Go. Go. Gogogogogo. If this is how your brain tends to operate, chances are, of all the different kinds of yoga practices, you could highly benefit from a yin yoga class. But there’s also a good chance you may think you’re too busy for a chill yoga session.
If that’s you, keep reading to learn why yin yoga can help you get even more from your workouts while giving your body and mind some much-needed rest.
WHAT IS YIN YOGA?
Yin yoga is a more passive yoga class, explains Tiffany Cruikshank, acupuncturist, yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Medicine, which educates teachers to use yoga therapeutically. Whereas classes like vinyasa and ashtanga flow somewhat quickly from pose to pose, in a yin class, you hold postures for longer periods of time, often 3–5 minutes, in order to target and relax the fascia, the connective tissue that covers our muscles and organs.
“It’s the deepest release of your life,” says Katie Keller, founder of Katie Yoga and instructor at Modo Yoga LA. “Your body melts like butter.”
Yin is similar to restorative yoga, however, most restorative classes use props such as blocks, straps and bolsters to support your body, while yin does not use props.
THE BENEFITS OF YIN YOGA
Yoga is known for helping decrease stress, and yin yoga is no exception. Five weeks of yin yoga and psychoeducation reduced stress and anxiety while increasing participants’ ability to be less judgmental and reactive to everyday situations, researchers reported in the journal Anxiety, Stress and Coping.
It may also support your physical health. In another study published in PLOS One, practicing an hour of yin yoga twice a week for five weeks helped people reduce anxiety and sleep better and decreased their levels of adrenomedullin (ADM), a biomarker associated with conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as premature mortality.
Then there’s the amazing stretch you get, which can help with proprioception, range of motion and injury prevention, says Cruikshank, who is also an instructor for Glo. Holding the poses causes cells in the fascia (called fibroblasts) to produce more collagen and hyaluronic acid. The collagen helps to strengthen connective tissues, while the hyaluronic acid pulls fluid into the tissues. This allows the connective tissues to be more resilient and glide more easily, increasing mobility, Cruikshank explains. So if you tend to be tighter, yin is a perfect remedy.
“For some of my most athletic students, yin yoga is part of their recovery,” Keller says. “It will dramatically improve any other athletic endeavor you’re pursuing” by opening up your hip flexors, lower back and hamstrings.
THE PATH TO MEDITATION
Sure, yin yoga isn’t a workout, but it can benefit your workouts. “People don’t realize how much they’re holding in their body until they do yin,” Keller says.
But if that isn’t enough to convince you to show up to class, consider this: You know “downtime” is good for you. But how often do you actually pause and do something nourishing for your body and mind?
If mindfulness practices like meditation are challenging for you because you find your mind wandering or it’s hard to sit still, yin yoga may be a good gateway. “Noticing the sensations of each posture gives you something tangible to do,” Cruikshank says.
As you do that, allow yourself to truly relax — that’s the key to maximizing the benefits. “Set aside any Type A tendencies about accomplishing a pose and going as deep as you can,” Cruikshank says. In yin, rather than going super deep, go to the point where you feel some sensation. “Then let the cells in your fascia do what they do well — produce collagen and hyaluronic acid,” Cruikshank says. Your body and your mind will thank you.
Originally published September 2019, updated September 2023
Ready to take the next step? Unlock MyFitnessPal Premium to access custom goal settings, quick-log recipes, and guided plans from a registered dietitian. Premium users are 65% more likely to reach their weight loss goals!