Anyone who has ever practiced yoga has experienced it’s benefits. Yoga delivers noteworthy results whether your relationship to the lineage is through the physical approach, the spiritual approach, or a combination of both. The more you explore the practice, the more your personal growth and connection to all things blossoms.
There are countless scientific studies that espouse the merits of yoga. One particular body of research involves the extraordinary role that Yin Yoga can play in vitality and optimal health.
The Yin practice is very passive and muscularly soft, in other words straining or engaging the muscles during the practice is not only ill-advised but can actually counter the benefits. It applies long holds; at least five minutes and sometimes up to twenty. Yin targets the bones and connective tissues (elastic or collagenous fibers that support, connect, or separate tissues or organs) specifically in the hips, pelvic region, and lower spine. Yin Yoga employs the use of props to support the pose and prevent pain or pinching while gently stressing the joints. It increases flexibility by creating space and lubricating the joints.
This particular form of yoga can play an important role in building and maintaining Meridian Lines, known as Nadi Lines in the Hindu tradition. According to modern Meridian Theory, these lines are an extensive network of pathways that run throughout the body. Vital life force travels through these channels. It is referred to as Chi or Ki in the Chinese tradition and Prana in the Hindu tradition. (As this is a yoga blog I will use the words Prana and Nadi). In acupuncture, the practitioner works to correct imbalances in the body by manipulating and stimulating the flow of Prana by puncturing the Nadi Line with needles or by applying pressure.
According to new research in this field when Prana or Ki is compressed and occupying bone and connective tissue it becomes a piezoelectric force. Literally translated, piezoelectricity is the accumulation of an electric charge in a solid material. This force is transmuted throughout the body by way of Nadi Lines. When the body undergoes stress these pathways can become blocked and the flow of Prana can stagnate, or pool in the joints, similar to debris collecting in a river. New discoveries around this practice postulate that the collection of energy in the joints can be freed, un-damning the flow of Prana.
The extensive research of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, pioneered awareness of the physiology behind the Yin Yoga practice. Dr. Motoyama is a highly esteemed Japanese doctor of Chinese medicine, a skilled yoga practitioner, and Shinto priest. After years of research Dr. Motoyama published “Measurement of Ki Energy Diagnoses & Treatment: Treatment Principle of Oriental Medicine from an Electrophysiological Viewpoints” in 1977, to articulate the correlation between Nadi Lines and Prana, or Ki energy. Dr. Motoyama discovered that gently stressing the joints and pulling the bones apart through a series of long holds stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid (HA). HA is an extremely large and hydrophilic molecule which binds water and ions. It can retain 10 times it’s weight in water. According to Motoyama, when this molecule is in abundance it becomes the building block of the Nadi Line. The illustration above shows how the HA molecules coil together to create a barrier, an electrically insulated tube within which an aqueous solution provides extremely conductive channels, tiny superhighways of prana. In essence, Motoyama’s discoveries establish that Yin Yoga restores and strengthens the flow of Prana by increasing the abundance of HA in the joints. So, when HA is in abundance so is the life force in our bodies. I would even argue that when HA is in abundance we feel happier, more peaceful and connected.
The more obvious payoffs of Yin Yoga are increased flexibility, mindfulness, relaxation, and bone strengthening and lengthening. The benefits become unprecedented when one considers the monumental role that it can play in stimulating the production of the most important ingredient in the transference of piezoelectric energy throughout the body.
So play around with different modalities of yoga. Enjoy the Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Anusara, and power disciplines but don’t forget the importance of slowing down and incorporating some long holds in your practice. Apply the Yin principles and experience a more fluid exchange of energy by breaking down the damns in your joints that stifle the flow of prana and rebuilding the channels that allow it to flow.