Yin Yoga

The Therapeutic Benefits of Yin and the Water Phase Sequence

Definitions:

"Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures or asanas that are held for comparatively long periods of time - anywhere from three to five minutes or longer - up to twenty minutes per posture.  Yin yoga is generally considered a series of passive, long-held floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body - namely, the hips, pelvis, inner thighs and lower spine.  Some Yin poses will include postures that work the upper body as well."   Wikipedia

"Yin Yoga is a style of Taoist Yoga that emphasizes opening the deeper energetic channels of our body by relaxing the outer musculature and applying therapeutic stress to the skeletal and connective tissues."  Kellie Adkins, The Wisdom Method

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Yin Yoga serves to balance to the more energetic, active, heat building Yang Yoga most commonly practiced today. It is yoga for our joints.  Our bodies need both the elements of Yang Yoga which emphasizes building internal heat, strengthening muscles and building cardiac strength by moving our blood and oxygen through our bodies and Yin Yoga which works on bone and connective tissue health. Connective tissues are ligaments, tendons and fascia (sheets or bands of connective tissue) contained in the joints and spine.  Fascia is said to 'en sheath' all of the major systems of the body - Nervous System, Circulatory System, The Muscles and Skeletal Systems and the Digestive System and all other organs. Overtime, Yin Yoga can lengthen these connective tissues and increase mobility and flexibility. Both musculature and connective tissues play a role in our body's overall flexibility and health.

In his book Yin Yoga, Principles and Practice, Paul Grilley says Yin Yoga "Is a natural healing practice that cultivates physical ease and mental calm".  He asks the question "what then will be our contribution to the future? I believe part of the answer is to live noble lives, lives of kindness and tolerance and gratitude and contentment. But none of these things is possible if we are unable to control our impulses and quiet our minds".

Yin Yoga provides the vehicle for learning to turn our focus inward, become and make friends with our own minds and bodies, restore balance to our body/mind and to heal ourselves and possibly our World.

 

Yin Yoga is 'needle-less acupuncture' - Sarah Powers

 

Explanation and Philosophy - The Three Threads:

The Three Threads of Yin Yoga as described by Paul Grilley in his book "Yin Yoga Principles and Practice" are:

1)  The Study of Anatomy - understanding the human body, its functions, its movement and life processes, including the major human systems, the location and structures and the physiologic functions of each.  A good working knowledge of the fundamental principles of human movement is necessary to instruct and use those movements, postures or asanas to effect healing in the body.

2)  Taoists Yoga (or Taoist Yin) is a series of exercises mainly in lying and sitting positions practiced by Taoists to cultivate ch'i  - Wikipedia. Ch'i (or prana) is the internal, primal energy or essence of the body.  This ancient Chinese religion, Tao, means 'way', 'path' or 'principle'. Tao emphasizes the way or path to Health - Emotional, Spiritual, Physical Health.  - "Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river ' Lao Tse - the founder of Taoism. This saying encompasses the essence of Yin Yoga - Be still and allow the energy to flow throughout your body.

3)  Meridian Theory - objectively demonstrated by Dr. Motoyama - maintains that Meridians are water-rich channels (nadis) in the connective tissues, especially the fascia, that flow in and through all the major structures and systems of the body.   Ch'i - our primal energy is thought to run through these channels.  Yin Yoga was designed to activate Ch'i and move this primal energy through the Meridians or channels of the entire human body, specifically, the connective tissues.  Interestingly, the Meridian channels are very closely aligned to the acupuncture sites used since ancient times.

Basic Tenets of Yin Yoga:

1)  Mindfully move with kindness to an 'Appropriate Edge' in the asana - this is achieved by working into the maximum posture for each individual body and pulling back about 10%.   In Yin Yoga we do want some discomfort in and around the connective tissue; however, the muscles around the connective tissues must be relaxed.  The Anatomy principle at work is when muscles are tense and stressed the connective tissue cannot be lengthened or stressed.  Muscles that are relaxed allow the connective tissues to be stressed or worked.

2)  Stillness  -  It is only through complete Stillness, Attention/Intention (Nidra) turned inward and Guided Visualizations that we influence the subtle body of connective tissue and fascia. Stillness allows us to 'sit' with the minor discomfort of joint stress or 'sit' in the pain, therefore learning to sit with our emotional pain.  "Yin Yoga invites moderate discomfort so as to cultivate the ability to distance oneself from the ups and downs of experience, building inner strength" - Sarah Powers.  It is important here to note that one does not need to push through pain or ignore the bodies attempt to tell us when we are hurting ourselves in order to achieve health.

