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Tired of Chaturanga? Give Yin Yoga a Try!

March 11, 2014

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When I first started doing yoga in college during the swimming off-season, it seemed there was really only one option – vinyasa with lots and lots of chaturangas. While this did increase my flexibility and keep my muscles toned outside of the pool, the practice didn’t do much for my super-tight and often-injured shoulders.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered just what I was looking for – yin yoga.

As a complement to more active yang styles, including hatha and vinyasa, yin yoga is a practice that focuses on stretching the connective tissues of the body through passive poses held for three to 10 minutes each. In these poses, yoga teachers will instruct students to relax their muscles and sink deeply into the pose to quiet the mind while fully experiencing the sensations and emotions that may arise.

There are many benefits to adopting yin yoga in addition to your usual yang practices:

Better lubrication and relaxation of the joints. We’ve all felt that popping sensation in a knee, hip, or ankle – especially during the colder months. By practicing yin, you are working on connective tissues that are otherwise stressed during long hours of sitting at a desk or running around doing errands. The stretch and movement of these tissues will aid in lubrication, making them stronger and more resistant to damage.

Deeper relaxation. One of my favorite benefits of yin yoga is the ability to sit and let my mind do what it needs to relax and combat the stressful world around me. Sometimes it’s working through a relationship issue in dragon pose or letting my mind not think in legs up the wall. Either way, time to sit with yourself quietly helps your body relax and be better equipped to handle stress outside of the yoga room.

Regulates body energy. This has to do with the ancient Chinese concept of qi, the life force energy that circulates around the body. When we feel points of tension or stress, the belief is that physical and emotional factors have caused a blockage in the flow of qi. Yin poses are designed to eliminate these blockages and restore the correct balance and flow of the energies in our body, leaving us feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Do you incorporate yin yoga into your fitness routine?