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Feb 21, 2019
By Guest Blogger: Rita Amaral
Yin yoga is a practice of physical postures, in a passive and calm way, with long holding times that can go from 1 to 20 minutes. It is a practice that allows you to stop and look inside in a very particular and deep way. The long holding times in the postures allow the stimulation of the deep connective tissue, as well as acupressure points that are found along channels and energetic centers called, respectively, meridians and chakras. This is the opposite of what happens with other more dynamic methods of yoga practice, in which we target the more external tissue of our body and the muscles, and that is sometimes called Yang Yoga.
The Yin concept comes from the Daoist concept of Yin and Yang. Two opposites that complement each other, a duality between the dark and the light, the internal and the external, feminine and masculine, cold and warm, the moon and the sun. The expression 'Yin Yoga' was coined only recently, in the '90s, by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, the founders of this practice.
One of the main benefits of this practice is to enhance the flow of chi - or energy - along with the meridians (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine) and energy centers, known as chakras in the Indian Tantric yoga philosophy. There is evidence pointing to a correspondence between both these systems and the connective tissue in the body, namely the fascia.
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Regarding the chakras, there are seven main ones, positioned along the spine, from the base of the spine up to the top of the head. These centers are also associated with certain organs and parts of the body as well as certain emotional characteristics. Its energy imbalance can thus manifest itself in the form of the malfunctioning of the body and/or also of the psychological and emotional parts.
During a Yin Yoga practice, postures can stimulate one or more meridians, but also their corresponding chakras. Thus, an understanding of which chakras are affected in which postures can bring additional attention, which will increase the flow of energy through the body. This increased attention can be made through breathing and visualizations with the characteristics associated with each chakra.
In summary, we have:
Activation of the lower chakras (Muladhara, Svadisthana and Manipura) can be done in any forward bending posture, such as in butterfly or shoelace (equivalent to Baddha konasana and Gomukhasana with a forward fold, respectively, in Yang styles of yoga). Drawing attention to the breath and imagining that the inhalation course is descending, moving downward toward the perineum (located in the pelvic floor) and the exhalation path is upward, moving towards the center of the chest. These regions are important energy centers in our body. To work individually each of the first 3 chakras, at the end of the exhale, with the lungs empty, bring your attention to the region of the body where the chosen chakra is located. Stay there for a few seconds, invoking the feeling, energy or color associated with that chakra. This practice can be done during all the time you stay in the posture or during the first minute only.
Activation of the upper chakras (Anahata, Vishudha, and Ajna) can be done in postures involving a backbend, such as a saddle or a seal/sphinx (equivalent to Supta Virasana and Bhujangasana, respectively). The method is similar to that described above, wherein the inhalation movement is to be followed upwardly and that of the exhalation in a downward path. However, here the focus on the chosen chakra should be done after the inhale, with the lungs full. Staying for a few seconds, evoking feelings, emotions, colors, and then exhaling altogether.
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In the beginning, especially if you are new to Yin Yoga, this practice may seem difficult, but with time, it will bring many benefits to your body, mind, and soul.
About the author:
Rita is a Mother, an Ashtangi and a Researcher. With a Ph.D. in Biology, and after years doing research on whales and dolphins, she found Yoga and Ayurveda and her life changed forever. She has been practicing Ashtanga yoga and studying mindfulness and nutrition for several years. Through her daily yoga practice and meditation and by maintaining healthy eating habits she found her well-being and overcame an eating disorder that haunted her for years. She is set out on a mission to help others achieve the same. For more Yin Yoga practice tips, visit her website and check her Instagram.