When first observing the practice of yin yoga, one may not regard the activity as exercise. After all practitioners are lying prone on the floor barely moving. This might be great for relaxation, but it could hardly qualify for a work-out and certainly not be physically challenging.
Yin yoga can surprise you. It can be a very physically challenging. Going fast or full throttle is not the only way to take your-self to the edge. Going deep and holding long may be more physically difficult than you can imagine and worth all the effort you expend on it.
Yin yoga takes the focus away from the muscles and directs attention to the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones and joints. It targets the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis and lower spine. A steady inclusion of yin into a regular yoga or exercise routine will improve all your movements by making your body more fluid and agile
Pat Halloran is a retired nurse and a professional massage therapist based in the Detroit area. She has been practicing yoga for seven years. She sees yin yoga as vital means to maintain good health and proper alignment. “I recommend yin yoga for opening deep tissues. We are talking about the ligament, the tendons and the connective tissues. The secret is to hold the position to your maximum ability as this is the only way to stretch them. We really need to stretch them if we want to maintain their elasticity. If the ligaments or tendons aren’t exercised they will contract, or shrink and become unable to return to their normal state”.
Yin poses are meant to be held for a minimum of three to five minutes. Halloran stressed that it takes at least that long before there is any movement of in the connective tissues at all. A pose she recommends to her clients is a reclined bound angle pose. In this pose, you lay on your back over a tightly rolled blanket that runs the full length of your spine and head. Slowly lower on to your back, allowing your body to drape over the rolled blanket. In this pose bring the soles of the feet together and your knees wide apart. Now for the hard part, relax into this pose and hold it for a minimum of five minutes.
If you can hold this pose for 5 minutes or longer, the hip flexors, the hips, and the pelvic griddle will open, releasing both the piriformis muscle and the shoulder griddle. If it truly becomes uncomfortable, take a break by releasing the pose and then go back into it. It is important to relax into this pose and let gravity do the work. Come out of the pose slowly respecting yourself and the work. This pose which can be done at home builds both flexibility and stability.
Yin Yoga may hold another health secret. According the research conducted by Hiroshi Motoyama of Japan and Dr. James Oschman in the United States, the connective tissue may correspond to the meridians of acupuncture and the nadis of yoga. If their research holds true, strengthening and stretching connective tissue would stimulate the energy pathways that the ancients described in early texts.
In a world that runs too fast, it can be greatly rewarding to engage in practices that honor stillness and the benefits of slow deep release. Yin yoga helps us to move further ahead, by slowing down. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the real workout occurs when we are able to be still.