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 for beginners. Characterized by a slow and gentle pace, as well as passive poses, yin yoga provides the beginner yogi a great opportunity to get their yoga practice off the ground. This introduction to yin yoga for beginners will help you learn how this practice can help you begin your yoga journey.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga is a restorative-style practice consisting of poses primarily performed while seated or lying down. These poses generally target the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. The practice was originally introduced to the west in the late 1970’s by martial arts champion and Taoist yoga teacher, Paulie Zink, and further developed and spread by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers.
Yin yoga is characterized by extended holds of postures that typically range from 2-5 minutes to allow the connective tissue to be stressed appropriately. Props such as bolsters, blocks, or blankets are often used in the practice to aid the practitioner in staying more comfortable for longer holds, to keep the muscles relaxed, and the pose passive.
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 pole of these opposites is of equal importance, and as one increases, the other decreases. In order to achieve harmony, a balance between the two must be reached. Like restorative yoga, yin yoga represents the stable, immobile, soft, passive, and cool nature of the yin principle. Our busy lives and more intense styles of yoga and fitness represent the changing, mobile, strong, active, and warm yang characteristics.
Three major principles shape yin yoga:
- Find Your Edge: This principle speaks to coming into a pose to fit your appropriate physical and emotional edge. Yin yoga requires a delicate balance of feeling sensation, but not going beyond your limits into pain. Pushing the body as hard as possible is not the goal of a yin practice. Over time, you will learn how to navigate the depth your body requires.
- Be Still and Soft: While several adjustments might be needed to find and settle into your edge, a goal of yin yoga is to stay as still as possible in a pose without moving (with the exception of alleviating pain if necessary). Once settled into a posture, softening the muscles allows you to get into the connective tissue of the body as you practice. Unlike other forms of yoga that require you to engage the muscles, yin yoga requires you to relax them.
- Hold for an Extended Time: While most yin yoga classes involve 2-5 minute holds, learning to listen to your body will help you find the appropriate length of time for you. As a baseline, beginners may benefit from starting with 1-3 minutes, while advanced practitioners may aim for 3-5 minutes or more — even up to 10, 20, or 25 minutes!
By following these principles within the practice, a beginner yogi is allowed the time and space to learn their body’s needs and how to relax and soften into a pose without the pressure of keeping up with a faster pace style of yoga.
Benefits of Yin Yoga for Beginners
Yin yoga not only provides many physical, mental, and emotional benefits, but it creates a strong foundation for other styles of yoga that may become a part of your later yoga journey. Some benefits of yin yoga for beginners include:
- Knowledge of Props: The use of props offers beginner yogis the opportunity to learn how to assess the need for support and helps build knowledge of how to use props in other styles of yoga.
- Emotional Resilience: Extended holds in yin yoga give us the time and space to explore our feelings and emotions as they come up in each pose. Over time, you can eventually 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 other parts of your practice or personal life.
- Improved Focus: Yin yoga provides an almost meditative quality as you settle into each pose and maintain focus on the experience. No matter your style preferences, focus is an essential skill to progress in your practice. Yin yoga can help you cultivate this improved concentration as you begin to explore meditation or other kinds of yoga.
- Reduced Stress: The practice of yin yoga is the perfect complement to our yang-style activities, and can help bring harmony and balance to our bodies and minds. The stillness you cultivate in each pose allows you to find refuge from the stress and pressure of everyday life, and instead creates a sense of calm and peace.
- Heightened Body-Awareness: Finding your edge in a pose, making small adjustments, and being able to effectively assess and use props helps you get to know your body better. As your learn your body’s unique anatomical needs, you will have a greater understanding of which poses are easier or more challenging, and how long a hold should be. This knowledge can be carried in to other styles of yoga.
- Increased Range of Motion: Taking care of the connective tissue around the joints allows you to relieve joint stress and safely open them to their healthy limits. As you release tension in the muscles and lubricate and protect the ligaments and joints, the body functions better allowing you to keep practicing and progressing.
Ready to experience yin yoga for beginners? Try these beginner poses or the Restorative Reset plan with Carling Harps for classes that grow with your practice as you progress from beginner to advanced.