Yin Yoga’s peaceful pace makes it the perfect antidote to living life in the fast lane.
Yin yoga is a restorative practice with slow, passive movements that target the deep connective tissues in our body. There are no downward dogs, no back-bending sun salutations, and no warrior ones, twos, or threes. There are no standing tree poses, and no cows, or cats. In Yin yoga, the pace is slow and you don’t need to break a sweat in order to reap the benefits.
Like many other practices, the asanas (postures) are mostly performed in a seated or lying down position. You can expect the likes of a wide-kneed child’s pose, a gentle backbend, and forward bends with your legs together.
While the practice of holding yoga asanas for extended periods of time has always been a part of traditional yoga practice, it is the length of time each pose is held that makes Yin yoga different. Beginners are often instructed to hold their posture for a minute or two, whereas the more experienced usually hold for three to five minutes. It’s not uncommon to see advanced practitioners stay in a single pose for up to 20 minutes.
Yin yoga’s tranquil tempo is known for grounding us in the present moment and connecting us deeply with our mind, body, and soul.
Everything about Yin yoga ties it back to the Taoist concept of yin and yang–the opposite and complementary principles of nature. Yin can be described as slow, steady, feminine, passive, and cool. Yang, on the other hand, is known to be changing, fluid, masculine, active, and hot.
Despite a deep-rooted history in the East, Yin yoga was actually founded by a practitioner from the West. Influenced by Taoist alchemy, and the practice of Hatha and Taoist yoga, Paulie Zink developed Yin and Yang yoga which incorporates long-held postures (Yin) and faster-paced movements that tie the postures together (Yang). His original concepts were thrown slightly off balance in the 1980s when Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers came onto the scene, encouraging practitioners to focus only on the slow, restorative aspect of the original discipline in pursuit of cultivating inner stillness. Ultimately, the Yang was dropped and Yin yoga, as we know it today, was born.
Yoga for the Mind
In our fast-paced, over-stimulated world filled with deadlines, commitments, and incessant electronic notifications, Yin yoga allows us to press the pause button on life.
The practice is often considered an effective method of stress relief, as the slow pace of movement is an excellent primer for meditation. Through a long, deliberate focus on the physical self, you begin to naturally bring stillness to your thoughts, creating the perfect conditions to clear the mind.
At first, the practice may be a little uncomfortable or create feelings of agitation. But over time, learning to surrender to the postures teaches you to surrender your mind.
Yoga for the Body
From a physical perspective, Yin yoga brings about all of the benefits of other conventional yoga practices, as well as some additional positive benefits for the body.
Increased muscle strength and tone, energy, vitality, and metabolism, together with improved cardio and circulatory health, respiration, and overall athletic performance are just a few of the myriad physical benefits. The focus on the deep connective tissues, as opposed to only muscle activation, means that Yin yoga boosts circulation around the joints and drastically improves flexibility.
Further, Yin yoga is specifically designed to help you sit longer and more comfortably, making it an excellent precursor to developing helpful meditation practices.
Yoga for the Soul
Finally, with roots in spirituality, Yin yoga is like food for the soul, providing emotionally therapeutic release.
The poses are said to stimulate the meridian points and relieve blockages in the subtle body–the part of the mind, intellect, and ego that control the physical body. Releasing these blockages helps us achieve a state of spiritual equilibrium. On an emotional level, it allows for thoughts and feelings to arise that would otherwise go unnoticed in a faster paced practice.
This practice is an intimate experience that allows time to cultivate awareness of silence, to truly be present and connect with our inner self.
Join us at Orion Healing Centre for a variety of Yin-based yoga classes that will leave you with a sense of harmony and contentment, taking you back to where it all began–with Yin, with Yang, and with balance. Want to dive deeper into the balance? Check out our Yoga Teacher Training classes and become a teacher yourself.
