This article is part of a series of Seattle Yoga News articles focused on interviewing local yoga experts in the Seattle area on a variety of yoga topics that are relevant to our readers. This week’s article is focused on Yin Yoga with Pamela Chang. Pamela shares her knowledge of Yin Yoga and how it could benefit your practice.

#1 What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a style of yoga that focuses on mindfully stressing the connective tissue of the body. Yin Yoga targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that normally are not exercised very much in a more active style of asana practice. Postures are focused on seated, supine, or prone poses held for longer periods of time.

#2 Can you explain the difference between Yin Yoga and other types of yoga?

There are two big differences between Yin and other styles of Yoga. First, we soften the muscles when practicing Yin to focus on the connective tissue of the body. Secondly, we hold poses for “time” (several minutes per pose).

Yin yoga is practiced sitting or lying on the floor. There are no planks, no warriors, no core work. No dynamic sun salutations. The pace is slow, so you need to wear comfortable clothes and maybe even keep your socks on. The classes should be suitable for beginners and more experienced practitioners alike.

#3 Why do you practice and teach Yin Yoga? Why do your students come to a Yin Yoga class?

I practice Yin Yoga because it makes me a better person! Life is busy with my yoga teaching schedule and running a busy household with a husband, two kids and a dog. Sometimes I feel like I have a million things to do and life can get overwhelming. When I practice Yin, I come to a place that is quiet. I can finally just be with my breath and sensation. It feels so good to nurture and support myself. The more I can give to myself, the more I can give to others. Yin helps me to find balance in my life, allowing me to be a happier person!

I teach Yin Yoga because I want to share the joys of this practice with others. I feel it is what I am meant to do! In our modern day world, most of us are busy, overstimulated and overworked. To find balance in our lives, Yin Yoga is one way to cultivate quiet, stillness and peace. Let’s get calm together!

I asked some of my students why they practiced Yin and their responses were so wonderful.

[su_quote cite=”Karla”]Some days I just need to get out of my head. Yin yoga helps me just be.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Debra”]I practice yin yoga as a way to learn to cope with being truly uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. Yin is so much more challenging for me than active yoga. Sitting and staying with the physical and emotional sensations that arise is difficult, but also rewarding as I learn to surrender and accept what arises.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Joanne”]Yin helps me relax & find the present moment. I sleep better because it allows me to give up the things I’m obsessing on & realize things are just as they should be. Also just spending time with Pam guiding the practice makes me feel so good![/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Christy”]Yin brought me the best gift – patience, and a comfortable understanding that while circumstances might stretch me it won’t last forever. It also showed me that even when I think I’m relaxing, I’m still holding on, and that true stretch deepens when I fully release. Yin healed my anxiety like nothing else, teaching me to breathe, release and relax. I also used to get massages to treat chronic shoulder and back pain, but I realized through Yin that internal work always trumps external work. All of these lessons transfer to off-the-mat for sure. My appreciation for this practice challenged me to explore the other practices as well and I’m so thankful. It’s been an awesome journey.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Mandy”]I like yin to slow down my mind, my breath, and my body. I feel more in tune with my body when I do yin, and I feel more calm mentally when I practice more often as well. I enjoy feeling the space come back into the body as it all relaxes more and more.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Christine”]Yin Yoga allows me to slow the mind and body, often when I do, it feels magical like I’ve had a massage in all the right places.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Kim”]I love Yin yoga. One of the stories I tell my new fellow students is about a case study I did several years ago following the progress of my husband, who struggled with flexibility, namely in his ankles. As a rower, he needed flexibility there to achieve a deeper reach at the catch. Ankle flexibility will determine how much a rower’s heel will lift off the stretcher at the catch position. So, he committed doing yin weekly with me for three months. Towards the end, while we were sitting in Hero’s pose aka Virasana, which he couldn’t do comfortably at the beginning of this journey, when I noticed he went right into the pose and seemingly had no reaction to being there. The ache and tightness were completely gone — he was like, wow, I didn’t even know my body was changing, and it did!! There are many benefits of doing yin and other forms of yoga; my body definitely speaks to me if I haven’t done yin in a while. Once a week is best (for me) to build upon my range of motion. I MISS taking your Yin class Pamela. Love the hands on attention and guidance you give to your students.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Celeste”]Dessert yoga![/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Sharon”]Yin helps me balance out the energy and chill from the inside out.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Dee”]Yin changed my life. Yin has helped me gain my strength, balance and peace of mind after several serious injuries. The physical work helps me build strength, as well as trust in myself. The time to hold positions also helps me quiet my mind and bring peace to my heart. I feel safe to practice at my own pace and modify when I need to. I also feel the kind of balance that helps me through my day.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Amanda”]To clear my mind! Yin brings balance not only to my very Yang Vinyasa practice, but also to my very Yang life!! Using the Yin postures as a tool to get into my body also helps me strengthen my meditation practice. Especially when I find sitting and meditating and having only my breath just a bit too difficult w/ my monkey mind, it’s nice to have Yin.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Christina”]Yin just has that restorative soul filling quiet time that everyone needs.[/su_quote]

