Understanding Yin Yoga

A misconception is to think Yin yoga is easy. That seems to stem from a common belief that Yin Yoga is a form of restorative yoga. Although on the yoga styles scale it would certainly come closest to Restorative yoga, there are some essential  differences to the practice.

In Yin yoga you are actively trying to create space from the joints without allowing the muscles of the body to ‘take over’ whilst staying in a relaxed receptive state. Within restorative yoga you are allowing yourself to become completely relaxed.

There are five main points to remember:-

Mindfully move with kindness

we are learning to move to an ‘Appropriate Edge’ in the asana. This is achieved by working into the maximum posture & then pulling back 10%. This pulling back will allow us to relax for the time required. In Yin Yoga we do want some discomfort in & around the connective tissue; however, the muscles around the connective tissue must be relaxed. The Anatomy principle at work is when muscles are tense & stressed the connective tissue cannot be lengthened or stressed. Muscles that are relaxed allow the connective tissues to be worked.


It is only through complete stillness with attention turned inwards & the use of guided visualizations with the breath that we influence the subtle body of connective tissue & fascia. Being still allows us to sit with the minor discomfort of joint stress, therefore learning to sit with our emotional pain. Yin yoga invites moderate discomfort so as to cultivate the ability to build inner strength. We have to remember that we do not need to push ourselves to the point of pain or ignore the messages of the body.

Remaining still for a length of time

Once we have reached our edge in a pose, it is important to then hold the pose for a certain length of time, two to eight minutes, & up to twenty minutes for more restorative poses. 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, & realignment that allows for increased flexibility & mobility.

Taking care coming out of the pose

We often do not realize how hard we have worked the body until we come to move out of a pose. Therefore, we have to learn to also release with care. As with all yoga asana, it is just as important how we come out of a posture as to how we go in.

Use of mindful breath

We have to learn to breathe normally in a posture, one that suits us and feels unstrained. We can then deeper the breath & use a lengthening of the exhale to relax but this still needs to be at a rhythm that causes no anxiety within the body. Trying to force the breath into the same rhythm throughout an entire Yin class is a Yang way of practicing. We need the breath to be soft and steady.

We work in a Functional way

A functional approach is referring to what we can feel within our own bodies within each pose. Functional is the physical, for example feeling the pose in your hip joint and your Gluteus muscle.

We have to try not to be so concerned with how the pose looks, as this doesn’t take us into a deeper practice, we need to focus instead  on what we feel, what is going on inside of you & not how far you have achieved in a pose.

As teacher we often ask ‘how does it feel?’, rather than focusing more on the aesthetical alignment & how a pose may look and it is normal to see many different variations of one pose occurring at the same time. Our primary objective is to reach the functionality of the pose, the target & purpose. What sort of position we take depends on our own body to achieve those goals.

Moving away from the need for our practices to look ‘right’ isn’t easy. We are hard-wired to want to “look right” & to have an element of attractiveness. But learning to move in a way that is tuned-in, patient, & respectful is also beautiful. It just takes a shift in our perspective & to see our body as taking a shape rather than a specific ‘pose’.

Your body is unique, and this includes its movement. As we are all different, even as teachers we may not always know what is best for your body. Our role is to guide you, as the practitioner, to tune into what you are feeling, develop trust in your own ability to know what feels right & to honor the messages your body offers. This for me is the empowerment of the practice.

Want to understand more about this beautiful style? Click here for a FREE 45 minute audio lecture. Includes-

  • The stages of a Yin yoga practice.
  • The Rebound
  • Physical & Emotional edges.
  • Why does Yin yoga stir up emotions.
  • The correlation between the physical & emotional.
  • How Yin yoga works with your chi.
  • How Yin yoga can become a healing practice.
  • Developing a Introspective practice for maximum benefits.
  • Developing a Self reflective practice