For anyone who has ever practiced Yin yoga, you may have experienced some of its many benefits. And naturally, some benefits may be more obvious than others.
For example, as it is a slow-paced practice, you may have expected it to help with stress levels. Also, given all the weird and wonderful ways we bend and twist our bodies, you may have expected it to help increase flexibility.
What if I were to say to you that practicing Yin yoga may increase your wellbeing? And what if I were to mention that by practicing Yin yoga you may learn to listen to your body? Or that this practice can help those dealing with insomnia?
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So without further ado, let’s have a look at the 10 beautiful benefits of Yin yoga. Some are science-based and some are more experience-based. Some are expected and some are unexpected. You may relate to them all!
What is Yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a very slow-paced class, and we stay in each pose for 2 to even 5 minutes. This type of yoga is designed to help stretch out the connective tissue and is the perfect complement to more physically demanding types of yoga, like Power Yoga and Ashtanga.
Yin yoga is perfect for those looking for the best yoga for stretching. Look no further, as you will see an increase in flexibility, even after just one class. These prolonged stretches will leave you feeling completely relaxed and calm.
Yin yoga is an ideal type of yoga for beginners.
This is because the teacher has time to explain various aspects of the yin yoga poses and also the benefits of each pose. I also recommend yin yoga for those dealing with an injury, given that poses can be adapted to all body types and issues with the use of props.
The 10 Expected & Unexpected Yin Yoga Benefits
These are grouped into two distinct categories.
The first 5 benefits of Yin yoga mentioned are science-based. What this means is that I read through academic and peer-reviewed studies in order to understand the positive effects Yin yoga can have on our bodies.
The next 5 benefits mentioned are more experiential. I have been practicing Yin yoga for around 5 years and even a beginner to this practice may be able to relate to some or all of these!
1. Decreases Stress & Worry
A Yin yoga class is slow-paced and each pose is held for 2-5 minutes. This asks the body to relax and let go in each pose. And so given this gentle and camping nature of this type of yoga, it becomes clear that Yin yoga can help people dealing with stress.
There was one study carried out in Sweden in 2017 which found that Yin yoga may, in fact, be able to decrease stress and worry.
In this study, 40 participants took part.
They were split into two groups. One group practiced Yin yoga while the other group was put in a waiting list and did not practice yoga.
The results of this study showed that yin yoga was indeed able to decrease stress and worry, and also increase mindfulness. Interestingly, these changes were still there five weeks after the study ended.
2. Decreases Stress, Anxiety & Depression
A similar study examined the effect of yin yoga on stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which are responsible for cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are responsible for the majority of premature deaths worldwide.
In this study, 105 participants took part.
They were split into three groups. One group practiced Yin yoga for 5 weeks. The second group practiced Yin yoga and mindfulness, while the third group was put in a waiting list and did not practice yoga.
As expected, Group 2 who practiced Yin yoga and mindfulness showed the best results of all the groups.
3. Helps With Insomnia
There was one study carried out in China in 2018 which found that Yin yoga may, in fact, be able to help improve insomnia for menopausal women.
In this study, 20 participants took part.
They all practiced a specific set of yin yoga poses at 10pm. Each pose was held for 5 minutes and this routine was carried out 5 times per week for 3 months.
The results of this study showed that yin yoga was indeed able to statistically significantly decrease levels of insomnia for all participants.
4. Improves Perceived Body Image
There was one study carried out in Finland in 2019 which found that Yin yoga may be able to help improve body image amongst women.
In this study, 16 participants took part and the focus was on how they felt after the yoga class.
They all practiced 5 yin yoga classes during a one-month period. They also used pillows and bolsters for extra support.
The results of this study showed that: “Half of the respondents found that the yoga sessions possibly had some impact on their body image. The participants described their sensations in the following manner: ‘I felt that the session supported and reinforced my body image in a positive way’ and ‘I feel better about my body now than before the yoga session’”
5. Improvement In Knee Osteoarthritis
There was one study carried out in China in 2017 which found that Yin yoga may be able to help improve the quality of life of those with knee osteoarthritis.