Let’s start with the basics and look at the muscles and bones that make up the hips. There are more than 20 muscles that cross the hip. These include inner thigh muscles called adductors, outer thigh muscles called abductors, hip flexors (of which the psoas major is the biggest and strongest player), deep lateral rotators, and more. There are between 17 and 25 muscles in the hips, depending on how they’re classified.
Beneath these muscles, there is the largest ball and socket joint of the body, which is a major weight-bearing joint. The joint is formed where the thigh bone meets the pelvis with a ball-shaped knob that fits into the socket formed in the hipbone. Smooth, slippery cartilage allows the bones to move against one another easily, without pain.
About The Psoas Muscles
The psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso and legs. They are also the deepest muscles in the body’s core, attaching from the vertebrae, through the pelvis crossing over–without attaching to–the ball and socket hip joint, and then wrapping around the body to the front and attaching at the femurs. They’re the only muscles that connect the upper body to the lower body. They sit behind the large abdominal muscles, digestive, and reproductive organs, as well as arteries and veins at the skeletal core, and provide a muscular shelf upon which the kidneys and adrenals sit. In short, they’re kind of a big deal.
Your psoas muscles work like hydraulic pumps, moving blood and lymph throughout the cells of the body. They’re also closely connected to the breath: key ligaments connect the diaphragm to the psoas. The two muscles are also connected by fascia that attaches to other hip muscles. As you probably well know, the diaphragm is the major muscle that controls your breathing.
The psoas muscle is also key in determining good or bad posture, and spinal stability. Its length determines whether or not the pelvis is free to move. As such, this muscle plays an important role in each and every yoga asana (not just “hip opening” ones). In backbends, it helps the front thighs lengthen and the leg to move independently of the pelvis. In standing and forward bends, a flexible psoas allows the thighs to rotate outwards. Basically, a released psoas will help you ease into any yoga pose.
Fight or Flight
Many people don’t realise how closely the psoas muscle is connected to our fight or flight response. It was the psoas that propelled our ancestors into a full-on run, or helped them curl into a little ball, when they were being chased by tigers. Though we don’t really need to run from tigers anymore, that evolutionary trait has been passed down to us today. As such, when we are startled or stressed, the psoas contracts.
The problem with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles is that our psoas muscles are constantly contracted. We eat meals in a seated position, most of us work in a seated position, we drive in a seated position, we watch TV in a seated position, and many of us sleep in the fetal position. A chronically tightened psoas signals to the body and mind that you’re in danger, and exhausts the adrenal glands and depletes the immune system.
Think of how the psoas muscles connect to the legs. Because they connect the spine in the back of the body to the legs at the front of the body, if they are tight, it only makes sense that the lower back would be pulled forward, and out of alignment. This is why tight hips increase the load on the spine, and crank it into overdrive. When the hips are open, with more range of motion, this allows for better circulation, and more support for the muscles of the back and the spine. In other words, lengthen the psoas muscles to help alleviate back pain.
It is the hips that give you your physical power in most movements. Think of just about any sports movement–from swinging a golf club to a tennis racket, to running, to swimming, to jumping. As we said at the start of the article, and as any sports coach will tell you, it’s all in the hips. However, what many athletes forget is that it’s not just the strength of the hip muscles that is key, but also their flexibility. Spend equal amounts of time strengthening the hips as you do lengthening them.
Stuck Emotions and Creativity
The hips are a storage shed for negative feelings and pent-up emotions–particularly those related to control. Energetically, the hip area is associated with the sacral chakra, which is the body’s creative centre. This makes sense: the hips hold and support the reproductive organs, which are the organs of creation. As such, opening up this part of the body helps not only release control, negative feelings, and pent-up emotions, but also helps unlock and support our creative centres. This is why hip openers are known to create energetic shifts and releases within the body, and to help free the mind.
Hip Opening at Orion
While all yoga classes are excellent for hip opening, we are happy to offer a special Alignment/Hip Opening classes at Orion, which we invite you to try and experience the benefits! Check out our weekly schedule here for time and location.