Yin Yoga, A Unique Approach To Wellness

By Katherine Berry for The Island Eye News

If you haven’t tried Isle of Palms Recreation Department’s YIN YOGA class on Wednesday’s at 6 p.m. and your body is tense, tight or you feel like you need a massage to relax, I strongly encourage you to spend 75 minutes exploring a different kind of ‘happy hour.’ Yin Yoga is a slower, meditative but challenging style of yoga where poses are held anywhere between 3-5 minutes allowing your body to repair connective tissues. More active (Yang) styles of exercise target the muscles whereas yin targets the deep connective tissues throughout our entire body system. Due to its slower pace, availability of props and mostly seated poses, Yin is suitable for a beginner in fitness or the extreme athlete looking to advance their sport and prevent injury. A new student, David Neman, stated “Whether you are into running, surfing, biking, lifting, recovering from an injury, or simply want a boost of natural endorphins for day to day life. Yin is a truly perfect practice for everyone.” Our connective tissues are the most extensive structure in our bodies and are a vital component to our overall health and wellness. They provide form and support as well as protection for all our organs and include tendons, ligaments, bones, cartilage, joints and fascia.

Over time, our tissues lose their elasticity and bring stiffness, pain and atrophy. Through stressing our tissues, we activate blood circulation and evoke hydration, forming new cells while flushing away the old cells. The old cells have been replaced with thriving new cells giving our muscles more space to enjoy a safer yang lifestyle with an increased range of motion. Think of the Tin Man. He needed to oil his joints for mobility. Yin is the oil to help run the machine. Another student explained, ‘I was so stiff that I was having difficulty putting my socks on in the morning! 

Since starting Yin, my range of motion has improved in my knee, where I had surgery 10 years ago, as well as my hips and the rest of my body.’ Yin Yoga is also good for the nervous system. 

This meditative and therapeutic allows us to shift from our sympathetic branch to our parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. The sympathetic branch (YANG) is associated with fight, flight or freeze. This stress response floods our bodies with cortisol hormones in order to survive. Whereas the parasympathetic branch (YIN) is associated with rest, rejuvenation, healing and recovery. The parasympathetic branch is where the body heals from stress; stress of training, stress caused by injury or stress caused by trauma. Yin forces us to focus on deep breathing while our body heals. Breath floods your body, inviting oxygen to your organs. Breath is life. It is the first, and last, thing we do in this lifetime. This stillness allows us to shift away from the stresses of our modern lives filled with stimulation in every direction. Stress can be linked to 98% of all illnesses and everyday 87% of our population lives this way, according to healthylifehealthyplanet.com. Laura Lovins had never tried Yin and now is a consistent practitioner. ‘I leave feeling a little taller (she’s 4’11”) and I also feel a deep sensation of relaxation which helps me sleep. Liz Hartzell stated, ‘I needed to focus, relax and calm down! Each week is a small step but I feel stronger mentally and physically. Plus, the positive energy I experience, during and after class, is great!” Yin Yoga is one of the most powerful ways to manage stress and restore our bodies. Step away from the statistic of stress and gift yourself the time to just ‘be’. Afterall, we are human beings, not human-doings. The next time you’re planning happy hour, consider a new experience within Yin Yoga. Your mind, body and soul will thank you. 

See you on the mat.

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