Yin Yoga

A guide to Yin yoga

What you need to know about Yin yoga

Unlike other forms of yoga, Yin yoga is characterised by a particularly slow pace with emphasis placed on holding its various poses, known as asanas, for longer. Some experts in this form of yoga are able to maintain their chosen asana for five minutes or so. The practise gained popularity in the West from the 1970s onward, especially as it was taught in North America by pioneers like Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers to supplement other forms of yoga and exercise. According to another well-known practitioner, Paulie Zink, Yin yoga should include every aspect of the Taoist tradition, encompassing both yin and yang. In the main, it is popular because this form of yoga places limited stress on tendons and ligaments, something that means it is comparatively injury-free.

Where is Yin yoga from? 

 Yin yoga originated in India and China. According to some scholars, the ancient Hatha yoga tradition dates back to the first century of the Common Era, and this developed into Yin yoga as it intertwined with Taoist traditions in China. The idea that asanas should be held for prolonged periods is often associated with the Taoist notion of 'internal alchemy', so the practice took hold as it was said to promote a healthier lifestyle and greater longevity according to that philosophy.

Is Yin yoga good for beginners?

In short, it is often considered to be one of the best forms of yoga for beginners to get into. The slower nature of it and the fact that it uses similar stretching techniques that ballet dancers and gymnasts will be familiar with means that it is quite easy to pick up. However, the extended asana poses that expert practitioners can cope with are usually beyond novices who will only be able to hold them for a minute or two at most. Its slowness also tends to helps people who are new to the meditative aspects of yoga by focussing them on inner silence more effectively.

Is Yin yoga different from Hatha yoga?

Although Yin yoga shares roots and many asanas with Hatha yoga, it is a distinct tradition. Many people who do yoga will be familiar with aspects of both. Nevertheless, the names of most of the asanas differ. In addition, more gradual bodily movements, with less muscle exertion, is a distinctive feature of Yin yoga.

Is Yin yoga heated?

Because the asanas in Yin yoga are held for prolonged periods of time, especially when compared to other traditions of yoga, there is less bodily heat that is generated. As such, many teachers recommend that it is practised in a warm environment, which means heating the room in many cases. That said, there is nothing central in this yoga form that says it must be conducted at higher than usual temperatures.

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Hatha yoga is practised all over the world, but it is mostly associated with India because it derived from the practices of the Yogis of the Natha Sampradaya tradition, in particular, the teachings of its founder, Matsyendranath. In history, Hatha yoga has texts associated with it that go back to the eleventh century. However, the modern development of Hatha yoga, one that is especially focussed on physical postures known as asanas, really started to take off in the twentieth century. It has since been popularized around the globe as a form of physical exercise which does not always take into account all of its spiritual aspects. To many people, it is a modern form of the practice and is simply referred to as 'yoga' in its generic sense. The yoga school of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, an Indian ayurvedic healer and Hatha scholar who taught yoga from the 1920s onwards, is often considered to have been central to the rise of this form of yoga in the West.
In short, mindfulness is the ability to pay proper attention to the here and now. Psychologists usually describe it as living in the present moment, with less emotional energy being expended on things that have passed or which may – or may not – occur in the future. Various techniques are used by people to achieve a greater level of present-moment living. In most cases, modern methods for achieving mindfulness are based on Buddhist concepts, such as sati. In large numbers, people practise mindfulness by meditating and paying more attention to positive things in their lives to reduce stress. These mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques which have a proven scientific effect.
Meditation refers to a variety of mental exercises which have their origin in ancient times and became increasingly popular in the western world over the last decades. While meditating, we practice different kinds of focus to achieve a more mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Meditative practices were developed as part of the path towards enlightenment, self-realisation and the end of suffering. There are various types of meditation, such as focused attention, or mindfulness meditation, which is the most widely studied form of meditation in modern science. Metta or loving-kindness meditation is another example of focused attention. Other forms of meditation are the chanting of mantras or transcendental meditation.
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