Although Yin has become more popular and people are taking about it more, I still get lots of questions asking what it actually is. It would be easy to write a long essay on this subject as there is so much to delve into so my challenge here is to write something brief and to the point.
Yin yoga is a system of yoga relating to the ancient Taoist concept of Yin and Yang. Every living being has two qualities (yin and yang) and they complement each other with an ever-changing shift in balance between them. In terms of the practice of yoga and in very generalised terms, yin relates to the passive nature of existence and yang to more dynamic elements or qualities of nature.
Yin is not about the obvious muscle stretch and rhythmic flow we might experience, for example, in a dynamic ashtanga session, it is a more subtle level of experience particularly in that of listening and acceptance. On a physical level, yin yoga involves the release and opening up of connective tissue particularly around the joints allowing for the release of moisture to the joint (synovial fluid) to nourish the joint. On an energetic level (although all these factors are completely inter-related), connective tissue and fascia extend throughout the main systems of the body and it is said this is where the energy systems lie, also known as the meridian system so yin yoga can therefore generate and enhance the flow of energy (chi).
It follows then that when we adopt and hold yin yoga poses they can have a physical and emotional effect on the practitioner in a positive/healing way. Sarah Powers identifies this in her teachings and has said that the holding of these poses (for approximately 3-5 minutes) can be a form of meditation in itself with the result being an increased pliancy in the joints within a practitioner’s natural range of motion. I am therefore not surprised how popular how yin has become because we lead such a yang existence in our everyday lives, although we may pretend we are relaxed and living in the moment. I really encourage you to try it and see if it enables you to touch reality.