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What Is Yin Yoga & How Can It Help Your Persistent Pain Patients
By: Nataliya Zlotnikov, HBSc, MSc

What Is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a slower-paced, more meditative version of the popular physical and spiritual discipline of yoga. In Yin Yoga, the poses are held for a long period of time (typically three to five minutes or longer). (Yogapedia, 2018).

You Can't Trick Me!

But wait, yoga is from India, yin/yang theory is from China. If you feel like there is a piece missing, you're right. We'll touch on this piece in our brief history segment below. But before we get there, let's touch on the basics of yin and yang.

Yin and Yang Theory 

"Like Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc², the yin-yang symbol describes something very elemental and incredibly complex." (TCM World Foundation, n.d.)

A concept used within Taoism, yin and yang are two complementary opposites, two halves of a whole that encompass everything in the universe. When something is whole, by definition, it’s unchanging and complete. When split, both halves always chase each other as they seek a new balance with each other. (Personal Tao, 2021).

Amongst many other things, yang exemplifies activity and energy while yin exemplifies rest and stillness. 

Now, let's move to a brief and fascinating history of yoga focusing on today's topic, Yin Yoga. 

At the end of today's blog, we have a brief-ish history of yoga. In case you are not in the mood for that, here is the Cole's Notes version:

Yin Yoga in Rehab

Yin Yoga is well suited as one effective option to help evoke the relaxation response, however, yin yoga is not Restorative Yoga. It is also highly effective for persistent hip, pelvis, low back and pelvic floor pain because of the targeted focus on these areas of the body. 

If you would like to read up on a practice that is more restorative in nature and also used for rehab and pain, take a look at our blog,  The Yoga Couch: Take Time for Self-Care with Ginger Garner. Couches are restorative.

Today's Course Is a Resource Package

  • This course outlines the most popular and effective yin postures for pelvic pain. 
  • Nine postures are taught in this series of exercises.  They are a companion series to Pelvic Health Solution's online healthcare course, Innovative Exercises for the Sensitive Nervous System.
  • There are 2 videos for each posture:
    1. Instructor/practitioner video: An instructional video reviewing all of the key elements for teaching clients each of the postures. 
    2. Patient/client video: Instructions for patient home practice.  

What’s Included in This Self-Paced Course?

  • 18 Yin Yoga exercises
  • Curated yin practices: Three 30-40 minute curated yin practices to prescribe to your patients; one is addressed at improving sleep, and the other two address lumbopelvic tension in the front and back of the body.
  • Patient exercises: You can easily share exercises with your patients on Embodia
    • For more information about Embodia Home Exercise Programs (HEP), click here to watch a short video. When you sign up for this course you will get a one (1) month complimentary trial with the Embodia HEP software (for new registrations only).
  • A Special Coupon for 15% off any other online course on Embodia Academy when you’ve completed this course!

To read more about what's included in this course or to check out the full course, follow the button below:

Click Here for the Full Course (Resource Package) 

Please note: They are a companion series to Pelvic Health Solutions course as well as Reframe Rehab's Exercise Reframed class.  


Now, On to the Goodies

Below is some content from this course.

We have included both the practitioner and patient videos for the frog posture, one of the nine postures discussed in this course. 

Frog Posture (Practitioner Video)

This video outlines the targeted muscles, benefits, and instructional points of the posture.


Frog Posture (Patient Video)

The next video is the video designed to instruct and demonstrate the Frog posture, for patients to follow along. Patients can access these videos for at-home practice for each of the nine postures covered in the course.

Click Here for the Full Course (Resource Package) 

Please note: They are a companion series to Pelvic Health Solutions course as well as Reframe Rehab's Exercise Reframed class.  

A Brief History of Yoga in Greater Detail 

As promised for those who wanted the slightly longer (but still brief) history of yoga, here is it:

Early Yoga: Yin Heavy

  • There are many documents describing yoga; some were written hundreds and even thousands of years ago, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Gheranda Samhita, the Yoga Sutra, and many more.
  • None of these ancient texts were meant to be read alone and all required the guidance of a guru, to ensure understanding. The books were used more like shorthand reminders of the real teaching.
  • Much of the real knowledge was deliberately kept hidden; only when the teacher felt the student was ready was the knowledge revealed. 
  • We cannot tell simply from reading these old texts how the original physical practice of yoga was performed. But we can derive that the purpose of the physical practice was to prepare the student for the deeper practices of meditation.
  • Earlier yoga practices were very much yin in quality, compared to the style of asana (body posture) we see today. 

Yoga: 1300-1500 C.E.

