Yin Yoga, as it is known today, is sequenced with passive, slow movements of yoga asanas or poses as they are also known. Most of the yin styled asanas are seated, from the knees, prone (face down), or supine (reclined on the back). The poses included with yin style yoga are used to stretch, lengthen, and add flexibility to tendons, ligaments, fascia, and help distribute and circulate body fluids.
Many yin postures are beneficial in stimulating and/or activating the glands of the endocrine system. Yin Yoga is practiced to assist in calming the body and mind so that the practitioner may learn to relax within the physical body and attune to the stillness within the astral and/or causal bodies.
The history of Yin Yoga methodology goes back much further than its modernly known namesake suggest. It actually spans all the way back to yoga’s origins which date between the 6th and 5th centuries BCE in India and at least 2000 years ago in China and Taiwan. In China and Taiwan, yoga was first known as Taoist Yoga and was taught by Taoist priests to students of Kung Fu and was soon introduced into the Taoist system of “Internal Alchemy” with the goal of sustaining a long, healthy life and spirit, even into the afterlife.
Yoga’s popularity skyrocketed worldwide in the 21st century and has morphed into many forms and styles that are primarily yang in nature. The modern name of Yin Yoga was adopted by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, both yoga instructors. Paul Grilley was a student of Paulie Zink, a martial arts and yoga expert, who taught yin yoga (deep stretching on the ground) and principles to his martial arts students. Grilley was impressed with how Zink conceptualized yin yoga practice with martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theories using the five alchemical elements: earth, water, wood, metal, and fire.
All three of these Yin Yoga masters have blended their own ideas and trainings into what we now think of as Yin Yoga. Yin styles of yoga gained some popularity in the West in the 1960’s and 70’s, but were quickly overtaken by yang styles of yoga being introduced such as Ashtanga Vinyasa, which most Westerners prefer since it is faster paced and used primarily to build tone, strength, and stamina, however, can keep the mind extremely focused through its faster flowing movements. When Paul Grilley reintroduced Yin Yoga to the United States in 1992, many people believed it to be a new system of yoga when in fact; the methods of Yin Yoga are rooted in ancient history.
Yin Yoga also incorporates the meridian system of Traditional Chinese Medicine which closely parallels the chakra and nadi systems of Yoga. Yin allows one to connect on a deeper level through concentration of opening and stretching the body while using the breath to help release tense or tight areas of the body. Many times the use of visualization, certain bandhas, and breathing techniques (pranayamas) are utilized by the instructor too.