The concept of Yin Yoga has been around from the very beginnings of Yoga as a discipline. Paul Grilley, and later Sarah Powers (who I am soooooo lucky to call my teacher), have played a vital role in bringing this therapeutic practice back and sharing it with us.
Paul Grilley credits his teachers – Dr. Garry Parker for educating him in anatomy and encouraging Paul to start teaching yoga; Paulie Zink for introducing Daoist yoga to him, part of which was to practice floor poses for a period of 5-10 minutes; and Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama for the knowledge Paul has gained on Chakras and Meridian theory.
Paul attributes the growing interest in “yin” yoga and spreading its principles to Sarah Powers. When Sarah, influenced by Paul’s teachings, began introducing the longer-held “floor” poses to her students, she named them as “yin” and the dynamic vinyasa sequences she taught – “yang”. That is how this healing practice acquired its name.
Thus, Yin Yoga is now a term, used to describe a softer, more natural, traditional and meditative style of yoga compared to dynamic vigorous styles yoga which have gained a wide popularity both in the West and most recently in the East.
Despite the rapid growth of the “physical” yoga, increasing numbers of dedicated yoga practitioners follow Sarah Power and Paul Grilley’s lead and recognise their yang practice as incomplete; and are coming back to this slower, nurturing style of yoga, seeking the equilibrium in their physical, mental and spiritual practices.
While being highly complimentary to Yang practices, Yin Yoga is also effective in training the mind and the body to become still, developing focus and the ability to let go of physical, mental and emotional distractions which organically arise throughout yoga practice.
The poses in Yin Yoga are held for a period of time, applying traction of the connective tissues and enhancing energy flow (chi) through, as Dr.Motoyama demonstrated, water-rich channels of the connective tissues (location of which corresponds to the location of the major meridians in the Traditional Chinese Medicine).
Yin Yoga can be highly beneficial for everyone who seeks to experience physical, emotional, energetic or spiritual benefits, which can be attained through balanced yoga practice.
Physical benefits of regular Yin Yoga practice are characterised by increased mobility, flexibility and strength of the joints, connective tissues, as well as hips and pelvis, flexibility and openness of which are hard to develop through dynamic yang practice only.
By holding yin poses for duration of 3 to 10 and sometimes up to 20 minutes, fluidity within the connective tissues increases providing a practitioner with the feeling of physical ease and comfort. Apart from the connective tissues positively affected through yin practice, the vital organs of the body are cleansed, detoxified and toned, allowing the oxygen, blood and lymph to circulate more freely.
According to the Meridian Theory of the Traditional Chinese Medicine, the functions of the organs are determined both, anatomically and energetically, with each organ possessing physical, energetic and emotional functions.
Thus, the blockages in the energy flow through the connective tissue, nerve and blood system channels are closely linked to and, if unaddressed, manifest not only in physical, but also energetic ‘dis-ease’. Yin poses are methodically created in alignment with the meridian and chakra theories to unblock the energy pathways releasing the flow of refined chi through them.
The extended steadiness in the poses allows a practitioner to observe the breath and rising emotional sensations and with time, to develop the qualities of patience, acceptance and compassion towards oneself and other beings.
Regular practice of Yin Yoga rejuvenates, and is proven to be effective training for mindfulness meditation. It facilitates self-inquiry, and deepens our awareness of breath, heart, mind and surrounding environment, as well as enhances our ability to cope with stress, discomfort and emotional imbalance in our busy lives.