#4 What are some of your favorite Yin Yoga poses? Give us a few poses that we can practice at home.

My favorite Yin poses? I love them all! It is so hard to narrow it down to a few. There are so many great ones. Here are three poses that I love and you can practice them at home too. Hold each pose for 3 minutes to start (for Half Saddle and Banana hold 3 minutes each side). Over time you can work your way up to 5 minutes or more. Remember to relax your muscles.

Butterfly – Butterfly opens the hips, legs and your back if you round your back as you fold forward. Sit on a folded blanket if it is tough to fold forward. Use blocks or other props under your head to support your neck and/or blocks under your knees to offer support to your legs and knees.

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Butterfly Pose (1st Modification)
expert-advice-yin-yoga-pamela-chang-butterfly 2
Butterfly Pose (2nd Modification)

Half Saddle – Half Saddle opens up the top of your thigh and/or gently compresses your lower back. If you feel pain in your knee, make sure to sit up on a block or two. Don’t lean back if that is too intense on your knee/thigh or low back. It is absolutely okay to sit up.

expert-advice-yin-yoga-pamela-chang-saddle 1
Saddle Pose (1st Modification)
expert-advice-yin-yoga-pamela-chang-saddle 2
Saddle Pose (2nd Modification)

Banana – Banana is a great way to open up the side of the body. If having the arms overhead is too intense for your shoulders, place a prop under your arms for support. Find a stretch on your side body and make sure not to go too deep into the pose. If you ever feel pain in a Yin pose – back off!

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Banana Pose
#4 What are some benefits of Yin Yoga? 

Benefits can include supporting the physical body, the energetic body, the emotional body and the spirit too! The whole practice of Yin can also be a meditation. In a very “Yang” world, we need more “Yin” to stay balanced. Here are just a few of the wonderful benefits of Yin Yoga.

  • Stillness: calms and balances the mind and body.
  • Stress and anxiety reduction.
  • Improved flexibility.
  • Fascial release.
  • Greater joint mobility.
  • Balance to the internal organs and improved flow of chi or prana through meridian stimulation.
#5 What should a student know as they’re approaching this practice?

The practice of Yin Yoga is for everybody. I can always find a variation of a pose that will work for each unique body. The pose does not need to “look” in any certain way…it is about how it “feels”. 

It is my passion to share this loving practice with others. Please join me at Bala Yoga in Fremont, Bala Yoga in Kirkland or Root2Rise in Woodinville for a Yin Yoga class. I also offer a 50 hour Yin Yoga Teacher Training and a 15 hour Yin Yoga Intensive annually at Bala Yoga in Kirkland.

If you can’t make it to one of my Yin classes in the PNW, please join me on-line at www.oneoeight.tv for a variety of Yin classes including a Yin class for hips, twists, wall Yin, Yin before bed, shoulders and spine, beginner Yin, letting go of anger and so much more.

Let the practice of Yin yoga remind you of the joy that exists in the present moment. Just this…nothing else.


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