Nothing is absolute, what is written here is to give you context and contrast between two different styles of yoga.
Restorative Yoga is for those who are IN NEED OF HEALING. Psychological; stress, anxiety, overactive mind/ constant narrative. Physical: injury, illness.
Yin Yoga is for the HEALED BODY that is looking to rehabilitate from injury and/or gain a greater range of motion in the connective tissue and joints.
Psychologically Yin Yoga is as equally beneficial as Restorative Yoga, we are in a place of calming the mind chatter and creating quiet, breaking down the layers as we internalize without judgment, observing any judgment that does arise.
Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga are held for long durations 3 to 10 minutes, allowing for an inward mental and emotional journey to occur, a place of stillness where movement does not distract us from the mind stuff.
Both practices can incorporate breath work and correct breathing, taking the practitioner into a deeper state of relaxation, calm and awareness.
The biggest difference between these two quiet and slow practices is in the physical body. This is what is important to note as a teacher and as a practitioner.
In Yin we are encouraged to find a place of depth (60 to 70% depth) not too deep, not to shallow, a depth where we FEEEEEL the effect of the posture, our edge! And to continue to ‘play our edges’ as we journey through the posture. We don’t want to actually be in a place of total relaxation within the body in Yin Yoga, if you are in a place where you could fall asleep, you have perhaps fallen into the realms of Restorative Yoga. To continually play your edges in Yin Yoga, you are the constant observer of your energetic body and physical sensations, deepening the posture as your edges shift during the pose. We support in Yin Yoga with various props, this is to help you find that ‘Goldilocks’ physical state, where you feel the posture but you can let go of all effort and tension in the target area in order to reach the connective tissue and joints, as the body opens and the edge shifts we remove the props, working more with gravity and the weight of the body, continuing to STRESS the body! And this is the biggy….in Yin Yoga, we purposefully STRESS the body through tension and compression to positively affect the deep tissue. Lengthening and changing the ligaments and facial tissue and lubricating and rehydrating the joints (for your own knowledge, in yang practices we stress the muscle, creating strength, length, and conditioning of the muscle)
In Restorative yoga, we prop to offer FULL support and offer rest to the body. We do not wish to purposefully stress the body, we are not looking to increase our range of motion in a joint for example. In Restorative Yoga we are seeking to restore the body and mind to a healthy or ‘whole’ place, we offer deep relaxation in the postures while still offering positive benefits. Such as legs up the wall or supported shoulder stand, these postures are typically restorative and offer the benefit of reducing swelling in the legs and helping encourage the blood back towards the heart with little internal effort required.
However opening the body can still be achieved in Restorative Yoga, it is just a far more natural and soft method and certainly does not stress the body to encourage lengthening to deep tissue.
Yin Yoga is for many a challenging practice, although still, quiet, passive and outwardly appears calm, it takes great awareness to practice this style properly and a tight body that seeks opening has to journey through finding comfort in the discomfort, and the mind seeking peace amongst the noise of thought.
Both Yin and Restorative practices move past the movement and repetition of our commonly found yang practices, we are forgetting about the muscular conditioning and strengthening and returning to stillness.
But it is for you to decide and assess what your body needs at a particular time, and to remember there is a time and a place for strong, muscular yang yoga, lengthening, and rehabilitation of connective tissue and joints in yin yoga and the holistic recovery and rest of restorative yoga.
What are you in need of today?