How Balanced is Your Practice? Yin, Yang & You!

Think yoga is all about stillness and stretch?  Think again.  Sarah Spear explains how to get your heart pumping and your pulse racing in her guide to Yin, Yang & HIIT Yoga.

1. What is Yin yoga?

Yin yoga is, unsurprisingly, the opposite to Yang yoga.  Simply put, Yang is anything cardiovascular – hot yoga, vinyasa, Ashtanga… or it can be running, cycling, rowing or lifting weights.  Yin is its cooler, gentler, slower partner.  This form of yoga is more intense – we hold the poses for 3-7 minutes rather than 3-7 breaths as you would in Yang.  It is a floor based, highly meditative practice using bolsters, blocks and cushions to support you during the longer holds which then help the deep connective fascia tissue to release, in turn increasing space in the body and, ultimately, finding more flexibility.  You don’t push or pull the body, you give it time – it is a practice of patience.  Yin is also very connected to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as, through the poses, we stimulate the meridian lines of the body which can also help us find more balance physically and emotionally.

2. What are the benefits of Yin?

Fascia tissue is strong old stuff, it wraps around everything under the skin surface – muscles; groups of muscles; ligaments; joints – the longer holds allow this tissue to be stretched along with the muscles, finding more length, space and flexibility.  Truth is, if we don’t stretch deeply we feel that tight sensation into the our bodies, but by stretching more deeply in regular Yin practice, our Yang practice will also deepen and the body releases far more.

3. Do I need to have experience of yoga to participate in a Yin class?

I certainly would not recommend Yin to complete beginners.  Good body awareness and experience of other types of yoga can help you settle into the longer holds… learning to be still in Yin is really important.

4. Why are Yin classes so long?

Quite simply so we can get as many poses in as we can!  Even in 90 minutes we sometimes only do 6 poses.

5. How do seasonal Yin workshops differ from regular Yin classes?

In workshops I have more time to explain and focus on the 12 meridians of the body plus we have the luxury to explore more Level 2 length holds, sometimes holding for as long as 10 minutes.

6. What can I expect from a Yin/Yang class?

Half the class comprises meditative Yin poses to release parts of the body (hips, shoulders..) and, as a result, prepare it for the Yang poses that follow.  Opening the hips slowly, for example, will avoid injury and prepare you for coming into standing or flowing Yang poses.  Then we slowly start to transition into some standing poses and explore the depth the body can now reach having practised Yin beforehand.  We finish by coming back to the floor for some more Yin and, ultimately, Savasana.

7. What is HIIT training and how does that work in a yoga class?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and adds a cardio element to your practice.  While the class is fast-paced, focusing on the breath and maintaining authenticity to the poses remains key. We start with a yoga warm up using poses like locust pushing up into plank and back to the floor, repeating and working to your max for 40 seconds and then resting for 20 seconds.  This is followed by a sequence of 6 exercises each practised for 40 seconds with 20 seconds rest, repeated 5 times.  The class ends with a cool down and well earned Savasana!  The class sequence changes every 4 weeks so you can feel yourself improving and getting stronger… HITT is very Yang!

8. Can I do HIIT/Yin if I have an injury or am pregnant?

If you are a well practised in both, know your body and are sensible then, potentially, yes.  However, we always advise you check with the teacher first – Yin in particular allows things to move and, while this can be helpful with injury, I would be more cautious with pregnancy.


Sarah Spear teachers Yin, HIIT, Yin/Yang, Vinyasa, Hot Flow & Red Hot classes – find her latest schedule here.

In addition Sarah is running a New Year Yin Detox Workshop on 6 January 2019 – click here for more details.

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