My favourite type of yoga is more yang oriented, I tend to avoid the more passive, slow styles of yoga as in my mind, it’s boring! However, I’m starting to realise and welcome the holistic health benefits of yin yoga and try to merge both elements into my practice. Still probably not as much as I should!
Doing a calming yoga practice such as yin yoga with a focus on stress reduction is a good start to helping to balance the adrenal glands which can affect many other glands if they are overworked.
Be aware that not all yoga practices are stress-reducing. Yes, you read that right! Some vigorous yoga practices may cause your body to release endorphins – those “feel-good” hormones associated with “runner’s high”, but, at the same time, they may actually be stressing the body and adding to the load on the adrenal glands. Some workouts including running have shown to actually increase the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. And ever notice how after a power yoga class, some people walk out feeling worse than when they actually started? I’m not saying don’t push yourself because otherwise you won’t know how far you can go! But just be aware that over-exerting, even when it comes to yoga, could be compromising to your health. Like with everything, it’s all about balance!
Lately I’m becoming more aware of this as I’ve just been pushing my body everyday with emphasis on both strength training and cardio. I admit, I love the endorphin rush post-workout, whether it’s from Yoga, HIIT or free weight workouts.
As I’m not one to sit still for too long, this current lockdown situation has put pressure on myself to move and workout hard. But now might be the time to roll out some yin and find more balance in my daily activity. Deeper, gentler movements can have major health benefits and it may be a good idea to start including them into your regular practice too.
I’m still not sure if yin yoga is for me but I am sure that incorporating both yin and yang elements in whatever form, is a win, win.
Yin vs Yang yoga
Yin is more internal, passive, cooling and downward. While Yang is more external, dynamic, warming and upward. When these terms are applied to yoga, Yin Yoga is a slower practice where poses are passively held for longer, working on the deep, dense connective tissues and joints in the body. Whereas Yang Yoga relates to more active, dynamic and strengthening styles of yoga (think Vinyasa and Power yoga).
Yin yoga for hormonal balance
Both yin and yang yoga poses engage the muscles, send blood flow and oxygenated blood to organs and send the brain’s attention to these areas of the body. It is well supported that yoga can have a beneficial effect on our stress responses. Read more from the Harvard Health Publishing here.
Interestingly, it’s been said that yin yoga practices helps to pressurize and depressurize specific glands and these subtle compressions and decompressions can regulate hormone secretions to improve the functioning of our glands.
NOTE: Remember yoga’s effect isn’t limited to hormones and the endocrine system. There are studies on how it affects all of our systems – from muscle and skeletal to excretory!
Simply put, all yoga poses can technically support hormone balancing because all poses target some part of the endocrine system. Don’t get too caught up in the yoga poses themselves, rather it’s the overall practice of yoga, and particularly, yin yoga practice can help to maintain a happy endocrine system… Adios PMS, insomnia and all the rest of you unwanted hormonal demons.
That said, here are some top yin yoga poses you can do on a regular basis that are particularly good for the endocrine system.
My Top Yin Poses
- Supine Spinal Twist
- Open Wing pose
- Sphinx pose
- Garland pose
- Shoe lace pose (with eagle arms or cow face variations)
- Child’s pose
How long to hold the poses?
Yin postures are generally held for at least one minute, and for some people as long as twenty minutes! (I have never done that!) It is becoming increasingly popular with athletes as this style of yoga, enables them to work deeper into the muscles to transform the way the body and mind moves.
Given that yin poses are held much longer than a yang-style yoga practice, you will notice all the physical and mental sensations from hip mobility to thoughts about past experiences, yin allows these physical and mental emotions to rise and be released through the power of passive movement.
As you practice these poses regularly, over time, you’ll learn to let go and allow your body to go deeper into each pose. This is how yoga builds flexibility, and this is how yin yoga allows you to go deeper and restore the layers of both body and mind.
Open yourself up to the possibility of wellness, health & vitality!