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A yin yoga practice is a welcome addition to any yoga, fitness, or healthy lifestyle routine.
This slow, gentle form of yoga is the perfect complement to a hectic, fast-paced life or intense workouts. Yin yoga uses gentle, relaxing postures to alleviate tension, enhance breath awareness, and develop mindfulness.
Continue reading to find out more about the benefits of yin yoga, who it’s best for, and poses to get started.
Yin is a relaxed, passive style of yoga that involves holding poses, or asanas in Sanskrit, for longer durations and increasing your inner awareness. This includes paying attention to your breath, thoughts, and body sensations.
According to Elise Greenspoon, a yoga teacher, healing therapist, and wellness specialist, “Yin yoga is a gentle form of yoga that’s cooling, grounding, and nurturing. Holding poses for longer periods encourages stillness so you can go inward.”
The Chinese medicine principle of yin and yang refers to the harmonious nature of the opposite and complementary elements that make up the universe. Yin is cool, slow, and passive while yang is warm, fast, and active (1).
Greenspoon explains, “Yin yoga is very meditative in nature and taught in a calm and gentle way. Contrary to active and dynamic asana practices, yin is static, relaxing, and practiced closer to the ground. Yin yoga is contrary to powerful, stimulating yoga styles such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa, which are considered to be yang practices.”
Yin yoga is ideal for anyone who wants to engage in a quiet, reflective yoga practice that involves holding poses for longer periods.
This style is suitable for people who are new to yoga or want to balance intense workouts. It’s also great for people who have health concerns or injuries that require low intensity activities.
Greenspoon recommends yin yoga to anyone who wants to focus on calming their mind and relaxing their body.
She explains, “Yin yoga is the perfect antidote to the busyness of our modern society. The speed, pressure, and expectations many people constantly face keep the body in a state of stress. This activates the sympathetic nervous system, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. Being still while focusing on calming the breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is known as the rest-and-digest response.”
Yin yoga offers a wealth of benefits that may help you to alleviate pain and tension, relieve stress and anxiety, and improve your overall well-being.
The practice of holding a pose for an extended period teaches you to sit with and observe uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, or physical sensations as they arise.
According to Greenspoon, “Yin yoga benefits people who have experienced trauma or burnout by providing a safe space to reconnect to the sensations in the body without being overwhelmed by them. The practice provides the opportunity to experience the range of emotions that we so easily push away or hide from ourselves. This may be due to lack of time, feeling unsupported, or simply not wanting to deal with them.”
Greenspoon recommends seeking out a teacher or community where it’s welcome to talk about the emotions and deeper feelings that aren’t always recognized or appropriate to discuss in daily life.
Research indicates that yin yoga may help develop mindfulness while reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
A 2018 study including over 100 adults investigated the effects of a 5-week yin yoga program on its own and combined with mindfulness and psychotherapy.
Compared with the control group who didn’t do any type of yoga, the two intervention groups experienced significantly reduced physiological and psychological risks related to noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease (
Both intervention groups reduced their levels of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The group that combined yin yoga with mindfulness and psychotherapy significantly reduced their stress levels.
In a small 2021 study, student pharmacists and faculty who practiced yin yoga and guided meditation for 6 weeks increased their mindfulness and reduced stress and anxiety levels.
The findings were reported at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months, which indicates the long-term benefits of yin yoga and guided meditation (
Larger, in-depth studies are needed to expand upon these findings.
Yin yoga may also help to:
Before you start a yin yoga practice, there are a few things to keep in mind.
To ensure safety and comfort, Greenspoon advises, “It’s essential to ensure the spine is always in alignment and that the joints are not overextended. For example, the shoulders, knees, and ankles should always move in their natural range of motion.”
Greenspoon encourages her students to focus on maintaining a smooth, even breathing pattern.
She explains, “Finding it difficult to breathe deeply is a clear indication that you’ve gone too far in a posture. You need to pull yourself back or use more props to find that sweet spot of tolerable discomfort.”
Yin yoga uses a variety of props that provide support, comfort, and modification options. This allows you to go deeper into the poses and fully relax.
According to Greenspoon, “Props support the process of unwinding without overstretching, especially the tendons and ligaments. Experiencing pain, especially in your joints, is a sign that you need to use props or modifications. Additionally, in most postures, it’s beneficial to rest the head on a cushion to encourage relaxation.”
Most studios will provide blocks, bolsters, and straps. Eye pillows and blankets are sometimes offered. If you’re practicing at home, you can improvise with towels, belts, and pillows.
Here are 6 yin yoga poses that encourage relaxation, revitalize energy levels, and alleviate tension.
This forward bend allows you to draw your attention inward while releasing tension. Wide-legged Child’s Pose stretches your spine, hips, and inner thighs.
Greenspoon recommends this pose for its ability to reenergize while helping you feel grounded and connected to the earth.
Pigeon Pose improves hip flexibility and mobility. It also alleviates low back tension, benefits digestion, and promotes relaxation.
This pose allows you to relieve tension in your hamstrings while supporting your spine.
For this pose, you’ll need a strap or towel.
This gentle backbend improves flexibility in your back, core, and hip flexors. Fish Pose stimulates the throat chakra, which relates to communication. It’s also known as a heart-opening asana, which relates to love, emotions, and compassion.
Greenspoon explains, “Fish Pose can help instill a sense of joy. It helps alleviate feelings related to heartbreak, such as grief, sadness, or depression.”
This pose improves flexibility in your chest, spine, and glutes.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose restores energy levels, boosts circulation, and promotes relaxation.
Yin yoga is ideal for people of most fitness levels who want to develop a relaxed, meditative practice or balance an intense exercise routine.
The practice allows you to slow down, relax, and turn inward, which helps alleviate stress and restore your energy levels. Yin yoga also improves flexibility, boosts circulation, and reduces tension.
Reach out to a healthcare professional if you’re new to yoga, take medications, or have any health conditions. Look for yin yoga classes at your local studio or online if you want to learn from a qualified teacher and connect to a supportive community.
In time and with practice, you’ll reap the many benefits of slowing down and turning within.