Posted on November 29, 2017 by in

What is Yin Yoga?

What is Yin Yoga?

Firstly, what are yin and yang?
In Chinese philosophy (and traditional Chinese medicine), yin and yang are symbols which are used to describe how seemingly opposite forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. This concept was developed by observing the environment. ‘Yin’ originally referred to the shady side of a slope, while ‘yang’ referred to the sunny side. Later this concept was applied to other things in nature which occurred in pairs and had complementary, opposing characteristics, such as day and night, water and fire, light and dark, active and passive, etc. Yang is said to have more energetic, functional qualities and can be associated with heat, brightness, expansion and movement, while yin is associated with physical form and stillness, cold and darkness – like the shady side of the mountain. The yin/yang symbol is widely used and demonstrates another aspect of this concept, that nothing is all yin or all yang, or put another way, nothing is all black or all white. The black has a little bit of white, and the white has a little bit of black.


What is Yin Yoga?
The Theory of Exercise tells us that all the “tissues in the body require healthy, positive levels of stress to maintain their strength, resiliency and health” (Josh Summers). Too little stress leads to atrophy of the tissues and too much stress brings us to a breaking point. Most of the exercise we engage in is Yang in nature, focusing on building strength and flexibility in the elastic tissue of the muscles through rhythm and repetition. Our Hatha Yoga practice falls into this Yang style of exercise. Using our muscles like this we keep the joints stable and there is no “letting go” in the joints. Yin Yoga, on the other hand, focuses on the dense connective tissue around the joints. We do this by using long holds of yoga poses, in which we allow the muscles to relax, so that the dense connective tissue can be brought to a mild, gentle level of stress. This level of stress is therapeutic for the joints and brings more freedom of movement to the joints. The intention of a Yin Yoga practice is to maintain or regain natural, healthy range of movement.
Yin Yoga is therefore a wonderful complement to any Yang style of exercise. Long holds of yoga poses also offer us the opportunity to turn inwards and to meet our present moment experience.

Rachel Lee

For information on Novara workshops, including the Winter Solstice Yin Yoga and Deep Relaxation workshop click here