Yin Yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposing yet complementary forces that can characterize any phenomenon. Yin can be described as stable, immobile, feminine, passive, cold, and downward moving. Yang is depicted as changing, mobile, masculine, active, hot, and upward moving. In nature, a mountain could be described as yin; the ocean, as yang. Within the body, the relatively stiff connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, fascia) is yin, while the pliant and mobile muscles and blood are yang. Applied to yoga, a passive practice is yin, whereas most of today’s hatha yoga practices are yang: They actively engage the muscles and build heat in the body.
When you take a Yin Yoga class, you’ll do mostly seated, supine, or prone poses, and you’ll hold them, with your muscles relaxed, for long periods of time—up to 5 minutes or more. The theory behind this approach (proposed by Zink) is that staying muscularly passive for long periods of time gently stretches connective tissue, which gets stiff and immobile with age. The asanas focus mainly on the lower back and hips because the abundance of dense connective tissue around those joints requires extra care and attention.
When you stop striving and tune in to what’s happening, you begin to truly feel the sensations in your body and mind as they arise. Once you accept that you will feel many things during a Yin practice—discomfort, boredom, anxiety—and learn to stay with the chorus of thoughts and feelings, your relationship to them will begin to change. You will learn that you have the inner strength to stay in situations you previously thought you couldn’t handle. You will see the impermanent nature of thoughts and feelings as you watch them arise and then pass on their own. And when you stop resisting what’s happening around you, you’ll gain a sense of liberation and trust in life.
Excerpts From Yoga Journal Article, Soothe Yourself, By Lisa Maria, Sequence by Sarah Powers