#360fit: Yin Yoga - What is it?

Josie McKenlay 07:00 27/01/2017
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Have you tried yin yoga?

Once we leave our childhood behind, we rarely spend any time sitting on the floor, certainly not for any length of time. When we do, it can be a painful surprise when we try to stand up again.

You may have noticed as you get older, your body becomes stiffer.

This is often the catalyst to trying yoga in the first place, but yoga has become increasing yang in style through the centuries, especially in the past 20 years with the popularity of Ashtanga Vinyasa, Power and Bikram yoga and these styles may not be providing the levels of flexibility and mobility desired.

WHAT IS YIN YOGA?

Yin yoga consists of 26 postures which target the area from the navel to the knees and held for several minutes, but the principles can be applied to any part of the body.

The principle of Yin and Yang is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy and culture in general dating from the third century BCE or even earlier. When we talk of yoga, yin is gentle and quiet, whereas yang is energetic and generally faster paced.

Yin Yoga has its roots in Taoist yoga, but there are many shared characteristics with Indian yoga.

In the ancient Sanskrit documents, asanas got very little mention. It wasn’t until the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP) was written sometime in the 14th or 15th centuries C.E. by Swami Swatmarama that we come across a reasonable set of postures (around 15 postures in all and most of a Yin style) described.

As time went by, more and more were added, becoming more Yang in style, creating some balance to the practice so that rather than just preparing the body for meditation, the practitioner could also improve their health and become strong.

According to B K S Iyengar, some postures should always be held for long periods of time, three of which he suggests holding from five to 15 minutes – very Yin in nature.

BENEFITS OF YIN YOGA

By the end of the 20th century, Paul Grilley developed Yin yoga practice and it has become popular as a way of really working deeply into the myofascial tissue to improve mobility and flexibility.

By holding postures for long periods, it enables the muscles to fully relax so that the connective tissue can be stretched. The yin tissues targeted are the denser, deeper, less elastic tissues, such as the ligaments, joint capsules, cartilage, bones and fascial networks of the body. As the asana part of our yoga practice is to prepare for sitting for long periods in meditation, this is the ideal way to prepare your body, but it is a very good choice for anyone who needs more flexibility.

Yin yoga also activates the flow of Qi (energy) via meridians or energy pathways. This is directly comparable to the flow of prana (life force) via nadis (energy pathways). According to Hiroshi Motoyama and other researchers, the network of connective tissue corresponds to the meridians worked on my Chinese medical practitioners in therapies such as acupuncture. Yin Yoga may turn out to be a unique tool in helping us maintain good health as well as our mobility.

Josie is a health, fitness & lifestyle adviser & a Pilates & yoga instructor with 30+ years experience. http://www.bodysoulwell.com.

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