New to yoga? With so many styles of yoga to choose from, knowing where to start can be a challenge. If you’re just starting out, one style worth exploring is yin yoga. Characterized by a gentle pace and passive poses, yin yoga will help you explore movement and meditation at a slower pace. This guide to yin yoga for beginners will help you dive deep into this rich and rewarding practice.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga is a restorative-style practice that’s primarily performed while seated or lying down. These poses generally target the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. It was originally introduced to the West in the late 1970s by martial arts champion and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink, and it was further developed and spread by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers.
The practice is characterized by long holds ranging from 2-5 minutes. Props such as bolsters, blocks, and blankets are often used to keep the practitioner comfortable in long holds, relax the muscles, and maintain passivity.
The name “yin yoga” calls attention to the Eastern philosophy of yin and yang, which acknowledges that all things exist as opposite and complementary principles in nature, such as dark-light and old-young. Each opposite is of equal importance. In order to achieve harmony, you must reach a balance between the two. Yin yoga represents the soft, passive, and cool nature of the yin principle. Our busy lives and more intense styles of yoga represent the strong, active, and warm yang characteristics.
Three major principles shape yin yoga:
- Find your edge. This principle speaks to finding your physical and emotional edge in each pose. Yin yoga requires a delicate balance of feeling sensation, but not going beyond your limits into pain. Pushing your body as hard as possible is not the goal. Over time, you will learn where to find your edge.
- Be still and soft. While several adjustments might be needed to settle into your edge, a goal of yin yoga is to stay as still as possible in a pose (with the exception of moving to reduce pain). Once you’re settled into a pose, softening your muscles allows you to work into your connective tissue. While other forms of yoga require you to engage the muscles, yin yoga requires you to relax them.
- Hold for an extended time. Most yin yoga classes involve 2-5 minute holds, but listening to your body will help you find what works for you. Beginners may benefit from starting with 1-3 minutes, while advanced practitioners may aim for 3-5 minutes or more.
By following these principles, you’re allowed the time and space to learn your body’s needs and how to soften into a pose without the pressure of a faster pace.
Benefits of Yin Yoga for Beginners
In addition to providing physical, mental, and emotional benefits, yin yoga creates a strong foundation for learning other styles of yoga. Some benefits of yin yoga include:
- Knowledge of props. Using props gives you the chance to learn how to assess the need for support and builds knowledge of how to use props in other styles of yoga.
- Emotional resilience. Long holds give you the time and space to explore your thoughts and feelings. Over time, you can learn how to sit with uncomfortable emotions as they arise and work through them. Through this, you will be better equipped to face challenges in your practice and personal life.
- Improved focus. Focus is an essential skill that will help you progress in your practice. Yin yoga will help you cultivate improved concentration, which is helpful for meditation or other kinds of yoga.
- Reduced stress. Yin yoga is the perfect complement to yang-style activities. The stillness you cultivate in each pose allows you to find refuge from the stress and pressure of everyday life while creating sense of calm and peace.
- Heightened body-awareness. Finding your edge, making adjustments, and learning when to use props will help you discover your body’s unique needs. This knowledge can be carried into other styles of yoga.
- Increased range of motion. Taking care of your connective tissue will help you relieve joint stress and safely open them to their healthy limits. Releasing muscle tension and lubricating your ligaments and joints will help your body function better and allow you to keep progressing in your practice.
Ready to experience yin yoga for beginners? Try our Restorative Reset plan with Carling Harps for yin yoga classes that grow with your practice.