To find balance in our yoga practice it is important to balance yin, recovery, and yang, activity. In this blog post I will guide you through the practice of yin yoga, the concept of yin and yang, and explain how yin yoga may help you release tension and find balance in life.
Yin yoga can reduce tension in body, mind and soul
Our world’s biggest problem is not poverty, drugs, fear of war, or hunger. It is tension. All kinds of tension lead to all kinds of imbalances and insecurities. If one knows how to free oneself from tension, one has the solution to one’s problems in life. If you are able to balance your tensions, you then automatically learn how to balance your emotions, anger, and passions.
Yogic philosophy as well as modern psychology sum up three basic types of tension that are responsible for all the agonies in modern life. These are muscular tension, emotional tension, and mental tension. Through the art and practice of yin yoga, these tensions can be progressively reduced. Yin yoga focuses on the fascia, the type of tissue that keeps us together. Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support and protection for most structures within the human body, including muscle. Fascia is what gives us our form and what makes it possible for us to work our amazing bodies in the ways we do.
The fascia is interlinked with our nervous system and our brain through what’s called tensegrity, or “The Architecture of life.” Tensegrity indicates that the integrity of a structure—in this case the human body and mind—derives from how all parts are wired together, not how they are stacked.
We have fascia everywhere, and our nervous system is enclosed in fascial membranes and continues as nerve sheaths to every corner of the body. Thus different types of strain or tension affect the structure in different ways. From a yogic perspective you could say that we are wired together by spirit, and if spirit is limited in its expresssion, the prana, or life force, will be disrupted, and there will be less freedom for energy to move. Yogis would say that less Shakti equals less flow in life. Better flow of Shakti equals better flow in life.
Passivity is the key to find release in yin yoga
Our yoga practice should be a blend of yang/out/action/contraction and yin/in/observation/extension to make the whole balanced and to affect our entire health to move towards homeostatis (the maintenance of equilibrium). Yang yoga is a more vigorous yoga practice that targets the muscular tissue and through movement create heat. Examples of yang based yoga is Ashtanga Vinyasa, Poweryoga and Anusara yoga.
Through the practice of yin yoga, one targets the fascia/connective tissue in the body, which makes it a marvellously therapeutic tool for healing bodily, mental, and emotional imbalances.
When you participate in a yin yoga class, you will experience mostly seated, supine, or prone poses, and you will stay in the poses, not moving, with your muscles relaxed for long periods of time—up to five minutes, sometimes longer. Staying muscularly passive for long periods of time gently stress the connective tissue (which gets stiff and immobile with age and through too much or too little use). Yin yoga poses focus mainly on the lower parts of the body because the abundance of dense connective tissue around the joints in this areas requires extra care and attention.
Balancing Yin and Yang
Yin yoga introduces us to the natural edges of our beings in a graceful way. If we push our edges or lead a life that is constantly yang; we move into too much yang, burning energy rather than conserving. On the other hand, if we draw inward too much or lead a too passive lifestyle, we start moving away from life and being present, into the past, sliding backward. Too much yin or too much yang creates imbalances. They need to co-exist side by side in order for us to live our lives in harmony and balance.
Yin and yang can be described as two variables; they are either on the opposite ends of a cycle, like the seasons of the year, or opposites on a continuum of energy or matter. The opposition is relative and can only be understood through relationships between the two.
For example: Water is yin relative to steam but yang relative to ice. Nothing is totally yin or yang. Just as a state of total yin is reached, yang starts to grow. This is evident in the yin yoga practice, since after you have gotten deep into relaxation and mental stillness in a yin yoga pose, the blood circulation increases and you can start to feel heat inside. They constantly transform into each other, just as there can be no energy without matter and no day without light.
If you are accustomed to sweating your way into cool poses, yin yoga may at first glance seem too simple, slow, and boring to some. But this practice of long, passively held floor poses is deeply nourishing and has a myriad of benefits for any yoga practitioner.
Yin yoga – the practice of letting go
In yin yoga you move inside with the mentality as the observer, not the as the force of action where you want to change and go to the outer edge. If one does yin yoga and aim to push and move away from discomfort, one experiences no effect rather than more frustration and tension and less circulation. With the attitude of the observer, the opposite happens. So when one practices yin yoga, I find it valuable to have some techniques like breath and visualization in order to calm the restless and aggressive mind down.
When you come into a position, move slowly and gently into it. Don’t try to follow a picture or an idea of how far you should go in the exercise. In yoga there are no aesthetic ideals and no end result to strive for. Pause frequently and listen to your body. Wait for the body and mind to respond before going deeper into the position. Finding your limit doesn’t always need to mean pushing yourself.
Many yoga practitioners loose their sensitivity to the body’s signals as they go through the motions of a yoga practice day after day, perhaps focusing too much on achieving a physical goal, such as a sculpted body or mastering a new pose. Look instead for just the right amount of intensity in each exercise. Aim for a sensation that you, through the breath, can just be with during each moment of breathing, not having to do or fix anything.
This text has been inspired by content from my book: Yin Yoga – An individual practice. If you like what you read you can buy it here!
Learn more about yin yoga:
- How to understand yoga through gravity, by Frida Starvid
- 4 anledningar att praktisera yinyoga, av Leila Andersson (In swedish)
- Evening Routine - How To End Your Day Feeling Relaxed, by Yogobe
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