  • The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP) (mentioned above) was written sometime in the 14th or 15th centuries C.E. by Swami Swatmarama.
  • It is one of the oldest extant documents we have describing Hatha Yoga.
  • Compared to today’s practices, however, it too has very little asana practice in it.
  • In the HYP, more time is spent in the text describing the practice of pranayama (breath control in yoga) and mudras (gestures mostly performed with hands or fingers) than asana.
  • In the section discussing asanas, there are only 15 described, and of these, most are done while sitting on the floor. These are quite yin-like in their nature; however, a few postures are definitely yang-like.

Yoga: 1600s

  • As time went on, later texts expanded the number of asanas explained. The Gheranda Samhita, written perhaps in the late 1600s, a few hundred years after the Pradipika, describes 32 asanas, of which one-third could be said to be yin-like and the others more yang-like.
  • A trend had begun: more yang asanas compared to yin asanas.
  • A few decades later, the Shiva Samhita listed 84 asanas.

British Raj in India: 1858 and 1947, Impact on Yoga

  • By the time of the British Raj (1858-1947), when England began to colonize Indian culture and change the school system, asanas were beginning to become blended with wrestling, gymnastics, martial arts and other exercises.
  • By the end of the nineteenth century, there were thousands of asanas.

The Era of Yang Yoga Was Upon Us

  • Yin postures have been a part of yoga since the beginning of the physical practice. 
  • Yoga gradually moved from the original yin practices of holding seated poses for a long time as a preparation for the deeper practice of meditation to the more active yang style of building strength and health.
  • One is not better than the other; they are simply different.
  • To sit for long periods of time in deep, undisturbed meditation requires a body that is open and strong. This opening, especially in the hips and lower back, is developed through a dedicated yin practice.
  • However, oftentimes, it is very difficult to sit with focus.
  • A yang practice helps to ready the student for the rigours of advanced yoga practice.

Nature Desires Balance

  • We know that the use of yin postures in yoga is not new. It has been around since the beginning of the physical practice of yoga. Thus no one person can be given credit for inventing yin postures. There was a time when all yoga was yin-like, and perhaps the balance was too far in that direction.
  • A rebalancing occurred when yang postures grew in prominence. However, as time went on, yoga practice became more and more yang-like.
  • Nature desires balance. If we don’t seek it out, she will impose it upon us eventually. Yoga could not continue to be more and more yang without someone finding a way to bring it back into balance. 

The Re-Arrival of Yin: 1980-2000

  • In the last decade of the 20th century, two teachers started to bring yin postures back into the prominence they once had in the yoga world: Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers. 
  • Paul was first exposed to instances of long-held postures in 1989 while attending Paulie Zink’s Taoist Yoga classes.
  • Taoist Yoga is actually just qi gong (chi kung) by another name.
  • Using the term yoga in the name instead of qi gong helped qi gong gain popularity by piggybacking on yoga's popularity. 
  • Through Taoist Yoga, which contained both yin and yang movements, Paul was inspired to create a yoga class that was entirely yin
  • Unlike Restorative Yoga, which can also be viewed as yin-like, Paul’s Taoist Yoga-inspired classes were designed for healthy students, not those recovering from an illness or pathology. 
  • Sarah Powers learned this adapted Taoist Yoga from Paul Grilley and loved it, eventually incorporating yin into her own practice. 
  • She coined the term Yin Yoga, as what she and Paul were now offering was not Taoist Yoga, but yin only (Yin Yoga, 2021). 

You can read more about the history of yoga re-introduction of yin yoga to the world here.

Carolyn Vandyken

Carolyn has practiced in orthopaedics and pelvic health for the past 33 years. She is a McKenzie Credentialed physiotherapist (1999), certified in acupuncture (2002), and obtained a certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in 2017.

Carolyn received the YWCA Woman of Distinction award (2004) and the OPA Distinguished Education Award (2015). She has been heavily involved in post-graduate pelvic health education, research in lumbopelvic pain, speaking at numerous international conferences and writing books and chapters for the past twelve years in pelvic health, orthopaedics and pain science.

Her passion is to break down the silos that we live in as clinicians. She is the Co-Founder of Reframe Rehab:

Amber Morphy
Pelvic Floor Yoga Specialist
Amber practices a variety of styles of yoga, Ashtanga, Moksha and Yin. Her passion is YIN! She received her Fitness Theory Course and Group Instructors certification through the YMCA and has also attained her CPTN Yoga instructors certification. In August 2009, she had the good fortune to travelling to British Columbia and received her YIN Yoga Teacher Trainer under the guidance of Bernie Clark.

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