Recently we introduced Sports Joint Release classes to our offerings at YogaBodyWorks. We did this because we know about the benefits of adding yoga (and yin yoga specifically) to your cross training program and we thought you should too.
Yin yoga targets the connective tissue in the body. Flexibility in the muscle and myofacial slings will increase your range of movement. Releasing these tissues requires a special kind of stretch, which decreases muscular tension across large muscle groups. The gelatin matrix of our fascia responds well to heat and stretching. Heat and stretching dissolve the hardness of our tissue at which time the fascia can be molded through compression, stretching and twisting.
The important thing to remember is that the key to yin yoga stretching is time, not force. Connective tissue requires long held stretches where the muscles are relaxed around the joints. This is because if the muscles are tensed, they rob the joint of the release so de-activation of the muscle is important. Muscle mass responds well to quick repetitive movement, oxygen, and blood flow (like pumping weights) but connective tissue needs time.
Stretching in this way can be challenging in the beginning but the body actually responds well to stress. The tendency in Western culture is to over-stress mind and body so balance here is key. This is where the mind/body/breath connection comes into play; when we concentrate on the breath and focus the mind on the joints being stretched it is easier to relax in those areas.
Another gift that the yoga world has given us has been our understanding of prana. In yoga we learn that prana is our life force or vital energy and it flows through our body's subtle energy channels called nadis. In the Daoist teachings (on which yin yoga is based) this subtle energy is called Chi. Chi is the electrical current which travels to every cell in our body through our meridian lines. The condition of our fascia affects the flow of energy. Unhealthy and hardened fascia is a poor conductor of energy, but healthy fascia acts like a copper wire, transporting this energy powerfully and efficiently.
Using this approach, yin yoga postures become our tool to re-mould and re-create our bodies every time we step on the mat. A healthy body will reveal itself in the space between too much and not enough.