Last May, I received a teaching certificate in Yin Yoga and have been teaching it steadily since. My teacher Paul Grilley describes the rising system of yoga like this: “[Yin] work(s) your joints in a way similar to how other types of exercise work your heart.” In a nutshell, Grilley states, “Yin Yoga is joint rehabilitation.”
Yin Yoga is good for the body and is available to all body types. It targets parts of the body that are often under-recognized and under-appreciated in Western exercise and workout systems: the joints, tendons, ligaments, and fascia.
Whereas our muscles stay healthy by heat and repetitive motion found in activities such as spinning, walking, dancing, and vigorous yoga, a rather large part of our physical construction—skeleton and connective tissue—is classified as Yin and does not respond to heat or repetitive movement at all; rather, the Yin body responds to simple, long-held stretches, which comprise the basis of Yin Yoga. It can bring on strength and flexibility in the joints, can relieve back and overall body pain, and helps bring the whole body into balance.
Yin Yoga is also good for the mind. It asks nothing more of us than to go inside, to hold yoga poses for several minutes, and notice what happens when we do. What happens, if we give it time, is a calmer, freer mind. Yin, quite literally, is in.
Here is a list of some of my students (names changed) and types of people with whom I have had the privilege of sharing Yin Yoga. I both quote and summarize these persons’ responses to the effects a Yin practice has had on them:
*Lynn (a runner): Her knees, thighs, and ankles hurt less from the impact of running. This is one of the greatest proofs of Yin Yoga’s power, Lynn says. The internal focus that Yin cultivates tends to help her with calm and ambition to go the extra mile, Lynn believes.
*Jim (a golfer): I prescribed Jim a Yin Yoga regime to rehabilitate parts of his body-- his shoulders, arms, and wrists--which were strained from repetitive, asymmetrical use (typical of the athletic body). He reported in his first lesson relief in tight spots.
*Dana (a cyclist): “My riding is so much more enjoyable now. My knees and hips feel stronger and more flexible, and my mind is more at ease.”
*Professionals/Travelers: Students whose professional garb (read ‘heels’), demanding travel schedules (read ‘cramped planes’), and tough hours that keep their bodies locked up and in fatigue mode are reporting a love for Yin Yoga. It is a great release for the constraints that their jobs and lifestyles put on their bodies, one regular student, Mandy, reports.
*People over 50: For the body that feels the pain of aging connective tissue--which can leave us feeling compressed, vulnerable, off-balance, and closed-in—mature adult students gravitating toward a Yin practice report relief and positive mood shift.
*Non-exercisers: Yin Yoga is very inviting. Those who don’t like exercise and/or have never tried yoga have started with Yin Yoga at the studio and have felt encouraged to try more styles. It can be the key to the world of exercise for some.
*Carol (a caregiver): “I’m an R.N., which is hard on my body. I love Yin because it helps me do my job so much better. Yin makes me stronger, flexible, and more patient.”
*Dan (physically limited): I prescribed Yin Yoga in a chair for Dan, as he had difficulty getting to the floor. He reported ease and more flexibility after just a few classes.
*Breathers: For those who take yoga’s breathing exercises (pranayama) seriously, Yin Yoga’s long holds and internal focus form an absolutely perfect playing field for breathwork.
*Tyler (a meditator): Because it’s a quiet practice, Yin Yoga helps him experience his mind and body in new ways.
Note: Yin Yoga is not recommended for pregnant women due to the hormone Relaxin, which the pregnant body produces and which loosens the body’s joints.