5 Things to Know Before You Try Yin Yoga


From Baptiste and Anusara to hip-hop flow and goat yoga, there are almost too many yoga styles out there to count. But one thing almost all these styles have in common is that they’re active yang practices. However, yin practices, which are passive and still, are just as important, and yin yoga is becoming more popular. In fact, we’re excited to be hosting our very first Yin Yoga Training at Vikasa this December! Before you head to your first yin class, here’s what you should know.

1. It’s not a workout.

Many Westerners think of yoga largely as a workout – a workout that produces a sense of calm, but still a form of exercise. They come to class expecting to break a sweat and tone their muscles, and in a power or flow class, they probably will. However, yin yoga is not a workout. Instead, it’s completely passive, and the goal is for the muscles to disengage. It’s practiced entirely sitting or lying on the floor, and the poses are held for several minutes each, so there’s very little movement.
2. It’s not restorative yoga.
Another misconception is that yin is the same as restorative. The two practices, which are both passive styles of yoga, do have some similarities: both take place primarily on the ground, make use of props, and hold poses for long periods of time. However, the goal in restorative yoga is to bring the body into positions where it’s completely supported, allowing you to fully relax. During yin yoga, however, you’ll feel a lengthening or stretching of whatever part of the body is being targeted, and the sensation can become quite intense and even uncomfortable.
3. It has three key principles.
The practice of yin yoga is guided by three tenants. The first is to find your edge; come deep enough into the poses to feel an intense sensation, but not so deep that you feel pain. The second is to be still; resolve to stay in the pose and resist the urge to fidget. The final principle is to hold each pose for a period of time; depending on the pose and the level of the students, yin poses are normally held for one to five minutes.
4. Some of the poses have different names.
If you’re accustomed to vinyasa or hatha classes, some of the poses that are common in yin will look familiar – but they’ll have different names. Instead of heroes pose, cow face pose, and pigeon pose, there’s saddle, shoelace, and swan. Of course, what’s important isn’t knowing the alternative names for every pose, but rather understanding the minor differences between yin postures and their yang counterparts, which becomes clear with practice.
5. It targets the connective tissue.
While yin yoga will stretch the muscles, its main goal is to work on the connective tissues, especially the fascia. Fascia is a fibrous tissue made up mostly of collagen, and it’s found in between muscles, bones, organs, and other connective tissues. It takes at least a couple minutes of continuous pressure for the fascia to respond to a stretch and start to change. That’s why the three tenants of yin yoga are so important – adhering to them is what makes the practice work. If you’re curious about yin yoga and want to look into making it a bigger part of your practice and perhaps a part of your teaching, check out our upcoming training HERE!
About the Author
Jennifer Ambrose Jen is a freelance writer, blogger, and yoga teacher who left her office job in Boston to travel the world with her husband. She previously worked in international development and academic research, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda. Some of her biggest passions include promoting responsible and mindful travel and helping her students develop their personal yoga practice.