Updated: Jul 15
Restorative yoga and yin yoga are two styles of yoga that are often used interchangeably, when in fact they are complete opposites.
So why do the two get confused? From the outside, they appear to be similar practices because they are both floor based practices and often use props to support the body. Like most yoga practices, both Yin and Restorative Yoga can promote relaxation and stress relief.
Restorative yoga aims to restore the body to its parasympathetic nervous system function or rest and digest mode, which, in turn, helps the body rest, heal, and restore balance. Restorative asana utilises yoga blocks, blankets, and bolsters so that the body can be supported without any muscular effort. Postures are held for longer periods of time, anywhere between 5 - 20 minutes per pose, sometimes longer. By allowing time for longer asanas (postures or poses) and deeper breathing, restorative yoga helps tap into the relaxation response. While the body enters a state of relaxation so too does the mind, this is the aim of restorative yoga: deep relaxation. The only requirement for this practice is noticing the breath and the subtlety of nothingness. It totally debunks the myth that you have to do more to get more.
Benefits of restorative yoga include better sleep, less stress, reduced pain and improved mood and wellbeing. Because it’s a floor based practice that’s non-weight bearing, it’s accessible to pretty much any body! For me, restorative yoga is like a big warm hug you give yourself! And then we have Yin yoga where the purpose of the practice is not to relax the mind and body but instead to create stress in the body! Like restorative yoga it can be a mostly floor based practice, however yin yoga postures utilise gravity to effect a change in the tissues which often creates both physical and mental discomfort for the practitioner. Yin postures are typically held for around 3-5 minutes to target the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that are not normally the focal point in a more yang or dynamic style of yoga. Additionally yin yoga focuses primarily on the lower body, the hips, pelvis, and lower spine.The role of yoga props in the yin practice differs too, we use props to make the postures more accessible to more people…and help to stay longer in the pose! Yin is a practice of enquiry, exploring the body through a variety of sensations, emotions and thoughts that lay beneath the surface. Whatever the sensation, we’re invited to observe it with curiosity. Through a yin practice the practitioner improves mobility, mental clarity, increases circulation and like restorative yoga can relieve stress and anxiety.
While many yin yoga postures look similar to hatha yoga postures, yin yoga postures use a different naming convention which helps to differentiate the yin practice from the hatha or restorative practice, highlighting that they are, in fact, different styles of yoga.
Yin Yoga + Restorative Yoga are not the same. While each style of yoga uses specific techniques and philosophical approaches. While some of the benefits of these practices are the same, the aim and methods not only differ, they are actually complete opposites!
Whichever one you choose to practice, each of these practices provide a practice of stillness and perspective; relief from the overstimulation and exhaustion that result from living our daily lives.
Enjoy your yoga!