Treadmills and elliptical trainers log your distance covered and calories burned, but it’s much more difficult to measure what it means to be flexible.
That’s one reason the practice of yin yoga can feel foreign at first for those who are used to sweating it out at the gym and seeing weight loss, better muscle tone or other tangible results from active exercises such as running or spin sessions in just a few weeks or months.
“So being still, being yin, is very strange to us,” says Bernie Clark, an author, and yoga teacher based in Vancouver. “But if you have years of tight hamstrings or tight hips, they are not going to loosen up in a week or in a month.”
It will help increase flexibility and calm the mind over time, though. So here are three reasons yin yoga is worth a try for distance runners and desk jockeys alike:
Yin Yoga Works the Connective Tissue
Unlike Ashtanga sequences, power yoga or other active, “yang” styles that require practitioners to flow gracefully, and often rapidly from pose to pose, most people aren’t likely to break a sweat during yin yoga sessions. In yin yoga, the goal is to hold a pose long enough to stretch the fascia, or connective tissues including tendons and ligaments, and lubricate the joints.
Poses are passive, letting time and gravity do the work and most are performed sitting or lying down and often held for 3 to 5 minutes or longer. So an hour-long session might include only about a dozen poses and probably won’t require a shower afterward.
Read More:- 9 Travel Tips from a Yogi
But that doesn’t mean yin yoga is easy. Quieting the body and mind to hold positions for several minutes at a time can make you intensely aware of even the smallest sensation in your body. And, while sharp, electric, shooting feelings of discomfort or pain should a signal to back off a particular pose, some feel a dull, achy sensation that is fairly common when stretching connective tissue but can be very unfamiliar. Starting a personal practice led me to hear popping and feel sensations from joints I didn’t even know I had before trying yin yoga.
“So a lot of people initially find the practice very challenging,” says Clark, author of The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga, and other titles.
Joints Need Exercise, Too
Tendons are the fibrous connective tissues that attach our muscles to our bones, allowing for movement. Ligaments are fibrous connective tissues that connect bones to other bones, providing stability. And while these and our other fascia – or network of connective tissue – are more difficult to exercise than our muscles because they are not as easily stretched and strengthened, it is just as important that we work them to keep them in shape. And yin yoga can be particularly effective when it comes to keeping aging joints working at their best.
“All tissues need stress to remain healthy. Like any other tissue, if we don’t use them, we lose them,” says Clark, who maintains the website www.yinyoga.com. “Some people have taken the position that you should never exercise your joints because it will put too much stress on them. But that’s like saying you should never cross the street when you have to cross streets. The key is to look both ways and cross carefully.”
Yin Yoga Challenges the Body and Mind
So yin yoga can be a good option for those looking for a relatively gentle routine or people who really want to focus on building flexibility. It can also offer other exercise enthusiasts and stressed out overachievers a welcome respite from their regular schedules.
“Anyone who has a yang lifestyle can benefit from a yin practice. Yang yoga will develop strength,” Clark says. “Yin practice develops length.”
You may hold a position for several minutes during a yin yoga session to allow your body to relax into that length. And this means yin yoga can also serve as part of an active meditation practice as well as a workout routine for some.
“So it gives you a chance to become still. First, that stillness is physical,” Clark says. “When the breath becomes quiet, the mind becomes still. Here, in yin yoga, the meditation goes with it.”