In the past 20 years the popularity of Yoga has increased to an extent where it is becoming difficult to understand what it is really about…
Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, Zen Yoga, Laughing Yoga, Dharma Yoga … just to name a few. (All those styles are part of Hatha-Yoga)
No wonders, that the aspirant Yogi find it difficult to pinpoint the style suitable to his needs.
Coming back to the source from the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali it is said:
Sutra 1. 2 yogash citta-vrtti-nirodah
Yoga occurs when the perturbations “Vritti” : whirlings, spinning, and agitations of “Citta” : the mind-field dissolve, cease, and become still “nirodha“.
To keep it simple, yoga is a discipline to quiet and still the mind…
Any style that is providing a sense of serenity to the practitioner is giving justice to Yoga.
Yin Yoga is a style of yoga where you will explore this quality of quietness and stillness more than any other style, Yin “passive” as opposite of Yang “dynamic”.
The main ingredients in this practice are the relaxation of the body and the length of time that the posture is held for.
Keeping the body relaxed allows the practitioner to actually go deeper into the stretch and explore the full range of motion of the joint because Yin Yoga is targeting the connective tissues (cartilages, tendons, ligaments, fascias) rather than the muscles, connective tissues are responding to stimuli much slower than the muscle.
Holding the posture for longer time, and keeping the muscles relaxed allow the Yogi to access and "stress" the connective tissues.
Yin Yoga is opening the structural body: with a regular practice it will enable the practitioner to gain a much greater flexibility.
This is for the physical aspect of the practice.
Yin Yoga is actually focusing more on the lower limbs in order to open the hips, legs and lower back, this to prepare the practitioner for longer seating.
The Sanskrit word “Asanas” posture literally mean to seat.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali suggests that the only requirement for practicing Asanas is to be steady “Sthira” and comfortable “Sukham“.
The body is held poised, and relaxed in the posture with the practitioner experiencing no discomfort, being able to breathe effortlessly.
Those are very much the quality of Yin-Yoga, The nature of this practice allows the Yogi to integrate the breath without difficulties, keeping unity of mind and body.
Most of the time the Yin-Yogi remains in the pose with closed eyes to move from external to internal awareness enabling the withdrawal of the senses from his sense object “Pratyahara“.
The practice of Asanas is very important primarily to restore and maintain the practitioner’s well being, improve the body’s flexibility and vitality.
It is not the Vinyasa, and strenuous postures that will get the Yogi enlightened or experience higher states of consciousness.
But it is the practice of “Pranayama” integration of mind and body through Breathing exercises and “Dyana” Meditation which enable the Yogi to alter his consciousness. Asanas are the preparation for meditation.
It is laborious to enter “Dharana” Concentration of the mind when oneself keeps moving and changing position. It is the quality of stillness of the physical body, which allows stillness of the mind.
When the body becomes still the real nature of the mind is revealed stepping into the field of meditation.