In this study, 98 participants took part and were split into two groups.
One group practiced Yin yoga for 12 months, while the other group continued with the drug therapy they had been prescribed by their doctor.
The results of this study showed that there was a statistically significant improvement for the Yin yoga group in “physiological function, physiological function, body pain, general health, energy, social function, emotional function, the mental health of experimental group patients after 12 months intervention”.
This led the researchers to conclude that Yin yoga can help improve the quality of life and ease anxiety for those with knee osteoarthritis.
6. Fascia flexibility
In a typical yoga class, the various poses help stretch out our muscles. And yet, there is another part of our body that we would ideally like to stretch out. And that is our fascia, also known as connective tissue.
Yin yoga is perhaps our unique chance to stretch out our fascia.
As Travis Eliot wrote in his book A Journey to Yin Yoga:
“Maintaining movement in the fascia is important so that tissues can easily glide past each other and maintain proper hydration, neurologic feedback, pliability, and elasticity”.
And thus pointing out the importance of stretching out the fascia, whether, through a massage or a yin yoga practice, Travis continues by stating that:
“Tight and restricted fascia can become a source of tension of the rest of the body, producing pain or restricting movement”
If you have ever been to a Yin yoga class you may have noticed how different it is to a more dynamic yoga class. There are perhaps a handful of poses practiced and each is held for 2-5 minutes.
The general atmosphere of the class is calm, slow, and gentle. The perfect opportunity to find some calmness even if life outside the space you are practicing in seems fast-paced and crazy.
8. Time for your thoughts
Given the slow-paced nature of a yin yoga class, there are very few distractions to occupy our thoughts. And so this call is the perfect opportunity to actually find the time and space to listen to our thoughts.
9. Learn to let go
Yin yoga poses can be easy and they can also be rather challenging. For example, those with tight hips may find Pidgeon pose challenging.
And so props are used to make the pose as comfortable as possible. And then, once we have made sure that there is no pain, we are encouraged to breathe and let go.
This letting go is aimed to let the nervous system relax. And this in turn may help us move deeper into the pose.
10. Listen to your body
As Travis Eliot wrote in his book A Journey to Yin Yoga:
“You know that for yin, time is on your side, so there is no rush to get anywhere. With the mind quiet, listen to any biofeedback being communicated through the language of body sensation. Fine-tune the pose, looking for your sweet spot”.
And so a Yin yoga class is the perfect opportunity to listen to your body and help it open up into each pose.
How do I practice Yin yoga?
Yin yoga involves holding poses for an extended period of time, generally 2-5 minutes. This gives the body time to help stretch out the connective tissue. As a result, you will leave the class feeling relaxed, with most of the tension you may have built up during the day, left to melt away on your yoga mat.
Who might like Yin yoga?
Anyone who wants a calm and slow-paced type of yoga and someone who is looking to increase their flexibility.
What equipment do I need to practice yin yoga at home?
Yoga mat – You will want a thick mat with extra cushioning so as to protect your joints. A good option is the Maduka Pro mat. One added benefit is that it comes with a lifetime guarantee when sold and also shipped by Amazon.com.
Yoga block – You will want one or two yoga blocks to help you access certain of the yin yoga poses.
What books would I recommend for Yin yoga?
If you are looking for a book on yin yoga, my recommendation would be The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga available in both paperback and Kindle from Amazon.
What makes this book stand out is that yin yoga is explained, as well as the benefits. Then through very clear photos, 30 yin yoga poses are shown, along with explanations of how to practice each pose and their benefits.
What should I expect in a Yin yoga class?
Expect to learn to stay still in yoga poses that seem to be stretching out your very existence! Some stretches can be very intense but can also feel really good.
Yin yoga generally focuses on the use of yoga props, which are there to help open up and lengthen in a more optimum way.
For example, lying down with a yoga block under the shoulder blades and then stretching the arms overhead is a wonderful yin yoga pose that helps to open up the chest and shoulders. AMAZING for anyone who slightly slouches!