The practice of yin yoga is very different from a yang practice. Neither one is better than the other as each brings balances to its opposite. Modern life has a tendency of throwing us off balance in which some of us tend to seek more of one form than the other. It is important not to focus on choosing one type of yoga to provide us optimal health, but rather understanding that a balance of both is what is required to maintain our wellbeing.
In today’s growing yoga community, most yoga classes that are offered are of yang nature. They emphasize lengthening, strengthening and creating flexibility in our muscles. These classes can be great in challenging our bodies as well as challenging our endurance. It is these classes that help us feel satisfied physically as they push us to our edge. They also feed into our ever growing need to be moving, sweating, and meeting challenges – all very yang like activities. Although, these classes are great to stoke our internal fire, also known as our agni, we can sometimes miss the central point of yoga which is to be present in the body and to be connected with the breath so that we can engage deeper into our practice. It is in our yang practice that we can miss out on the opportunity to find acceptance in the stillness and find our balance with rest.
Yin yoga on the other hand, teaches us to find comfort in the stillness. This type of practice to some is considered more restorative because it does not require the vigorous movements that the yang practice entails. Like anything, a Yin practice can be just as challenging and demand as one chooses to makes it, just as a yang practice can be restorative if we choose not to go to our depths. Yin is about reaching our other tissues – our connective tissues, bones, and our fascia that run throughout the whole body. Yin differs from the yang postures in that it requires you to soften the muscles and release tension so that you can go deeper into the body. In order to stretch our colder yin tissues and provide healthy compression in our joints we need the muscles to trust that they are safe and to let go so that the deeper work can be done. It is for this reason that almost all yin postures are done on the ground in seated and reclined positions. The key to Yin work is that each pose must be held for longer periods of time, so the muscles have the opportunity to let go and for our bodies to begin to open in a deeper way. In many ways, a yin practice can be very meditative as we choose to still the body, calm the breath and quiet the mind.
So, Yin Yoga or Yang Yoga? Regardless of which practice you are more drawn to, remember that it is in the nature of both practices to encourage the movement of prana (energy) throughout our entire being as it opens the body to aid in the removal of physical and emotional blockages. Yin cannot exist without Yang as Yang cannot exist without Yin. Like all things in life, we need to find and create balance. Yoga is where yin meets yang and together they create harmony.
Kate teaches a variety of styles from Traditional Hatha and Yin to Specialty Therapeutic classes in fertility, pregnancy and postnatal. She is certified at a RYT-500 and currently is working on completing her Yoga Therapy certification.