When I first stepped onto the yogic path 20 years in the past, I used to be shortly hooked by the rigorous self-discipline and self-control that Iyengar Yoga impressed in me. For two hours a day, I practiced asana sequences as scripted by B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga. I sought religious purity by way of a uncooked vegan food plan, believing it was the solely method to uplift my soul and purge my physique of poisons. And I believed that with the proper circumstances, instructor, and quantity of apply, liberation was at hand.
It’s clear to me now that my honest effort to seek out peace and happiness via yoga was turning me right into a neurotic freakshow. In reality, the Iyengar technique’s emphasis on exactitude had prompted controlling tendencies in me that began to colonize my whole life. It wasn’t till I discovered myself in acupuncture to deal with a again pressure—from training Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)—that I acquired the first hints that my greatest yogic intentions might have been doing extra hurt than good. Acupuncture was so fascinating to me that I made a decision to turn into an acupuncturist. And it was throughout my first yr in acupuncture faculty, once we explored the fundamentals of yin-yang principle, that it occurred to me simply how yang-dominant I had develop into.
Yin-yang concept, from conventional Chinese drugs, is an easy however helpful solution to analyze and perceive any expertise. Yin qualities embrace traits like receptivity, allowance, tolerance, reflection, and passivity. Yang qualities embrace doing, directing, enhancing, attaining, controlling, and turning into. From a Chinese-medicine perspective, yin and yang qualities are each important, and neither is superior to the different. When we perceive their relationship, we will promote stability and concord between them.
It seems that in my yang-driven effort to domesticate peace, I used to be reinforcing a top quality of rigidity by making an attempt to regulate my physique and weight-reduction plan. I began training Yin Yoga to seek out extra stability, and I instantly observed some huge modifications. First, my expertise with meditation dramatically improved. My physique began releasing deep rigidity that had been inflicting my knees to ache and my ft to go numb. This alone stored me coming again to the five-minute Yin holds which might be commonplace for the fashion, and I discovered to tolerate the bitter achiness of the sensations I felt once I did the poses. I additionally observed how this launch of pressure facilitated a extra sleek move and higher mobility in my yang-dominant Iyengar apply.
I started to understand an inside softness and deep rest in my physique that lasted far past the regular 30 minutes of zen I skilled after a yang apply. Perhaps most profound, I had a larger consciousness of my inner energetic state. In acupuncture faculty, individuals typically talked about feeling their power as flowing or being blocked—however to me, perceiving delicate power was as on the market as seeing auras or remembering previous lives. But once I began working towards Yin, I lastly started to sense the delicate currents of energetic circulate that rippled via my physique. Turns out it wasn’t so mysterious; it simply required a extra magnified lens of mindfulness, which is one thing that naturally will get stronger whenever you apply Yin Yoga.
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What, Exactly, Is Yin Yoga?
The time period Yin Yoga will get tossed round rather a lot lately, but as a yoga fashion, it’s meant to realize one thing very particular: to stability and harmonize the physique and thoughts in tandem with different, extra yang types of follow. Generally talking, yang types of yoga (like Iyengar, Ashtanga, and vinyasa) emphasize rhythmic and repetitive contraction of muscle tissues. These types give attention to shifting the physique by way of dynamic flows that stimulate, stretch, and strengthen the muscle tissue and their fascia (connective tissues). Yin Yoga emphasizes passive, static postures, held for lengthy durations of time, with muscle tissues in a relaxed state. This method, the dense connective tissues in and round the muscle tissues and joints are stimulated, considerably stretched, and finally strengthened. Yin Yoga is supposed to enrich and complement one’s yang yoga apply. Yin isn’t a standalone apply; it’s simply the different half of apply.
A primary, Yin Yoga might really feel counterintuitive. For instance, after you permit your physique to soak in the delicate stress of a Yin Yoga posture, you’ll doubtless really feel a noticeable fragility in that space upon popping out of the pose. Rather than feeling fantastic, you could really feel stiff—virtually as when you’ve aged a decade or two. How can one thing that appears prefer it ought to really feel so good really feel so uncomfortable—at the very least at first? It’s on account of one thing I name instantaneous tissue soreness. Think about it this manner: The quick aftermath of any good exercise, which includes taxing your muscle tissue, is short-term weak spot in these muscle tissues. But with time to relaxation and get well, the physique responds to that exercise by reinforcing the confused tissue, making it stronger and more healthy. This is what occurs throughout Yin Yoga, and it’s the foremost distinction between Yin and restorative yoga. Where Yin goals to place particular sorts of stress on the tissues to advertise power, hydration, and mobility, restorative yoga seeks to prop the physique in such a approach that a deep rest can happen with out stressing the physique in any vital approach. Two totally different intentions, two totally different experiences.
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The Science Behind Yin Yoga
To extra absolutely perceive how the muscle tissue, ligaments, and fascia are careworn throughout Yin Yoga postures, it’s useful to take a look at the pioneering analysis of Helene Langevin, MD, PhD, director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine in Boston. Langevin is a medical physician and an acupuncturist who has studied the mechanisms of acupuncture and what occurs to our tissues once they obtain a mild stretch over a number of minutes.
Her analysis exhibits that when an acupuncture needle is inserted into some extent and quickly twisted forwards and backwards, the collagen fibers of the unfastened connective tissues wrap round the needle “like spaghetti around a fork,” she says. That winding of the collagen round the needle generates a micro-stretch in the connective tissues that lasts so long as the needle is left in place. After 30 minutes of this needle-induced stretch (which is usually accompanied by a uninteresting, achy feeling), the cells in the close by tissues reply by releasing sure pain-relieving molecules.
Langevin was capable of replicate this impact—with out utilizing needles—through the use of a mild, guide stretching method for 30 minutes, similar to how we strategy stretching our our bodies in Yin Yoga. Of course, you probably gained’t keep in a Yin pose for 30 minutes. Yet inside a Yin sequence (like the one on the following pages), the cumulative gentle-stretching time an space of your physique receives might begin to strategy the 30-minute mark, enabling you to expertise the similar type of advantages.
Langevin’s analysis has proven that lengthy, mild stretches (10 minutes, twice a day), result in decreased irritation and restoration of healthy mobility in connective tissues. And one other research, carried out by Robert Schleip, PhD (who has devoted his life to learning fascia) confirmed that when connective tissues are gently stretched for 15 minutes, 30 minutes after the launch of the stretch, they turn out to be extra hydrated than they have been earlier than the stretch passed off.
Together, these research recommend that on a bodily degree, Yin Yoga helps promote the power, vitality, hydration, and mobility of our connective tissues. Yet Yin Yoga works on an lively degree, too. To wit: Langevin discovered a correlation between the location of conventional acupuncture factors and planes of intermuscular connective tissues. As an acupuncturist myself, this is sensible to me. Often, conventional acupuncture texts describe the location of factors as being present in the area between two muscle tissue, between a muscle and bone, or between two bones. What’s between this stuff? Connective tissues, that are additionally residence to the meridians, or strains of delicate physique power, in Chinese drugs. As a end result, Yin Yoga is a method of selling higher energetic stream and enhanced energetic circulation. With each acupuncture and Yin Yoga, deep energetic stagnations are unblocked, notably at the joints. When one’s power circulates with unimpeded ease, the ensuing response is one among calmness and contentment. This might be one cause why many Yin yogis report feeling a deep parasympathetic (relaxation and digest) nervous-system response after the follow, marked by an enduring feeling of rest.