Active Rest through Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga
Yoga isn’t just a form of exercise for your body; it’s also exercise for your mind. Yin yoga and restorative yoga are both considered “active rest,” a form of exercise that also relaxes your body. Both will aid you in your search for flexibility and offer the opportunity to quiet your mind through movement and poses. They’re both great options for healing from sports injuries, soothing the body, and restoring a sense of calm.
Yoga for Active Rest, Recovery, and Complete Wellness
Let's compare yin yoga and restorative yoga, looking at the benefits of each, and then provide information to help you incorporate easy yoga into your own wellness routine.
Ever heard of yin and yang? These are two principles in Chinese philosophy and religion that can be applied widely. Yin energy is considered dark, negative, and feminine, while yang is its opposite: bright, positive, and masculine. In Chinese tradition, all things contain both yin and yang—both masculine and feminine, dark and light.
Yin yoga represents yin principles. It’s meant to be a dark, passive, receptive, reflective, and introspective experience. This method of yoga was designed to target deep connective tissues through passive poses that practitioners hold for several minutes. The biggest difference between yin yoga and other forms of yoga is that you are encouraged not to use your muscles. Instead, this yoga focuses on static movement, breathing, and meditation.
The benefits of practicing yin yoga focus on reducing stress in both your body and your mind. Static stretches increase your range of motion and help heal and prepare your body for repetitive moments. So, if you play sports or your job keeps in you the same position all day (ahem, office workers), yin yoga helps you stretch out and strengthen those muscles. Holding the same pose without distraction also gives you an opportunity to relax and release tension. Focusing on your breathing during these stretches allows you to restore your mind and body.
You’re not going to be sweating while practicing yin yoga, but you are going to feel intense sensations as you hold a stretch for several minutes. So if you need a 15-minute break at work, finding a quiet place for yin yoga is a great idea.
The great thing about yin yoga is that it’s for everyone! If you’re aging and need to reinvigorate your body, have decreased range of motion, or are a very active athlete who needs to stretch and condition, yin yoga is for you.
If you’re looking for some introductory yin yoga flows, try these online classes:
- Yin Yoga runs a YouTube channel that explains the main poses of yin yoga, with video descriptions of asanas, meditation, shavasana and pose playlists.
- Yoga with Kassandra isolates different parts of the body for targeted stretches
- Do You Yoga offers free online yoga sessions for at-home yin meditation and stretching.
Restorative yoga will seem very similar to yin yoga at first. And it is! All forms of yoga are fluid, incorporating many similar poses and goals. The biggest difference between the two forms is that restorative yoga should be comfortable and relaxing. With yin yoga, on the other hand, a bit of discomfort is a good thing, as one primary goal is to stretch and strengthen your muscles.
Poses such as Child’s Pose, Legs-Up-the-Wall, and Savasana are some restorative poses you might recognize, and they can be held for up to 15 minutes, especially with the right support. Restorative yoga encourages the use of pillows, straps, blocks, and other supports to keep you comfortable. The purpose is to stretch your body, but not strain it.
There are many benefits to restorative yoga. It helps you stretch and enhances your flexibility. Holding poses for long periods of time also enables you to identify where you hold tension from stress. Using the knowledge you’ve gleaned, you can then make adjustments during the day to help prevent strain.
As the name implies, restorative yoga is intended to restore your mind and body after stress, whether emotional or physical. Sometimes that stress can come from something fun, like playing sports. But no matter the source of stress, restorative yoga can help your body heal and feel like new.
If restorative yoga sounds like what you’re looking for, you can start practicing with these online resources:
- Try yoga therapy classes at Do You Yoga to manage stress and help your body heal
- Yoga by Candace isolates exercises by body part, and also allows you to search by video length for classes that fit your schedule
- Restorative Yoga with Jessica has options for restorative yoga that don’t require props, which might be a good place to start for the very beginner.
Yoga for active rest.
Yin yoga and restorative yoga are both great options if you are looking for active rest. Adding them to your weekly rotation of exercise is a great way to tune into your body, whether you are injured or not, and focus on areas of stress.
The great thing is that yoga is totally accessible from home—so you can get started today! Incorporating one or both of these yoga practices can help you find your chi and care for your mind and body.