28 Dec Does Yin Yoga Build Strength?
Wondering if Yin Yoga builds strength?
The short answer is yes – just not in the way you might be thinking.
Yin Yoga is an exercise for your connective tissues, not muscles. When you build muscular strength, you’re exercising in familiar ways: working up a sweat, performing repetitions, holding yoga poses for endurance, or using weights. Muscles respond to this type of exercise by gaining strength.
We must take a different approach when exercising the body’s connective tissues. Connective tissues (fascia) need the application of steady, slow stress. In Yin Yoga, you’re holding a passive posture for a period of time, typically 3 to 5 minutes. During this time, the muscles surrounding your joints relax so the stress or pressure of the shape can enter your deeper connective tissues. It’s this stress that can increase your range of motion and create stronger tissues. But why?
Your connective tissues “shrink wrap” around habitual holding patterns, which is one reason why physical therapists suggest you begin moving as soon as possible after a surgery. It won’t be surprising to hear that your body is a living thing that responds to how you use it. So, both active and passive yoga practices influence how your body grows itself. When you use your body in various ways, you improve your strength and resiliency.
When you hold a yin yoga pose, you arrange your bones in a way that’s not often part of your daily life, and relax into that shape for a while. The weight of your body and gravity gently impacts your connective tissues, and your body responds by strengthening the places you’ve stressed. It’s as if your body says, “I see you’re using me in this way now. Let me make that easier for you.”
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Yin yoga is a wonderful component of a healthy physical routine with more than just physical benefits, but it doesn’t replace more active practices and muscular exercise. A varied practice creates a strong, resilient, and flexible body that will more often be a boon than a burden throughout a long life.
For more reading, I recommend these articles:
Bernie Clark on different types of stress, and why stress can be beneficial
Jennifer O’Sullivan with the science on how yin yoga affects connective tissues
Paul Grilley on where yin yoga came from and details on the practice