Why Your Summer Activities benefit from Keeping Yin in your Weekly Routine
Summer in the city offers lots of exciting ways to move outside. We opt for hikes instead of hatha yoga, swims in the lake instead of sweat in the studio, relaxing on the beach instead of relaxing in our yoga studios. The thing is, a regular yin yoga practice can help us ensure that we continue to enjoy our time outside without limiting it or taking us away from it. You might be saying “My muscles are too tired, or my social calendar is too full to add another activity in my weekly schedule!” You might think that there isn’t a difference between beach relaxation and studio zen. The thing is that while these outdoor activities target the health of your muscles, your cardiovascular system, and spending maximum time outside - you’re not directly targeting the health of your joints.
To sustain athletic pursuits in the summer (and all year for that matter), your attention is well spent on joint health in addition to the health of your muscles. Weight training (and active yoga classes) deliberately stresses your muscles to make them stronger, cardio purposefully stresses your lungs and heart to make them more efficient, yin yoga consciously stresses your connective tissues and joints. This conscious stress helps to stimulate circulation in the joints, release tension in the fascia (connective tissue) leading to increased flexibility and range of motion. I’ve heard from students time and time again how yin yoga effectively helped them recover from their athletic pursuits and specifically contributed to enhanced athletic performance simply by adding a class a week into their schedule of activities (and didn’t adversely interfere with their precious beach time).
Other yoga styles can provide benefits to the joints and muscles but mainly work on the superficial layers of muscles, improving their strength but missing the deeper layers of tissues like fascial networks, joints, ligaments and bones. The length of the holds in yin yoga which can be 3 minutes or more is what allows this practice to access these deep fascial networks. According to one of the founding fathers of Yin yoga, Paul Grilley, connective tissues respond best to slow steady holds (ever had braces?). These connective tissues connect every part of our bodies including not only our muscles but also our internal organs.
Although long holds might mimic the length of a hold in a Restorative Class, the stress on the tissues can provide a surprising amount sensation for some in the pose. In a yin yoga class you’ll be encouraged not to strain or push but find effortlessness despite sensation while avoiding pain. Finding your way to relaxation despite discomfort is a skill that any recreational athlete (or breathing human) can benefit from - whether it’s staying calm while navigating cottage traffic, navigating a stressful situation at a family event, or staying focused and relaxed in that last kilometer in your first 10K run.
So no matter what your plans or goals are outside this summer, think about investing an hour a week inside for a yin yoga practice and discover how a slow and still practice can help you move effortlessly through all your summer adventures.