthest you can be in this pose. It’s ok to find that, gently, carefully, mindfully, and then back away from it a bit. Let’s say your edge is 100%, you’re looking for, let’s say 60%- 70% , so it’s intense, there’s a lot going on, but you can stay there, whereas at 100% you just can’t stay there. This is a really foreign concept to so many of us! We work really hard, we burn the candle at both ends, pack loads in to our lives… 60% feels like, what’s the point, might as well do it at 100%!? The point is the stillness and time in the pose – this is where the impact is, and you won’t get any stillness or time at 100% intensity.

So, now, the pose is set up, we’re at about 60% – 70% intensity, then what? Then it’s all down to your mental focus. If you’ve listened to episode 4, the thing about thoughts, you’ll know that having a wandering, busy mind is part of being a human, but you’ll also know that we are able to control where the focus goes. Yin is a great place to practice this. You can place your focus on your breath, making your breath as easy and as free as possible. You can focus on the sensation happening in your body; especially if it’s intense! And then when you find yourself planning dinner or rehearsing a conversation with Fred that you need to have tomorrow, you bring your focus back to the present moment, to the breath or the sensation or something else. Again and again. As many times as you meed to!

To summarise, yin is insightful, introspective and physically very rewarding practice. Find a teacher that you love, that you connect with and trust, and practice as often as you need to whilst deeply listening to your body.

If you’d like to practice with Yoga Hero, we’d love to welcome you. We have yin classes online and in our studio, all details are in the show notes, and if this episode has lit a fire and you just cannot wait to learn more, definitely check out our training at Yoga Hero in November 2022 or May 2023.

So, lovely yogis, I hope that’s been useful and insightful. Go dive in to our free class for a taster, and remember we’re here if you have any questions or need any help.

Go and have a fabulous day, remember, you’re your own hero.

See you next time!


All of Yoga Episode List

Episode 1 – Yoga Nidra for Deep Sleep

Episode 2 – Ujjayi breath – the what, the why and the how

Episode 3 – What is Yoga?

Episode 4 – The thing about thoughts

Episode 5 – Self love – the what, why and how

Episode 6 – Yoga teacher training – the what, why and how

Episode 7 – Micro rest, midi rest and maxi rest

Episode 8 – Ways to deepen and advance your yoga practice

Episode 9 – Styles of Yoga – Ashtanga

Episode 10 – Forgiveness

Episode 11 – Styles of Yoga – Yin

Episode 12 – The four types of people and the four ways to treat them

Episode 13 – Align your intentions and actions

Episode 14 – How to prepare for your first yoga class

Episode 15 – Tips for developing a regular yoga practice

Episode 16 –  Start Yoga in September

Episode 17: Styles of yoga – Restorative Yoga

Episode 18: Beautiful guided Savasana

Episode 19: Control the controllables

Episode 20: How to stop overthinking, according to yoga

Episode 21: Morning Yoga Nidra for a great day!