- Joyce Fu
Subtle but Mind-blowing Benefits of Yin Yoga for Movers
By Dr. Joyce Fu, Chiropractor and Yoga Instructor
As a mover, you likely have heard of yoga and probably have tried “yang” styles —which are vigorous, fast-paced practices like vinyasa, power, and Ashtanga. The complete opposite style, called Yin Yoga, has a more subtle way to provide beneficial effects for the mind and body.
Now, imagine yourself gracefully moving through sand and being in a meditative state that would leave you feeling lighter in your body and mind. Like you’re floating on a cloud!
Yin yoga is a slow-flow practice that is commonly comprised of a few poses held between 3-5 minutes long and utilizes props such as bolsters and yoga blocks for added support. At first glance, it may seem “slow” and irrelevant for us movers, who learn by doing and repetition, but the benefits are more powerful than you think.
Moving slower allows us to be more present and tap into our body’s innate wisdom to guide us to more healing. The impactful psychological benefit is that suppressed emotions, thoughts and feelings are allowed to surface and to be released from our physical body.
Based on Taoist principles of Yin and Yang, opposite and complementary “Qi”, or as I like to call it “spiritual energies”, are believed to run through meridians, or pathways, in networks all across our bodies. Yin is understood as stable, immobile, and cold and yang as changing, mobile and active. We see this in movers, since our Yang is output of energy, for example in rehearsals or taking classes. However, the yin input is usually lacking, and this is the space where dance injuries start to occur. Yin yoga focuses on releasing deep connective tissues including the ligaments, joints, bones, and deep fascial networks through a slow, cooling practice.
Connective tissues are just like the saran wrap of your skeletal muscles. When under-stretched, it will be less elastic and can lead to stiffness and achiness in joints. By gently stretch them out with a slow flow, you can greatly improve your flexibility and your nervous system will not reflexively “guard” or tighten up again. In addition, performance levels will improve since this gentle practice also improves blood circulation and muscle recovery.
More importantly, yin yoga balances out the central nervous system and effectively helps reduce stress levels. It does this by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms your body down and slows down your heart rate, rather than the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for fight or flight. No more need to feel fatigued or living in constant fear of being injured!
Being in more static “asanas”, or poses, there tends to be more focus on deep breathing by using the diaphragm, our primary but mostly forgotten breathing muscle. I also call this “belly breathing”. In today’s fast-paced society where we are constantly engaged, our breathing shortens, and we utilize secondary breathing muscles or do more “chest breathing”, which results in chronic neck and upper shoulder strain as well as pain.
Therefore, practicing yin yoga brings the perfect balance to help round-out the full capacities that movers need to utilize their bodies, physically and mentally. It is also a fantastic way to ease into a practice of meditation, since it brings more awareness internally.
By inputting healing or yin energy back into our system, we can regulate it better to prevent issues like burn-out or injuries from occurring and accumulating. Practicing yin yoga regularly can help restore the healthy flow of Qi in our bodies, and has a similar effect to an acupuncture treatment.
My goal as a chiropractor and yoga instructor is to expose this community of movers to the benefits of this wonderful mind-body practice, and how it should be incorporated into modern dance rehabilitative settings.