Vigorous exercise has the potential to add unnecessary wear and tear on the joints of the body. While weight bearing exercises are a must to keep bones strong and healthy, sometimes our knees, hips, and spine can take a beating if we don’t find balance with some gentle activity.
Ancient Taoists refer to certain types of exercises or super-active behaviors as Yang, known as the energetic life force that facilitates change, growth, and get-up-and-go for the mind and the body. Yang exercises include running, high-impact aerobics, weightlifting, and even certain styles of yoga such as Ashtanga or power vinyasa.
It is surprising that yoga is referred to as a Yang activity, but many styles require a high level of vim and vigor to practice. Sometimes, as a result of pushing, striving, and working too hard in yoga, injuries can incur and joints can be compromised. Even a yoga class must be balanced out with some slower moving and deeply relaxing activity.
Similar to gentle Hatha and restorative yoga, a method of yoga has been developed to balance the Yang-like qualities of more vigorous forms. Yin Yoga, a type of yoga that acts as a perfect balance to the ambitious activities in which we engage, offers a reprieve from rigorous impact on the body. According to Paul Grilley, Yin Yoga’s founder, the body needs to release the fascia and connective tissue that tightens during all Yang activities, for maximum joint health.
Designed to rehabilitate stiff or worn out joints, Yin Yoga involves passive poses and stretches held for three minutes or more. “The poses work your joints in a way similar to how other types of exercise works your heart,” said Grilley. Maintaining joint health is a key component in the sustainability of the quest to stay fit.
To the over-achieving fitness buff whose mantra is “No pain, no gain,” Yin Yoga may not be all that attractive. But Sarah Powers, author of Insight Yoga, said Yin Yoga is really not that easy. She explained that when you hold a pose for as long as three minutes, the body will begin to ache. Powers believes this requires strong will power and the tenacity to relax and ride out feelings of discomfort.