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Yin Yoga, Yang Yoga and Restorative Yoga- What's Different?

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Most styles of yoga today are predominantly yang. Yin yoga however is on the rise. Yin allows for stillness, repose and deep relaxation. These qualities are deeply needed in today’s fast-paced world if we are to achieve balance.” L Stuart Dr. Ac

The Chinese philosophy of Yin and yang (yin yang) has been around for millennia. The earliest inscriptions of the theory were found on oracle bones dating back as early as the 14th century BCE. In yin-yang theory, all things in the universe are made up of two opposing yet complementary energies- yin and yang. Yin was first described as the shady side of a hill. Yin energies are slow, quiet, still, restful, dark feminine and moist. Yang was first described as the sunny side of a hill. Yang energies are active, light, fast, superficial, masculine, and warm. Yin yoga and yang yoga are relatively new terms that are used to describe certain styles of yoga today. This article looks at the differences between yin yoga, yang yoga and restorative yoga and considers the benefits of these styles.


yin yoga type

The term yin yoga is used in two different ways. Firstly, yin yoga is the name of a relatively new style of yoga, popularized in the West by teachers such as Paul Grilley, Sarah Powers and Bernie Clarke. Secondly, the term is also used to define a broad category of hatha yoga practices that emphasize yin qualities such as ‘letting go’, ‘release’ and ‘becoming quiet’. Yin yoga, Restorative yoga, Yoga Nidra and Vibrational Yin are all different yin yoga styles. Savasana is the quintessential yin yoga pose found in all schools of hatha yoga. All yin yoga is slow paced. Yin yoga as taught by the above-mentioned teachers targets the connective tissues of the body either by compression, twists or stretches. Time spent in yin yoga poses can help us develop greater acceptance of our body and its abilities. Yin yoga can also facilitate emotional release. The practice is being used today in clinical settings to treat behavioral problems such as addiction and trauma.

Yin Yoga (the style of practice) has 3 main principles:

1) Coming into the pose at an appropriate depth. The sensations in the body while practicing yin yoga should be mild to moderate.

2) Resolving to be still. Stillness in postures helps quiet our yang energies and ensures our skeletal muscles are as relaxed as possible so we can target our connective (yin) tissues. There are two exceptions to this principle. If the sensations in the pose are very mild and your body invites you to go deeper into the pose, or if the pose is very uncomfortable adjust it so sensations are less intense.

3)Resting in the posture for some time. Time spent within yin postures can vary from 1 to 30 minutes. Most yin yoga classes that are not specifically restorative will allow between 1 to 5 minutes within each pose. Spending time in the postures allows for the release of long held stresses in the tissues, improved flexibility in the fascia and joints and greater range of motion.


yang yoga pose

Yang yoga is a broad category that can be used to describe most styles of hatha yoga practiced in the west today. Vinyasa, Power Yoga, Forrest Yoga, Ashtanga yoga and Hot yoga are all different styles of yang yoga where there is an emphasis on movement and on building strength and awareness etc. in that movement. Yang yoga increases our stamina, tones and detoxifies our bodies (via sweating) and promotes better cardiovascular and respiratory health. Yang yoga builds heat in our bodies. When yang yoga is not overly intense it can help strengthen and build our bodies qi (vital energy). Yang styles such as Forrest Yoga emphasize the importance of deep breath while practicing yoga with integrity.

Yin-yang philosophy teaches us that yang energy contains the seed of yin energy, while yin energy contains the seed of yang energy. Whenever we practice savasana at the end of a powerful fast paced yoga session we are honoring the yin energies contained within yang. When we add counter poses such as cat cow or windshield wipers to our yin yoga sessions, we are honoring the importance of yang within yin.


Restorative Yoga pose

Restorative yoga is a gentle but powerful form of yin yoga that focuses on deep rest and rejuvenation. Yin yoga, the style of practice and restorative yoga greatly overlap. Both styles can be used to relax the body and mind and prepare us for meditation. In the yin yoga style there is normally an active stretch and props are used to either deepen or ease the sensations in a pose. In restorative yoga props are normally used to support the body as a way of promoting total relaxation. In restorative yoga, poses are normally held for longer periods than in yin yoga. Restorative poses, mild in sensation, are designed to promote tension release from both body and mind. Yin yoga postures are sometimes more intense than restorative yoga postures. Restorative yoga can be considered more yin than yin yoga, as it promotes deep relaxation and rest. Both practices however can be used to balance more yang styles of yoga,


Yin Yoga

Restorative Yoga

​For better range of motion in the joints, to improve flexibility in the fascia and other connective tissue

​When stress reduction in the primary goal of the practice, to alleviate anxiety and promote deep relaxation

​To strengthen the joints of the body using gentle stressors (compression, twists or stretches)

​To promote deep feelings of safety in both body and mind.

To conclude we hope you are now able to differentiate between yin, yang, and restorative styles of yoga. Knowing which style of practice is best for you at any given time can help you achieve inner balance and better health. At Yoga With Dr. AcuMassage we offer both yin and yang yoga videos online. Sign up for a free 7 Day Trial of all yoga classes at Yoga with Dr. AcuMassage today!


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