"Yin Yoga is simple, but simple does not mean easy" - Bernie Clark
Most forms of yoga today are dynamic, active practices designed to work only half of our body, the muscular half, the “yang” tissues. Yin Yoga allows us to work the other half, the deeper “yin” tissues of our ligaments, joints, deep fascial networks, and even our bones.
Yin Yoga is a modern, slow-paced style of yoga with poses, or asanas, that are held for longer periods of time, from 2 to 8 minutes or more. These poses are done while sitting or lying on the floor. A typical Yin class would have students moving through 5-7 poses, with counterposes and short periods of rest between poses. These longer held poses create a stress in the connective tissues of the body.
Stretch Vs. Stress – Stress is the tension that we place upon our tissues, while stretch is the elongation that results from the stress. A stretch, however, does not always accompany a stress, so they are not the same thing.
We can stress ligaments too, especially in Yin Yoga, but because the ligaments are more plastic and less elastic than muscles, that stress is less likely to result in a stretch. In Yin Yoga, we are trying to stress the ligaments and joint capsules, not stretch them.
Sarah Powers may have said it best in her forward to Bernie Clark’s ‘The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga’;
“Yin Yoga, when taught skillfully, can provide an opportunity to go within and re-align our orientation. It will also affect our physical body in ways that may surprise us. It is simple, but often challenging. It will provide us with ample periods of stillness within which we can start to pay attention to what is really happening, right here, right now. It can provoke insights that allow us to accept that what is happening right now is exactly what ought to be happening right now.”
Clark, Bernie. The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga (Vancouver, BC, Canada: Wild Strawberry Productions, 2011).