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What is the difference between Yin and Restorative Yoga?

by Melissa Dale

Yin and Restorative yoga practices share many similarities.  They are both yin in nature, quiet and restful as opposed to the active yang energy of a flow practice.  The poses are primarily done down on the mat, using props and long hold times to allow for deeper immersion. But even with those shared aspects, the practices are different in both purpose and techniques. So how do they differ? Which one is better for your particular goals?  Do you need both, or just one? Let’s explore…

Yin poses impart a healthy amount of physical stress, either through traction, flexion or extension.  The poses are usually targeted to a specific area of the body, in order to lengthen and hydrate connective fascial tissues, bringing health and mobility to joints and ligaments. The poses are also designed to free the flow of energy, blood, and lymph through subtle channels in the body known as meridians.  Many poses use props such as a bolster, blocks, or strap.  Poses are held from 1 to 5 minutes.  Though generally a restive practice, Yin poses can stimulate quite a bit of sensation – part of the practice is allowing these sensations to evolve and finding your own “edge” of right effort in the pose. After long holds of lengthening the fascia, it can take some time – and patience – to ease back out of the pose.  At the end of a Yin practice, one can expect to feel both rested and energized. Yin Yoga is great for anyone suffering from joint pain, restriction of movement, or general stiffness in the body.

The primary goal of Restorative Yoga is to relieve chronic stress.  When the mind registers stress, it sets off a chain of events in the body.  The adrenals release adrenaline and other stress hormones, triggering the “fight or flight” response.  In this state of stress, the digestive, circulatory, and immune systems do not function in their normal capacity.  Often the release of these hormones continues long after a particular inducer of stress is gone, leaving the body more prone to disease. The antidote to stress is mindful relaxation, which is more restful than sleep. Restorative poses are fully supported by even more props that we use in Yin, and are designed to bring health to the internal organs and spine through gentle forward bending, back bending and twists. Because we are fully supported, with hold times of 10 to 20 minutes, the body and mind can enter into deep relaxation, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the “rest and digest” mode. In this state, the body can naturally heal from within, relieving the chronic stress and tension that plague so many people today.  A common reaction after experiencing Restorative Yoga for the first time is “Wow, I didn’t realize how much I needed that.”  We all need that.

If you’re still not sure which practice is right for you, give them both a try!

  • Yin Schedule: Monday 5:30 pm, Wednesday 10:30am, Friday 9:00am
  • Restorative Schedule: Sunday 9:00 am, Thursday 4:30pm