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Lately, as we discover ourselves regularly searching for relaxation and regeneration, “restorative” yoga practices have change into a fixture in lots of yoga lessons. However there’s “restorative yoga” after which there’s “Restorative Yoga.”
There are two comparatively passive motion kinds which might be taught with the intent to supply relaxation: Yin and Restorative. Yin Yoga is characterised by coming right into a posture that stresses your physique and remaining there for a considerably prolonged time, whereas a Restorative Yoga posture helps you and your physique within the easy expertise of extended relaxation. I typically describe Yin Yoga as a sequence of WTF moments adopted by Savasana, whereas in Restorative Yoga, I have to be cajoled out of every posture.
They appear utterly totally different, proper? They’re. However I’ve taken many a Yin Yoga class that was referred to as “Restorative Yoga” and vice versa. As a practitioner of each, this may be extremely irritating.
The confusion between these two practices, that are regularly lumped collectively beneath the label “restorative,” may be seen all over the place from YouTube movies to studio lessons. Whereas each promise restoration and lend themselves to a much less performative method of working towards asana, every asks you to method the poses utterly otherwise. That is mirrored in every thing concerning the apply, together with the pose names, the alignment, the usage of props, the intention behind utilizing bodily stress versus creating emotional relaxation, and the size of time you linger in every.
It’s crucial for yoga lecturers to call practices appropriately in order that college students can reliably obtain what they search. And it’s equally related that college students perceive the distinction between the 2 approaches so you possibly can provide your physique what it wants when it’s asking for it.
How, then, can we distinguish between these two helpful kinds of yoga?
The distinction between Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga
The issues behind every model of yoga and their respective manners of approaching the poses are many.
In response to the knowledge of the ancients, every thing is interconnected, together with nature, our our bodies, and our vitality. This performs out in numerous perception methods throughout time and cultures, every of which skilled the world by the lens of nature’s moods.
In Conventional Chinese language Drugs (TCM), every thing is said again to the 5 components in nature: hearth, water, earth, wooden, and metallic. Every aspect corresponds to a distinct season, and every season influences a distinct organ. In flip, the state of the bodily physique informs and influences energetic pathways within the physique, recognized in TCM as meridians. Much like what South Asian texts describe as nadis, these channels decide the place vitality strikes by us—or fails to take action.
Yin Yoga is predicated on this historic East Asian perception system of eliciting energetic stream alongside particular meridian traces within the physique. For instance, the function of the urinary bladder is to permit what just isn’t helpful to the physique to stream out of us. The urinary bladder meridian does the identical factor with vitality. With Yin Yoga, we are able to compress and stress the urinary bladder meridian in ahead folds and backbends to launch unhelpful energetic stuff held within the physique.
We will definitely deal with Yin Yoga poses that stimulate an brisk tune-up correlated to the time of 12 months, however we are able to additionally make the most of our understanding of those energetic meridians to create stream each time and wherever we really feel caught.
The idea of harmonizing vitality within the physique can also be a precept of Restorative Yoga, the place it relates not solely to balancing the energetic traces (nadis) and energetic facilities (chakras) but in addition to pacifying the nervous system.
Judith Hanson Lasater is thought for popularizing Restorative Yoga. A disciple of BKS Iyengar, Lasater realized the Iyengar method to utilizing straps, blocks, bolsters, and chairs to assist college students discover alignment in energetic postures. Lasater then tailored this idea to utilizing props to assist the physique for relaxation.
Whereas many assume that this model of yoga is for practitioners who’re older or recovering from harm, Restorative Yoga has change into acknowledged as a apply by college students throughout all forms of conditions, and is more and more included within the rising motion for yoga for social justice and group restore. In her guide Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Primarily based Stress and Trauma, Gail Parker means that Restorative Yoga is a vital balm to the hurt attributable to a racialized society.
College students typically come across Restorative Yoga and expertise one thing they will’t actually title. It’s not sleeping, nevertheless it’s shut. There’s an expertise of ease within the physique, thoughts, and spirit that we would discover unfamiliar till we’re finally capable of title it as “relaxation.”
Restorative Yoga helps us discover a non-sleep state that permits us to take a seat with ourselves in uncompromised consolation, with some measure of freedom from ideas, emotions, and physique. Lasater defines this state as ashunya, the final and most elusive stage of Savasana. It’s a spot of profound relaxation the place all ideas go away and also you come out questioning, “What simply occurred? The place was I?!”
Restorative Yoga has the potential to convey a high quality of Savasana in each pose. As we go deeper and deeper into the apply, that final state of leisure, ashunya, turns into extra accessible.
2. Stress versus relaxation
Yin Yoga is a apply of resilience whereas Restorative Yoga rehearses relaxation.
Yin Yoga asks us to enter every pose whereas leaning into three rules: To take your self to an applicable edge, to seek out stillness there, and to stay in stillness for a time frame.
In a typical Yin Yoga apply, practitioners are guided into poses that load the joints and leverage gravity. Then they’re requested to really feel into their Goldilocks place, which is the place they expertise a stage of problem they will maintain for 3-5 minutes in stillness.
We unintentionally stress joints any time we have interaction in motion. In Yin, the stress is intentional by sustained load on the joints as skilled by the lens of physique consciousness and pupil company. Because of this, every Yin practitioner’s form will look totally different not solely from each other’s, however from their very own model of the identical pose in a extra energetic vinyasa, or yang, class.
Discovering your edge doesn’t imply going to your finish vary of movement. It means going to a spot of problem that’s applicable on your physique, thoughts, and spirit in that second, which might look very otherwise on a high-stress day during which you is perhaps holding rigidity in your physique versus an early-morning apply when nobody has but gotten in your nerves.
