Three principles of Yin Yoga differentiate this style of yoga from other styles such as Hatha, Power, Vinyasa or Kundalini Yoga. These three principles were first coined and defined by Sarah Powers who is one of the founding teachers of Yin Yoga. Powers helped to make yin yoga popular in the West. Powers and Paul Grilley brought yin yoga to the western world.
Principle #1: Find Your Edge
Finding your edge means that you are not pushing or forcing your body into any specific shape. The goal is not to get into a pose to try and get it to be the most intense version possible. Yin Yoga is focused on slow and lasting structural change in our body versus quick muscle stretching.
Those of you who might be like me, who have a background in dance or gymnastics, may find this principle of finding your edge is the complete opposite of typical dance principles. I know that for me coming from this dance background I was really used to stretching. Then, I started practicing Yin Yoga and quickly learned from the teacher that you want to avoid pushing your body too hard. I had to reprogram my habits.
Imagine that you are looking at an intensity scale of one to ten. Where one you feel absolutely no sensation and ten you feel pain. In yin yoga, you want to stay at 4 or a 5 even though you can probably push hard into an 8 or 9 or even a 10. We need to learn to back off and to learn to reach a lower intensity in our body so that the body is not in a tight contracted state but a relaxed and open state. Let gravity stretch you instead of sheer force.
Principle #2: Be Still
Once you get yourself settled and comfortable in a pose you then need to be still and stop manipulating the body. Yin yoga is all about the joints, we tense up too much the emphasis of the stretch moves away from the deep connective tissue and joints and moves to the muscles which is not what we want.
Embrace a soft and relaxed body in Yin Yoga. This is why props are so important in yin yoga. Often you might use bolsters, pillows, straps, and blocks because this is what is going to allow you to be still in a pose. I like to use the props to fill in the gap between me and the floor, otherwise, I might move more because I will have to use muscles to hold my body up.
Principle #3: Hold Pose
Yin Yoga poses are practiced for a much longer time. We can be in a pose anywhere from one minute to ten minutes. However, on average pose are held three to five minutes. A pose is going to feel really different from one minute to the next. Pigeon pose in the first minute and pigeon pose in the fifth minute feels completely different. The length of time you do hold a pose needs to honor your unique body. Beginners might want to hold the poses less than advanced yoga practitioners.
These three yin yoga principles will help you experience profound flexibility in the body, mind, and spirit.