3)  Remain still for a length of time - Once the proper edge has been achieved, it is important to hold the posture for a longer time - three to five minutes and up to twenty minutes.  Connective tissues in the body do not respond to rapid movement, but through 'moderate' stress over a length of time, connective tissues will produce lengthening, growth, ease and will realign to allow for increased mobility/flexibility.

4)  Release with Care - As with all other forms of Yoga, our transitions in and out of postures or asanas are just as important as the posture themselves. In fact, more injuries often occur during transitions than in the poses themselves.

5)  Mindful Breath - learning to breathe normally in a posture, one that suits that each asana is best.  Trying to force the breath into the same rhythm throughout an entire Yin class is a Yang way of practicing.

 

The Water Phase of Yin Yoga:

The Water Phase of Yin Yoga refers to a series of Yin asanas that activate the Kidney and Urinary/ Bladder Meridians.  The Water Phase organ system encompasses the Kidneys, Adrenals, Sexual Organs and the Urinary Bladder.   In the Water Phase, the Kidney is the Yin Organ and the Urinary Bladder is the Yang organ.  The Kidney meridian flows up the interior and center of the body, and the Urinary Bladder meridian flows down the entire back of the body and the kidney organ opens in the bladder. They are along the inner thighs, backs of the thighs, spinal ex-tensors and along the line of the spine.  When we move through the water phase sequence, we alternately stretch, compress and strengthen the connective tissues and musculature that activate the Kidney and Urinary Bladder Meridians.These organ systems are the source of vital energy, balance and energy flow.  It is essential that they remain in balance so that all of the other organ systems of the body can function and stay in balance.

Each of the Organ Systems of the body coincides with distinct emotions.   When The Water Phase Organ systems are out of balance the body will evidence chronic fatigue, stress, pain and disturbed emotions.  There will be lower body circulation problems, decreased immunity, and lack of suppleness in the joints and possible autoimmune disorders and reproductive issues.  The Yin Water Phase sequence brings life giving chi (vital energy) to these stressed systems and restores healing and balance to our body/minds.

 

The Therapeutic Benefits of Yin Yoga - Specifically the Water Phase Sequence:

The Water Phase in Yin Yoga targets the Kidney and Urinary Bladder Meridians.  These two major organ systems are responsible for balance, our vital energy and energy flow.  They play a major role in building immunity, balancing the other major organ systems and overall emotional health.

Yin Yoga restores connective tissue health by encouraging more flexible, mobile, supple joint.  When the joints of the body become hardened by lack of movement or injury, the connective tissue becomes tighter and is less able to conduct chi through the meridians of the body. Therefore, when Yin restores connective tissue health, it simultaneously nourishes the meridians of the body and thus impacts the health of the organ systems as well. Yin Yoga enhances the flow of prana or chi' in the tissues around the joints, contributing to a balanced, healthy body.

Yin Yoga allows us to impact the subtle body through Inward attention, Intention and Guided Meditation.  As we sit in the stillness of the Yin Pose, we envision expansiveness, spaciousness and health throughout. "Every thought we are thinking is creating our future, and it is only a thought, and a thought can be changed"  Louise Hay.............'Where attention goes, energy flows"  James Redfield

Yin Yoga is a perfect balance to our Yang exercise practices.  Softer, passive Yin practices that emphasize joint and connective tissues health are a perfect complement to the more vigorous, active, heat building, muscle strengthening Yang exercise practices.

Yin Yoga allows us to sit in relative discomfort/pain while we learn to breathe through pain in our lives off the mat. The meditative practice of Yin Yoga allows us to cultivate stillness, face ourselves - our emotions and body/mind - and make friends with ourselves and our truths.  Yin Yoga creates the space for us to come in contact with our feelings, sensations and thoughts.  Sitting in the discomfort of Yin Yoga, in stillness for a length of time encourages the development of our 'witness' self.   A Powerful source of healing, Yin Yoga teaches that we are not our thoughts, feelings or sensations. Instead, we are the observer of these very experiences.

 

Yin Yoga produces meditative, healing mind states.

 

Sources:
Insight Yoga  -  Sarah Powers
Yin Yoga Principles and Practice  -  Paul Grilley
Kellie Adkins, Ms.C., EYRT, CYTher.
Wikepedia
YinSights and YinYoga.com  -  Bernie Clark, B.S.