Yin Yoga: what it is, positions, benefits and contraindications

Yin Yoga: what it is, positions, benefits and contraindications

Yin Yoga was codified in the 1980s by the American Paul Grilley, a yoga teacher who developed this style with a slow and fluid rhythm, which aims to act in the depths of the mind and body.

Compared to more dynamic styles centered on muscle stimulation, this type of yoga focuses its work on connective tissues.

Yin Yoga therefore aims to solicit and balance the free flow of Prana (vital energy) between the chakras of the body, for the well-being of the organism and to appease the moods, giving a state of well-being and stillness.

What is Yin Yoga: meaning and definition

Yin Yoga is a yoga practice that focuses primarily on calming, relaxing and rebalancing the body and mind. It is a slow, meditative approach characterized by passive postures that are held for extended periods of time, usually three to five minutes or more.

Unlike other more dynamic and active styles of yoga, Yin Yoga focuses on working the connective tissues of the body, such as joints, ligaments, tendons and deeper muscle bands.

During the practice, we try to release muscle tension to allow the body to relax completely in the positions, also thanks to a conscious breath that favors the release of physical and emotional tensions.

The positions in Yin Yoga are mainly performed while sitting or lying down, so they require little muscle effort. The main goal is to let your body weight do all the work, allowing your connective tissue to gradually stretch and relax.

It is a practice often considered a complement to more active styles of yoga or other physical activities, as it offers a moment of relaxation and rejuvenation.

Yin Yoga can also help increase flexibility, improve joint range of motion, calm the mind, reduce stress, and promote an overall sense of well-being.

Basic philosophy

The practice of Yin Yoga is also based on the concept of acceptance and letting go. In fact, during the positions to be assumed for a few minutes, we invite you to release muscle tension and let the energy flow in the body.

Furthermore, awareness of the breath and the practice of meditation are encouraged, to promote mental relaxation and inner connection.

An important aspect of Yin Yoga is the concept of “positive stress”. By holding the poses for extended periods, you apply gradual stress to the connective tissues, which can help increase joint flexibility and range of motion over time.

However, it is essential to practice Yin Yoga with attention and respect for the limits of your body, avoiding forcing or causing pain.

The 3 principles of Yin Yoga

There are three fundamental steps of this practice and of every single position (Asana):

  • Get into the position gradually, until you reach the optimal tension. Let the body open slowly without forcing. Listen to him and follow his times.
  • Stand still. Once you have found the balance between tension and relaxation, you should remain calm and firm in the position, giving your body time to adjust and slowly stretch. You should not feel pain or strain beyond your natural limits.
  • Hold the position for the indicated time. It usually takes 3 to 5 minutes. It takes time and patience. If you are a beginner, the duration can be reduced to 1/3 minutes.

If you are interested in the topic, discover our study on Asana.

Asana and Yoga techniques

The positions are held for a few minutes, are performed on the ground and require little or no muscular effort. Here are some of the more common locations.

1 – Position of the Child

Sit on your heels and lower your torso forward, still extending your arms forward and resting your forehead on the ground. Relax your body and breathe deeply. Stay in the position for 5 minutes.

2- Position of the butterfly

Sitting on the ground with the soles of your feet together, let your knees open out to the sides. Maintain gentle downward pressure on your knees to relax your groin and hip muscles.

If you arch your back too much, place a rolled up blanket behind you, not far from your sacrum.

Then slowly lean back with your arms relaxed next to your body at shoulder height or even above your head. If hip opening is difficult, you can place blocks or books under both knees or thighs.

3 – Position of the Sphinx

Lie on your stomach with your arms bent, resting on your elbows, with your palms on the floor. Lift your torso straight up, keeping your legs relaxed.

This pose lengthens the spine and opens the chest.

4 – The caterpillar

Sit on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you and stretch your torso forward, trying to reach your feet. Let your back round out and allow the hamstrings to relax.

If you have lower back problems, use the rolled up blanket to keep your lower back straight and only your upper back curved. He rests his forehead on the blanket keeping his hands open with palms up.

5 – Opening position of the heart

In quadrupedia, if your knees hurt, put a blanket underneath.

Bring your hips above your knees (table position) and slowly move your hands forward until your forehead touches the floor. He lets the sternum go to the ground. Then she goes into child’s position.

All the benefits of Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga offers numerous benefits that can help relieve pain and tension, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve well-being.

Being able to hold a position for an extended period teaches you to observe emotions, thoughts or physical sensations as they come.

It is a practice particularly suitable for people who have experienced trauma or emotional breakdown, providing a space to reconnect to the sensations of the body without feeling overwhelmed. It also offers the possibility of experiencing emotions that we normally try to push away or hide from ourselves.

Anyone can practice Yin Yoga, regardless of age, physical strength and level of flexibility. And the benefits are so many: it stimulates the flow of energy to the connective tissues, purifies and strengthens the body and mind and is particularly suitable for those who lead a sedentary life.

Furthermore, it improves the mobility of the joints, preventing painful states and promoting muscle relaxation. Then it balances the meridians, stimulates the flow of energy and increases the flexibility of the whole body, resulting in deep relaxation.

So Yin Yoga helps to:

  • Balance emotions.
  • Improve flexibility.
  • Stretch connective tissues.
  • Stimulate circulation.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Strengthen mental focus.
  • Promote relaxation.
  • Develop awareness of the breath.

If you are interested in the topic, discover our in-depth study on yoga.

What does science say?

Some studies indicate that Yin Yoga can help develop mindfulness while reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

Research published in 2018 in PLoS One, involving more than 100 adults, investigated the effects of practicing Yin Yoga for 5 weeks, both alone and combined with psychotherapy.

Compared to the control group who did not practice yoga, lower levels of anxiety, depression and insomnia were recorded in the other two groups.

A small 2021 study, however, published in Journal Am. Pharm. Assoc., involved a group of pharmacy students and faculty, who practiced Yin Yoga and meditation for 6 weeks. At the end of the experiment there was an increase in awareness and a reduction in stress and anxiety levels.

Certainly larger and more in-depth studies are needed to confirm these results, but the initial indications are very positive.

How to practice Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga can be practiced whenever you want, however its benefits are greatest at certain times:

  • When the muscles are cold (to let only the connective tissues work).
  • At the end of the day (to calm the mind before bed).
  • In case of too busy life (to balance excess yang energy).

You can practice alone at home or together with other people, under the guidance of a teacher, but also online. The price ranges from 50 to 70 euros for 4 lessons lasting 60 minutes. Online they cost less, even 25 euros for a cycle of 4 lessons.

To follow the course you may need some small tools such as: a yoga mat, two foam blocks, a strap, a blanket or pillow, two tennis balls and a wall to lean against.

It is good to remember that Yin Yoga is an exercise that can take time to get used to the positions and sensations that occur during practice. So it takes patience, dedication and respect for the body to fully enjoy all the benefits Yin Yoga has to offer for wellbeing.

Here are some tips on how to practice Yin Yoga.


Find a quiet, comfortable place, preferably with a yoga mat or soft surface. wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely.

Before starting it can be useful to do some light stretching exercises, such as rotations of the joints, movements of the arms and legs, to increase circulation and relax the muscles.


Choose the positions you want to practice during the session according to your needs, the areas of the body you want to relax…