One of the most common comparisons in Yoga is between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga.
Going in to my Yin Training, I went in cold. That is to say, with no prior Yin research, nor had I taken a Yin class before throwing caution to the wind, immersing and committing myself to a series of comprehensive weekends to learn a modality that students began to ask about. I put my trust in the Universe and two years later it's one of the most welcomed classes that I teach. Interestingly enough, I believe that by going into Yin training with little expectation, I had no preconceived notion that Yin was, in many ways, an amped up version of Restorative Yoga. Which, understandably, is a common belief. So, it's easy for me to keep the integrity of the distinction between the two.
Yin Yoga is based on traditional theories in Chinese medicine that assert the body has natural circulating patterns of life force, qi (pronounced "chee"), or prana. As we release into supported Yin shapes, we are stimulating the meridian channels (pathways) that run through our internal organs. Similar to massage and acupressure, Yin shapes stimulate growth and healing by engaging pressure points. Where in Restorative Yoga, we are fully and completely supporting the body as opposed to Yin, where we are applying specific pressures and stresses. (Note that in Yin Yoga we use the term "stress" as in the physics of tension). Yin stretches may increase flexibility by creating space in the joints.
Yin is the more passive, introspective, cool, Earth-bound side of a Yoga practice. Yang (pronounced "yahn"), is the more heated, mobile, active side. Very few Yin shapes or poses are accessed on the knees or feet where most are achieved lying prone or supine using various props. By gently stretching "cold" (average room temperature) connective tissue by holding a Yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger which is the desired result. In a Restorative practice, full support with moderate, passive stretches may be achieved, but stretch is not the goal for restorative; relaxation is.
Ideally, the morning, or the part of the day with little activity is the optimum time to practice Yin. In order to stretch the connective tissue around a joint, the overlying muscles must be relaxed, not heated, otherwise the desired stress (long sustained pressure) will not take place. Restorative Yoga on the other hand, can be practiced any time to achieve a comprehensive experience.
While we sometimes use our "Yang energy" to achieve a Yin stretch, we rely on 2 main components; gravity and individual body structure. When it comes to Yin versus a Yang practice, there are no absolutes. Both can work together to provide balance.
Absolutely no hands on assists or adjustments are given in a Yin practice where, in Restorative I'm able to safely guide your body with mine to help the student reach maximum release using props for additional support and comfort that's right for an individual.
Ultimately, in any Yoga modality, the best tools a teacher has are, their eyes and words.
Both practices are solid foundations towards a more comprehensive, meditative practice. In Restorative Yoga, my goal as your guide/teacher, is to restore peace in the mind, quiet the body and take you on a journey outside the physical. While in a Yin session, I'm encouraging you to maintain a conscious awareness of the Self using visualization, inner-dialogue and breath.
In Yin we want to tune into the physical, where in Restorative Yoga, once comfort & support is achieved, we want you to travel outside the immediate active consciousness.
During any Yin session, I'll often encourage you to stay present and put words to what you're experiencing. (Even if these thoughts and words aren't exactly loving toward the teacher). In Restorative, everybody loves the teacher. We basically forget our name, where we are or how we got there. Kidding aside, both practices serve a very necessary element to our overall well being.
The focus we have when practicing Yin is multifaceted. We're born with nearly 80% fluid in the body (75% is water), and as we get older the percentage decreases. Simply put, we get dryer as we get older. And fat cells? Not very moist at all. Our joints can become creaky and stiff. On the outside, we may get facials, slather on lotions and may even resort to more invasive means to erase the hands of time but, what to do to keep supple and juicy in the inside? Yin is one option. With longer holds in stretches targeting the shoulders, hips, pelvic region, and lower spine, a Yin practice allows the connective tissues to stress and Hyaluronic Acid, or "HA" is increased. HA is one of the biggest contributors of hydration in the body. And our mobility is directly affected by the amount of HA that is in our bodies.
Hyaluronic acid is the macromolecule which provides synovial fluid with its viscoelastic properties. In layman's terms, think consistency of egg whites. The slimy fluid on your eyeball? Yes, that's HA.
All this said, it's important to note that HA is not an acid in the same sense that salicylic or glycol is an acid, which exfoliates away dead skin cells. HA doesn't do that at all, no matter what television commercials claim seem to be claiming lately about HA, as it is not an anti-aging ingredient. As a naturally occurring linear polysaccharide found in our body, HA acts as a cushioning, lubricating agent four our joints, nerves, hair, skin and eyes.
