Yin Yoga Postures: A Blending of Two Traditions
Yin yoga is one of the newer schools of yoga. Founded by Paulie Zink, it combines traditional hatha yoga with various practices of the Chinese Taoist traditions. To understand the purpose of yin yoga postures it is important to gain a little understanding of Taoist thought as it relates to the body:
In Taoist belief, the world is comprised of yin and yang. They are the polar opposites out of which movement is created. The yin is static and calm while the yang is flowing and dynamic. Hatha yoga, with its emphasis on movement, is predominantly yang orientated. Muscles are dynamic, thus yang oriented. The connections tissue is predominantly static and comprised of yin. Sitting in meditation is a yin activity. The intent of yin yoga is to restore the proper balance of yin and yang within the body.
To compensate for the over emphasis that traditional yoga places on yang, the yin poses were created. They are derived from hatha yoga poses but vary to some degree. The focus of the poses is to release the muscles, not contract them. Forcing the muscles surrounding the connective tissue to stretch is to impose yang energy on the joint. This is precisely what yin yoga seeks to avoid. The muscles surrounding the connective tissue must be relaxed. Some poses in hatha yoga are impossible to perform if the muscles are to be relaxed. Those poses cannot be used as they bring about disequilibrium and are detrimental to the intended purpose.
There are some poses used in hatha yoga that cannot be used as yin yoga postures. Any pose that uses muscles to protect the structural integrity of the body cannot be used. Because yin yoga postures focus on releasing muscles rather than contracting them, some traditional hatha yoga exercises have to be modified.
All seated postures strive to keep the spine upright. With the back straight and not slouching, energy is able to run freely along its length.
Other common postures include forward bends, backward bends, hip openers and twists. Yin yoga postures look to stimulate areas not normally worked in traditional yoga. The Snail pose is used to stretch the upper body and neck while the Butterfly and Dragonfly Pose work the lower back and fascia.
Yin postures are almost always passive. There is none of the vigorous stretching found in hatha yoga. Above all, yin yoga postures are performed in a relaxed manner and do not allow the muscles to spasm.