As a result of we’re not pushing or pulling ourselves right into a pose in a Yin apply, the posture takes on a extra relaxed form though a lot work is occurring. We let go of all muscular engagement to obtain the pose in stillness. Right here, we could draw on our yoga instruments and see what is required to calm the thoughts stuff and keep on this pose. Is it extra breath consciousness? Extra softening?
In Yin, there’s a second after we launch the pose once we expertise a visceral sensation of elevated blood circulation and energetic stream coming again to the locations that have been being harassed. Paul Grilley, who based Yin Yoga with Sarah Powers, describes this because the “rebound.”
Whereas Yin Yoga embraces stressing joints, Restorative Yoga helps each facet of the physique in an try to alleviate rigidity. In Restorative Yoga, props fill within the damaging house beneath the physique in order that it might relaxation in alignment.
In a typical one-hour Restorative Yoga apply, the practitioner is guided into two to 4 poses during which they’re invited to expertise a high quality of Savasana in every pose. Blankets, bolsters, pillows, yoga blocks, and straps are used to prop the physique for deep relaxation inside every posture.
The house practitioner has the additional benefit of utilizing a chair, ottoman, or couch for extra consolation in Restorative favorites resembling a variation on Viparita Karani (Half Legs up the Wall together with your knees bent and calves supported) and Salamba Navasana (Restorative Boat or Supported Bridge Pose).
There are so few poses in a Restorative Yoga class as a result of the apply includes permitting college students to marinate in them, blissfully, for 10-20 minutes. (Some lecturers permit much less time in a pose, typically because of the psychological discomfort many college students expertise in lingering that lengthy in stillness.) If a pose isn’t blissful, you’re welcome to relaxation in one other form till the following pose. Pupil company is paramount.
In Yin Yoga, the same old guidelines of postural alignment are thrown out. We use what we learn about correct and protected alignment to get into every posture, however then we let go of all of these constructs. Rounded spines, knees barely bent, relaxed necks, and an general give up to gravity throughout the primary form of every pose are acceptable in Yin. Actually, they’re an integral a part of the apply.
Yin is a apply of introspection, interoception, and reception of the poses, not exterior commentary or efficiency. Due to this, deep listening to your self to be able to discover your model of the pose, one that matches your physique, is the principle apply itself.
Whereas we additionally apply give up in Restorative Yoga, it’s partially a give up to the props which might be holding and supporting us. This encourages an entire letting go of effort in addition to any ideas and idea of time.
4. Time and temperature
In Yin Yoga, it’s widespread to remain in every pose for 3-5 minutes whereas bypassing muscular effort and stepping into the deeper connective tissues. Stiffer tissues—together with the ligaments, joint capsules, and tendons—that are much less compliant than muscle tissues—slowly reply to the stress by lingering within the postures.
Yin is usually practiced in a non-heated room on a physique that has not been exercising for a similar motive. The intention in Yin Yoga is to bypass the muscle tissues being activated, so we arrange situations accordingly. That is additionally why Hanumanasana (Splits) may really feel extremely accessible in a heated room after dynamic motion, however tougher in a non-heated room with out warming up. There is no such thing as a such factor as warming up of the fascia and ligaments, there may be solely the time and endurance it takes for them to change into much less stiff.
Bernie Clark, writer of The Full Information to Yin Yoga, describes this rationale by an understanding of “yin tissues” versus “yang tissues.” Yin tissues (suppose connective tissues resembling fascia) are stiff and, subsequently, require extra time to change into pliable than yang tissues (suppose muscle tissues). We spend minutes relatively than seconds in Yin poses. A part of the educational course of for these new to Yin just isn’t partaking their muscle tissues, which permits the connective tissue to tackle the strain as a substitute. In Yin Yoga, Clark says, we permit “the stress to soak into the tissues.”
Restorative Yoga affords a possibility for the practitioner to relaxation and discover ease in an setting curated for calm. Most poses final 10-20 minutes. Heat helps to entry calm, so blankets are used not solely to prop the physique however to cowl up as physique temperature tends to drop as we enter a extra relaxed state.
Whereas it’s a widespread perception that no props are required in Yin Yoga, that’s not essentially true. Blocks, blankets, and bolsters may help you create many shapes, together with heart-opening and hip-opening poses. A strap can can help you entry a high quality of containment—a sensation of being held with out pushing or pulling—in addition to extension of the arms in order that relaxation in your higher physique is feasible.
In Restorative Yoga, we depend on props beneath any a part of the physique essential to elicit relaxation. To that finish, a part of the apply of Yin poses is to withstand resting in them. The target is to concentrate on the problem of the pose and to develop instruments of psychological mastery to have the ability to stay in that discomfort for time.
The operate of each kinds of yoga
Whether or not it’s the pursuit of calm or resilience, each Yin and Restorative kinds are designed to convey you right into a quieter state of physique and thoughts. Lean into the murmurings of the voice inside you that asks for extra softness, extra stillness, extra peace. Take heed to your self. Hear what your physique, thoughts, and spirit are telling you they want. Then watch how your nervous system appreciates you.
About our contributor
Tamika Caston-Miller, E-RYT 500, is the director of Ashé Yoga, the place she curates yoga experiences and trainings in service of collective therapeutic and group restore. Having begun her yoga journey in 2001 with a house apply, she now holds superior certifications and coaching in Trauma-Knowledgeable Yoga, Somatics, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, and Yoga Nidra. Tamika’s journey has been knowledgeable by power ache and accidents, social justice for QTBIPOC communities, the battle between disgrace and compassion and quest for ancestral therapeutic, and the love for the apply and philosophy of yoga.