Now, with all this information on the "secret" behind Yin Yoga, how HA actually works for us is remarkable. Fibroblasts, cells in our connective tissue that produces collagen and HA, are stimulated through stress. (remember, in Yin, we use the word "stress" as a positive). Squeezing, compressing, stretching and stressing the connective tissues where fibroblasts reside, stimulates the tissues to produce more HA. The body has an opportunity to create more fibroblasts under Yin-like conditions. With more fibroblasts, the body produces more HA and rehydrates our tissues and joints as well as benefits the more superficial and myofascial tissues.
So you see, both a Restorative Yoga session as well as a Yin Yoga practice can bring balance into your already established Yoga schedule. And everyone can benefit from both Restorative and Yin Yoga.
And with the okay from your doctor, both modalities are good for those with chronic aches and pains, recovering from various injuries, as well as those with limited mobility. To describe class accessibility, I no longer use the word "seniors," because now that I'm knee-deep in my 50's, I've learned "seniors" is a word that describes an age, not necessarily a "state" of being. However, one should keep in mind, Yin shapes/postures are not for the faint of heart-but there are always variations and modifications that will yield noticeable results.
One of our keys to a successful experience in Yin besides patience, is fostering the breath to get you through the discomfort of stressing the connective tissues-as we never, ever breathe through physical pain in any Yoga class. The responsibility of knowing the difference between discomfort and pain is important to keep injurious results at bay.
There maybe some level of breathing through discomfort in a Restorative class, but optimum, immediate comfort is the desired goal. Where in Yin, your focus may find you actively challenged to breathe through the entire 3-7 minute stretch-or the entire session.
New information on Yin Yoga is becoming available at an increasing rate. The physiology research behind Yin being done by Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama has established that Yin Yoga restores and strengthens the flow of qi by increasing the abundance of Hyaluronic Acid in the joints. Concluding that practicing Yin stretches, the easing of bone away from bone, we increase HA in the body, thereby increasing the life force in our bodies yielding results of increased mobility, mobility with less pain and a meditative, calmer approach to the day.
Yin is a slow on-going process. You can compare the duration of results to that of orthodontics. Consider braces a Yin-like process. Bone, teeth - being eased from bone, the jaw. In this case it takes years to yield optimum results and even then, there's upkeep by using a nightly retainer to maintain results. We may feel more "juicy," even relaxed after a Yin class, but it's overtime one will glean the full benefits.
Restorative is a more immediate gratification practice. Minimally physically demanding like Yin, but less mental effort and thought process is encouraged. Overtime, placing importance in attending a Restorative class, much like scheduling a massage, can cultivate a sense of self-care, yielding a more grounded existence as opposed to Yin, where the intention includes a physical shift over time.
For me, it's been quite an education. To think I took my very first Yoga class fifteen years ago just because a friend thought I'd find it "fun" to stand on my head. The path we choose with our mind isn't necessarily the path we ultimately walk with our heart.
There has been no greater gift than to learn and share all things Yoga.
Nadya currently teaches Yin Yoga on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8:15am in the Stroudsburg location.
The next four hour Yin-tensive workshop is coming this fall.
Nadya will be taking her next level of Yin Yoga training this summer in New York and looks forward to offering some new perspective and a deeper level of practice.
Some of our Boundless Yoga Studio students can't praise their Yin Yoga practice enough.Here's what some of them had to say:
"Yin yoga has been a welcome guest into my semi-retirement years. I went looking for a physical journey but found instead "my practice". This practice grows as I stretch, strengthen, breathe, meditate, become friends with my ego and leave the chatter outside the door!"
"The YIN yoga class that I have been taking with Nadya Matychak for the past several months focuses on mindfulness and deliberate intentions. This class has a spiritual component which is having a profound effect on my everyday life."
"Yin Yoga has become a sanctuary from my crazy life. I had been a student of Nadya's for some years, and she introduced a bit of Yin into our Hatha practice. I was hooked! The meditative benefits of holding the seated or reclining poses for longer periods of time, along with the breath, benefit my health and soothe my soul. My favorite is the heart opener, which is just as the names suggests. The energy in our class is AMAZING."
"For me Yin yoga has been a blessing and great challenge with the most benefit. I struggle with shoulder and back stiffness and some right leg discomfort. Yin yoga releases that for me and allows me to go about my gardening and hard work. It has also been very beneficial for focus and strength."
"When I was initially introduced to Yin yoga, I thought it may be a “little too slow” for me even though I am a senior citizen with a “yang” personality. Yin Was A Wonderful Surprise! The slow and steady poses not only calmed and balanced my mind and body, but improved flexibility, and the release of my stiff connective tissues. The best reward has been the self satisfaction I have now acquired in my Yang practice. I love the balance Yin has created for my Yang lifestyle."