Yin after Yang or not?

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Yin after Yang or not?

Post by Bernie »

I was recently asked the following questions:

  • Hi Bernie, I hope all is well with you. In your book, there was a mention: "When to practice yin yoga: before an active yang exercise." However, I recall you suggesting that after yin yoga, due to the fragility of our tissues, it's best not to engage in yang practice and instead allow our bodies to recover. Currently, my students are a bit perplexed. They refer to your book and assert that we should practice yin before yang. Yet, my understanding is to commence with yang and then transition to yin (if my aim is to induce calmness), and yin alone or yin after very gentle yang (when I intend to work on connective tissue, without warming up muscles). Could you please offer some guidance on this matter?

My response: I often get this question!

First…any time is a great time to do yin! There is no right or wrong time. However, the benefits may be different depending upon lots of considerations: the time of day, what you have been doing, how warm/cool you are, etc. I have never said you should only do yin before yang.

If you are warmed up, which can happen when you do a yang practice before a yin one, then the muscles are warmer and looser and they will absorb more of the stress of the pose than any tissues which are in series to them, which means the ligaments and tendons. (See Cold Muscles or Warm Muscles?)

However! The tissues in parallel to the muscles, such as the joint capsules, will actually get more stress when the muscles are warm. So, one way is not better than the other, just different. To understand this, please read my article: A Yin Yoga Perspective on Serial and Parallel Tissues. I get variations on this question around the topic of whether one can do Hot Yin? For my thoughts on that, see the article Hot Yin?! There you will see that for many students, being a bit warmed up before their yin practice is actually a good thing.

As to doing yang activities (like sports) after a yin practice, again the discussion will depend upon how long and deep your yin practice was, how “fragile” you feel and what sort of activity or sport you intend to engage in. The main concern is the amount of “creep" which has crept into your fascia during the practice and how long it takes for them to regain their normal stiffness. See my article on Creep and Counterposes. For most recreational athletes, the degradation in performance from stretching before their sports is trivial, but for an elite athlete, it may be a concern if they are trying for a personal best performance.

Let me repeat from the above: There are no absolutes!

Beware the binary; of saying “this must always be done” or “this must never be done”. As Paul Grilley reminds u, “always is always wrong, and never is never right.” Within the yin swirl there is always a yang dot and vice versa. My recommendation: try both ways and decide for yourself which way works best for you!

I hope this helps
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