The differentiation between yin and yang yoga comes from ancient Tao philosophy. The idea is that there are dual and cooperative forces, yin and yang, in everything. Within the body, there is yin and yang. The yin parts are the slow parts:
- The fascia,
- And less mobile elements.
They are mobile elements:
- Flowing blood,
- Breath, and so on.
When doing yoga, there can be a distinction made between yin and yang practices.
Yang yoga practices are what people often associate with yoga. Yang represents movement, flow, and strength. Therefore, yang yoga practices could be said to include faster-paced yoga flow classes and even hot yoga. Any class can be adapted to encompass more yang energy by simply speeding it up. In these classes, you will experience more heat, increased heart rate, and lots of movement in the joints and muscles. Yang yoga practices are more likely to be comfortable in yoga shorts or other breathable activewear. When people come to yoga class looking for a workout, they are actually looking for yang styles of yoga without understanding that this is only half of what it is.
The most important tenant of the yin-yang philosophy is the existence of the light and dark, yin and yang. There is not one without the other. Therefore, individuals who seek only one type of yoga, either yin or yang, may not be serving their highest good. It is not uncommon that people will seek the same thing out of familiarity, repetition, or because they are already embodying that similar energy. Yet, someone who is already full of yang energy may not benefit most from more yang practices like fastpaced yoga. Instead, they may be needing yoga based around yin in order to create balance in their being.
Yin yoga is a beautifully balancing style of yoga. Other yoga styles that embody the yin energy include restorative and gentle Hatha. When the body is given time to hold poses for long periods; as done in yin yoga classes, it can release tension in the fascia and muscles that may only hold tension otherwise. Yin focuses on the parts of the body that do not move as easily. It represents rest, stillness, and peace. Practicing yin yoga could look like holding poses for 5-10 minutes each and breathing into the body as it releases. Instead of cultivating a movement and creating heat, you are connecting with coldness and stillness. For this reason, you may want to wear yoga pants that will keep you warm when your body temperature drops and you become cold in a state of stillness.
Yin and yang practices go together. Sometimes you can even find a yin/yang yoga class! I try to teach my Hatha classes in this style, creating heat and movement in flowing movements and then relaxing into yin-inspired savasana. I truly believe that yin and yang serve a purpose in our yoga practice and our lives as a whole, and both give us skills that extend to our entire lives.