Yang Yoga and Yin Yoga can only be defined in relationship to each other. There are no absolutes here.
In the West we tend to think of Yoga as postures we do on a mat.
This is actually asana practice; important but only one aspect of a complete Yoga practice. There are 8 limbs to a full Yoga practice. Each one a complete discipline and a life long journey of learning.
The 8 limbs are; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Asana practice can be more Yang or Yin like in quality depending on what other limb of Yoga it is being compared to.
For simplicity, in this article we shall look at Yin and Yang Yoga through the lens of Asana practice.
Yang Yoga tends to be more active, with a more directed approach in terms of instruction and with set asanas followed in a class.
Yang yoga may be relatively quicker in movement, more intense in style and hotter in temperature.
Yin Yoga in comparison are the slower forms of Yoga.
Students may encouraged to be more open and receptive to their individual experience and have the freedom to explore the posture in relationship to their body.
Yin Yoga may be relatively slower in movement, staying longer in asanas, cooler in temperature.
Different styles of Yoga may change in their nature of Yin and Yang depending on what other type of Yoga they are being compared to.
For example a fast moving Vinyasa class is more Yang like than a relatively slower moving Hatha class. Or, it could be seen as more Yin like in comparison to the same Vinyasa class but in a hot studio.
That same Hatha class has Yang like properties; when compared to a Yin Yoga class.
In Yin Yoga there are longer holds, mostly floor based postures and students encouraged to adjust the posture to their body rather than form themselves into a shape.
However even a Yin Yoga class could be considered Yang like when compared to a Restorative Yoga class where there is even less movement and more stillness.
Nothing is inherently Yin Or Yang.
It is always in relationship to something else. Within every Yoga class there will be Yin and Yang like properties too. Each contains the another and they move and shift in reaction to each other.
The Yin stillness in a sweaty Yang Ashtanga class as you come home to your breath.
The Yang sensations that you notice moving and shifting in your body while being still in a Yin Class.
This is also true for the mind during class; moments of working through the busyness, moments of effort, moments of release, moments of stillness.
So which kind of Yoga is the best?
Well that depends… What is already going on in your life?
If your super active and sporty maybe you need some Yin Yoga in your life.
If you’re not very active start with a Hatha class or maybe you’ll try an Ashtanga or Vinyasa Class.
You need both Yin and Yang in your life to create balance but it also depends on what other activities you have going on in your life.
Too much Yang will lead you out of balance. Too much Yin will also lead you out of balance.
Choose to complement what you’re already doing and take your life towards balance.
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