a blog by Ellen Davies

What is Yin yoga?

What is Yin yoga?

I am excited to announce that I am now certified to teach Yin yoga. “That’s great,” you’re thinking to yourself. “But what the heck is Yin yoga?”

Yin yoga doesn’t conform easily to the so-called elevator pitch, but I will do my best to describe it succinctly.

What is yin yoga - Ellen Davies blog - With Heart and Humor - yoga

Think about the Yin and Yang, the symbol of the Tao. The symbol represents perfect balance, right? In terms of exercise, Yang stands for active, repetitive exercise, such as running, aerobics, vinyasa yoga, and anything that increases your heart rate and strengthens the body. The opposite of Yang is Yin, exercise that is not repetitive, but offers benefits through stretching, not strengthening.

Yin yoga focuses on lengthening the network of connective tissue in the body. When we engage muscles (such as in running or weight lifting), the connective tissue brings the bones closer together and strengthens the muscle. In Yin yoga, we sink into poses (or shapes) to move the bones away from each other, effectively lengthening, stretching, and lubricating the fascia and connective tissues.

What is a Yin yoga class like?

A Yin yoga class is meditative, and you’ll stay in a pose for anywhere from three to five minutes. This is similar to Restorative Yoga, only in Restorative you are fully supported in the pose and there is no stretching. In a Yin class, you’ll use props to move into the pose, or shape, and then sink into the shape. We call it “static sinking.” As you stay with the pose, you may find that you can go deeper (in small increments, never quickly) and thus you may want to lower the height of the yoga block or adjust the pose accordingly. In Yin you’ll never “go to your edge” or force a pose.

In a Yin pose or “shape,” you’ll feel both tension and compression. Tension is where you’ll feel the stretch. Compression is where you’ll feel “squished,” but in a good way, because compression dissipates stuck energy. When you release the pose, you may feel a rush of new, positive energy coming in to replace the old that was released. If you want to heal the body, you have to get the energy moving.

Yang is muscle, Yin is fascia.

What is fascia?

  • Fascia is the web that knits the entire body together.
  • Fascia is ligament (connecting bone to bone) and tendon (connecting bone to muscle).
  • Fascia is present in the body before the nervous system and the brain.
  • Fascia may be the largest organ in the body.
  • Fascia is different from every other system in the body.
  • Fascia is not vascular—it wraps around the veins and arteries, but does not connect to them.
  • Fascia around the heart, the pericardium, is now recognized as an organ.
  • Fascia is collagen (structure), elastin (mobility), and ground substance. What is ground substance? Also called the “intercellular matrix,” ground substance refers to the elasticity in our bodies—the collagen lights up and transmits it. Also in the ground substance is something called hyaluronic acid, or HA. Created by fibroblasts in joint capsules, HA is a magical substance that can conduct light, send out a charge, and draw fluid towards it. After a Yin class, you may feel thirsty. This means that you have successfully lengthened the connective tissue, and the hyaluronic acid (HA) has drawn fluid to lubricate the fascia.
  • Think about the chakras, the energy centers in your body, and the Ida and Pingala energy lines. Some propose that the fascia is the physical embodiment of the Nadi channels of the body. The energy that creates and sustains the universe is in your fascia, in your body!

I am excited to add Yin yoga to my healing tool kit. I believe the practice of Yin can bring healing to the body. Are you ready to start healing? Send me an email, or leave a note in the comments section.

Stay tuned for a post on Yin yoga and emotions. Did you know that emotions get stuck in our body? Sometimes these stuck emotions show up as physical injuries or unexplained pain. Have you ever experienced a physical problem, such as stomach pains or a sprained ankle that just won’t heal, anything that can’t be fully explained? It might be stuck emotions.

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