beginner yin yoga
Many people misunderstand the intention behind yin yoga, thinking that the long holds in yin yoga ¨stretch¨ the connective tissues, or ligaments, or joint capsules.On the contrary yin yoga stresses the connective tissues, including joint capsules, fascia, ligaments, tendons and even the muscles. Stressing connective tissue is quite different than stretching it. Stress occurs when we apply tension to our connective tissues, whereas stretch is the elongation of the tissue that results from stress.We stress the ligaments and joint capsules so that over time they become longer, thicker and stronger.
Our bodies are composed of muscles and connective tissues which may include ligaments, tendons, bones, joints and fascia. Our muscles respond well to repetitive rhythmic movement and heat up when exercised. Their elastic qualities allow their muscle fibers to elongate when stretched.
Our connective tissues on the other hand are best to remain cool when exercised and are much more plastic in nature and generally do not elongate. They respond to slow gentle, contraction and are much more yin in nature. In fact, it is dangerous to apply the repetitive rhythmic movements that are healthy for our yang muscles to our yin tissues.
4 Reasons to Stress Connective Tissue
1. Prevent Contracture: Contracture means the loss of mobility through a joint. When ligaments become tight due to misuse, trauma or lack of use you experience contracture. The ligaments begin to shorten, immobilize and create a kind of shrink wrap around the joint.
Connective tissue generally works by protecting your joints and holding you together. When you slip and fall for example, the connective tissue that wraps around the bones and joints deforms slightly and then returns to its original shape preventing injury. In that way, connective tissue is not dynamic like muscle.
However our daily sitting and daily activities does lead to the contracture especially around the hip joints, SI joints and lumbar vertebrae, impinging our normal functioning leading to common complaints such as back pain.
2. Prevent Degeneration: As we age we lose bone density, especially as women. Compressing the bones with an appropriate amount of stress helps the bones grow stronger. Stressing the bones over a few minutes activates and facilitates a complimentary period of recovery and rebuilding within our bone tissue.
3. Reduce Fixation: Fixation is when two surfaces temporarily adhere to one another. Bones sticking to each other can lead to joint fusion. When we traction different joints in different ways, fixation is reduced and mobility is increased.
4. Joint Hydration: Healthy joints need to be lubricated. Hyaluronic acid reduces the friction between the articular cartilage of synovial joints. As we age we have fewer proteins producing hyaluronic acid. As a result our HA molecules are smaller in size and our joints are less lubricated and elastic. When we stress the connective tissue this improves the production of HA.
Yin yoga is like WD-40 for your seized and rusting joints. Paul Grilley, one of the founders of Yin Yoga points out that athletes do not go into early retirement due to injury because of failing muscles, but because of failing joints. Reflect on your own body, most likely the locations of injuries have been in the joints, not the muscles.
Resources: YinSights by Bernie Clark
Yin Yoga DVD by Paul Grilley
Yin Yoga Postures/Yin Yoga Sequence: Butterfly, Bananasana, Sphinx, Broken Wing, Dragon Pose, Quarter Dog, Melting Heart, Keyhole, Keyhole Twist, Savasana
Yoga Props: blocks, bolster, strap, folded blanket
Weekly Yoga with Melissa 410 Photos of Yoga Poses