The Difference Between Restorative and Yin Yoga

If there is one thing that has been making me happy lately, it is to read that calmer, gentler physical activities are becoming more popular. Among the calmest in the calm yoga styles, we have the restorative and yin yoga. Although sometimes you see these terms used almost interchangeably, they are two different styles.

Read below to learn how restorative and yin yoga differ and what are their respective, specific benefits.

Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga has its roots in the Iyengar style. It emphasises extensive use of props to support the body to so the practise of yoga becomes accessible to everybody, despite any physical limitations there may be. Developed in the West in the 70s by Judith Lasater, restorative yoga intends to slow down movement, breath and mind and, help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. In other words, we try to move from the “fight or flight” state of mind many of us are on almost permanently, to more towards “rest and digest” state.

Restorative poses are very subtle and passive. Various props are often used help the body stay in the asana without any effort for an extended period of time. The body (and mind) can just surrender and let go. Restorative poses can be hold between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the overall class length and the type of asana chosen. For example, in a 90-minute restorative class I often teach 4 or max 5 poses, one of them being the final relaxation at the end. 

Yin Yoga

Yin yoga has its roots in similar practises that have existed in China for over 2000 years, but it was developed in its modern (or should I say “Western” again?) form by Paulie Zink and Paul Grilley in the 70s.

Whereas of restorative yoga is about almost feeling nothing, yin yoga aims to put moderate stress on the connective tissues – fascia, ligaments and tendons – of the body. This can help to restore the range of motion in the body, as well as revitalising the body tissues. The pace in yin yoga is still slow but the postures are held shorter time than those in restorative yoga. Beginners can start from 45 seconds onwards, whereas experienced practitioner can hold an asana up to five or even ten minutes.

In Yin practitioners are expected to find a deeper sensation (sometimes described as “slight discomfort”) in the asana and props are used less than in restorative yoga. Between every pose there is a rebound moment to feel the effects of the asana. This is not a counter pose as such but can be a simple corpse pose or a child’s pose that helps to “reset” the body before the next asana.

Both yin and restorative practises are greatly beneficial and are a great addition to the more dynamic, heath creating yoga practises. They are also very valuable to those who would usually not consider yoga for their fitness practise. Restorative yoga especially can also be suitable to those who have a limited range of motion because of the props offer countless opportunities for modifications, ensuring comfort and relaxation.

Have you already tried these slower types of yoga? What did you think, and do you have a favourite between the two? I would love to hear your comments below!

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