For starters, practising during the day and at night bring about different benefits, says Jacqueline Wong from Southeast Active.
What is YIN yoga?
YIN Yoga works on the connective tissues rather than the muscles. Pioneered by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, YIN yoga involves poses that are mostly done on the mat sitting or lying down. These are held for a much longer time than in conventional forms of yoga. As its name implies, YIN is passive, as opposed to Yang (active).
We need to “melt” into a pose in order to relax the muscles that are used to holding our bodies in a certain shape. Only when we are in a pose for several minutes, do the muscles start to tire, relax and take a back seat. This allows the stretch to reach the connective tissues.
Not every type of yoga benefits athletic pursuits. For instance, a marathon runner struggling with knee issues from overuse can experience even more pressure while holding the Warrior 2 pose. It’s better to iron out the connective tissue in the knee by relaxing for five minutes in a full or half butterfly. This allows connective tissues and fascia around the knee joints to gently hydrate, heal and get stronger.
People always ask why their knee or hip problems from other sports don’t seem to get better despite doing yoga. It’s important to identify the right form of yoga for your needs. If you have a cardio and/or strength-building fitness regime, YIN Yoga is what your body secretly craves. It can propel your performance further.
At SouthEast Active, YIN Yoga is taught in different ways because there are so many facets. Sometimes the class revolves around a meridian line (eg, heart, lung or liver). Sometimes we use props like tennis balls for physical manipulation of our knots and kinks. We also incorporate chakra theories and meditation in our classes.
What should beginners know about the practice?
First, YIN yoga is not a form of exercise. It is a form of natural healing for the body. So don’t expect to burn off that double chocolate muffin you had for tea.
Second, it is a still, quiet practice. Prepare to remain quiet throughout the entire session, soaking in the music, Tibetan bells and the teacher’s guiding voice.
Third, come in comfortable clothing so that you can relax without having to tug and pull at your clothes.
While the practice is relaxing, there will be some discomfort when in the poses. Falling asleep is fine although there is work to be done, even when lying on your back for five minutes. Only by pushing through the boundaries of our comfort zone can we start to see progress in our body and mind.
Finally, come with an open heart and open mind. This is a vastly different practice, and will not only benefit your body but also your mind.
What are some benefits of the practice?
Physically, it brings healing to the body, in particular the joints and spine, where energy tends to get stagnant. Mentally, it helps to calm you down and de-stress.
Even though we might be doing the same practice in the day and at night, morning YIN tends to energise, while night YIN relaxes. Our sessions are mostly held in the Loft Studio, which is lit by natural light during the day, and by candlelight in the evening. We try to make our sessions fully immersive so you just sink in for 60 minutes of bliss.
How often should it be practised?
As often as you like! Devoted YIN yogis practise every day – first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, or at the yoga studio. But for starters, try once a week. Your body will start to develop a memory for the poses, and the going gets more enjoyable once you grasp the essence of this practice.
Still, YIN yoga is not as easy as it’s cracked out to be.
It’s passive and simple, but not easy. There are no bells and whistles in YIN yoga, no sexy sequences that you would get in Vinyasa yoga. For older students, it can be physically challenging to stay still in a pose, although the poses are basic. But for many, the challenge lies in the taming of the mind. If you have a monkey mind – one that constantly chatters and cannot remain still – YIN yoga can help. A still mind is a strong mind.
While YIN is a standalone practice, it is also highly beneficial as a complementary practice for other types of yoga such as flow yoga. What is the best way to incorporate the various practices?
For yogis with a regular Yang practice, a session or two of YIN is extremely beneficial. Most forms of yoga already incorporate the mindful aspect. But physically, your body also benefits from learning to hold back. Imagine: you have to pull back the string of a bow back more in order to shoot the arrow forward further.
A passive practice like YIN hydrates connective tissues (which other forms of yoga don’t), improves flexibility, reduces risk of injuries (from overdoing a backbend, for instance) and gives you time to marinate in a pose. It is an opportunity to scan your body for strengths and weaknesses (through physical sensations).
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This story was done in consultation with Jacqueline Wong, co-founder and head activator of SouthEast Active