Yin Meridians + Fascia

by Gabi Pointner

The Meridians

The principle of the complementing energies of Yang and Yin originates from Daoist Philosophy that dates back to the 4th century BC. ‘Yang’ is connected to the masculine energy of brightness, light, passion and action whilst ‘Yin’, with its cooling, dark, slow, relaxed and passive features, stands for the feminine aspect of all things. In order to bring health, harmony and equilibrium to our lives, we need the balance of both Yang and Yin qualities.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, vital energy (“Qi”) as the foundation of all vitality, is omnipresent in and around us. It moves through our bodies via a web of energy lines or ‘meridians’. Blockages within our meridians will appear due to a hectic lifestyle, sustained stress or traumatic events. These blockages hinder or stop the flow of Qi. As a result, we feel unwell or fall ill.

In TCM, each meridian is linked to an organ and each organ has a physical, emotional and energetic function. There are 14 Yin-Yang meridian pairs of which 12 can be stimulated through various techniques like yoga, acupressure or acupuncture. These 12 meridian doubles equate to 6 Yin-Yang pairs of organs. Through long-held postures that work with compression and tension, Yin Yoga activates these meridians to facilitate a healthy flow of Qi.

Yin & Fascia

Most of us are familiar with the Yang style of yoga – whether it is Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Hatha Yoga. What we gain in these practices are strength, flexibility and stability as we mostly target the muscle tissues. Additionally, a yang practice improves our posture, helps us lose weight and supports our body-mind connection.

A traditional Yin practice is quite different as it works through these foundational principals:

  • Yin targets the fascia, rather than the muscles.
  • Muscles are fully relaxed; the deepening of a pose is reached by giving in to the force of gravity.
  • Poses are being held for an extended period of time, starting from 1-3 minutes progressing up to 5 minutes and sometimes more.
  • No action is required – finding stillness in the pose is the main aim.

Yin poses also help us reach the fascia, the connective tissues that fit like a sleeve around individual muscles, muscle groups as well as joints and ligaments. Since these tissues work hard to support and stabilize our muscles and joints, they inherently resist changes from dynamic physical exertion. However, connective tissues lose elasticity if they are underused (which can happen if you lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle) or as a natural by-product of aging. This can present physically as stiffness, achy joints, or limited joint mobility. By slowly loading our connective tissues with weight and maintaining long static holds, Yin yoga coaxes the fascia into becoming more strong, supple and healthy. This creates space for our muscles to lengthen and for our joints to enjoy an increased range of mobility in our daily movements.

Less poses, more props

Paul Grilley, one of the fathers of Yin Yoga, has often said that “Twenty is plenty!” Hence, Yin yoga focuses on a few poses to target the main myofascial groups and the meridians in our body. We do not need a lot of postures to deeply affect the key areas of the body in a Yin Yoga practice. We don’t have time for very many poses either because we hold the postures longer than in a Yang practice.

In order to achieve a fully beneficial Yin experience, bolsters, blocks, blankets or cushions are used for support as these props allow the body to soften and surrender to gravity. In this state of meditative stillness, Yin offers deep access to the body – it requires students to get intimate with the self, with feelings, sensations, and emotions.

Who can do Yin?

Absolutely everyone! There are no restrictions and it is an appropriate practice for any age or level of fitness. Through variations in positions and with the support of props, the practice can accommodate anyone.

For me, there is no preference when it comes to choosing between a Yin or a Yang practice. I believe that both offer immense benefits in their own right and complement each other perfectly.

So the next time that you reach for your sweat towel, remember to balance out your yoga practice with Yin Yoga and soak in the benefits of this wonderful modality.

In summary, Yin Yoga works to:

  • Regulate Qi flow
  • Calm the mind and relax the body
  • Relieve stress and anxiety
  • Bring forth & process emotions that are suppressed or ignored
  • Improve stamina, endurance & mental focus
  • Increase flexibility and mobility in the joints and connective tissues
  • Improve circulation
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Improve coping mechanism for stress and anxiety
  • Improve one’s ability to be still and mindful – a great way to access a meditation practice
  • Ultimately promote an enhanced Yang practice!
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