As maturing athletes, one of the first things we notice is an increased feeling of tightness pretty much from head to toe. Although there is the argument that a certain amount of tension is desirable for athletes, ie, running economy and efficiency or absorbing load, greater mobility is going to keep us active longer, and don’t we all want to improve our longevity in sport and adventure?
Yin yoga focuses on maintaining the health of our connective tissue, namely the fascia. A single, interconnected web, fascia is inherently strong and flexible, but with age, under or over-use, poor hydration, inflammation or physical (and emotional!) trauma can lose its pliability causing weakness, pain, restriction of movement and poor blood flow. The tissue surrounds muscle, bones, nerves and blood vessels helping to keep everything connected and supported while transmitting force from bone to muscle and allowing those muscles to slide smoothly alongside each other. When the tissues are overly stressed, more and more fibers (collagen) are laid down, which is good at first but eventually results in thick, rigid fascia which is not beneficial for mobility.
A Yin practice usually consists of just a few poses held for several minutes, allowing a gentle release in the connective tissue. Instead of engaging the muscles as we are often asked to do in an active “Yang” practice like Hatha or Vinyasa yoga, this passive practice requires relaxation and letting go, relying on gravity or gentle pressure from our own body to encourage the tissue to lengthen.
A Yin practice can be used in conjunction with manual manipulation to revive overworked, unhealthy fascia. Try spending 3-5 minutes softening into the following asanas a few times a week. This sequence is a good opener for hips, groin and psoas.