Yin yoga may not be the first thing an average lifter thinks of when it comes to recovery. After all, that one power yoga class you took at your local gym might have left you feeling more sore than you were before. And adding “Yin” to the front of yoga likely means nothing to someone who doesn’t have a membership at an actual yoga studio.
We’re about to introduce you to your muscles’ new favorite hobby — but first, let’s get past a few misconceptions.
First off, many lifters who get into yoga are doing it to reach a singular goal: to be more flexible. And while increased flexibility is the most obvious benefit of practicing yoga consistently, that mindset narrows the scope of athletes and casual gym-goers who could benefit from it.
In reality, yoga can have a host of physical and mental benefits, and there are many different types of yoga aside from the typical styles offered at gyms or online — basically, anywhere outside of a dedicated yoga studio. Yin yoga, a slow-paced, meditative practice that focuses on muscles, connective tissues, ligaments, joints, and tendons, is one such style.
“When you think of yoga, you think of movement, maybe some sensational postures like down dog or a sun salutation,” Alana Kessler, MS, RD, and Expert Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, told M&F. “It’s very dynamic, whereas [Yin] is actually a slower paced practice where it’s mostly on the floor.”
Kessler describes Yin as a more passive practice that’s meant to create energy through breath, visualization, and stillness. The more common and dynamic yoga styles, on the other hand, use up energy as you move.
We spoke with Kessler to find out more about Yin yoga and its benefits for athletes, gym rats, and anyone else who wants to get in tune with their body. And bodybuilders, listen up, because spoiler alert: the mind-muscle connection is involved.
Keep reading to find out what sets Yin yoga apart from the yoga flows you’re picturing in your head right now and, more importantly, to find out why it’s worth incorporating into your routine.