What is yin yoga?

Child's pose is a great yin yoga posture

My basic definition of yin yoga is: A series of yoga postures held for longer than in a usual practice. But that’s a really short explanation that leaves a lot of room for expansion.

In yin yoga, the postures tend to be relatively easy ones (not balancing or strength poses) and the hold times are generally between two and five minutes. I like to find the middle ground in a yin yoga pose, which I often describe in Goldilocks terms; it’s not painful (like burning your mouth on really hot porridge), but it’s more than nothing (like sinking too far into a ridiculously cushy bed) – it’s that perfect balance. Enough of a stretch to feel it, but not so much that your muscles tense up and fight against relaxation.

My intent in a yin practice is to relax and gently stretch, as well as mentally settle into stillness. Holding a posture for two to five minutes (or even more) tends to be a mental test, far more than a physical one. The commitment to being in the moment -letting go of thinking, planning, and doing- is a challenge for most people.

Spending last week with Paul & Suzee Grilley really got me thinking about how I define yin yoga. It’s not a trademark or a specific limited number of postures; it’s not proscribed sequence or a meticulous list of dos and don’ts. I think it’s an attitude.

My new working description of yin yoga is: The desire to be still in a yoga practice and the intent to affect parts of the body beyond muscles through long-held postures.

Of course, if that definition fails, I can always fall back on my favourite tongue-in-cheek way to describe a yin yoga class: Lazy yoga 😉

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