Yin yoga was first developed by Paulie Zink when he combined the practice of Indian Hatha yoga with Chinese Taoist traditions. He utilized combinations of postures and movements with visualizations, vocalizations and other insights that he personally developed since beginning yoga when he was fourteen years old. He studied Taoist yoga, Qigong and Kung Fu for many years before he began teaching his own techniques.
To understand yin and yang yoga poses, one must first understand how yoga is generally practiced. Yoga is not a form of competitive exercise. Each student progresses at his/her own level with each posture targeting a different area. While all yoga has similar goals and objectives, the traditional yoga practiced in North America is typically Yang Yoga. It usually targets the muscles with aggressive stretching postures and breathing exercises. Yin Yoga is the counterbalance to the practice of Yang Yoga, and is sometimes referred to as yoga for the joints.
What does that mean? This yoga form begins with relaxed muscles and targets the ligaments and joints that asana styles don't normally exercise. Sometimes it is also referred to as soft yoga even though it can be more challenging than some yang poses. It involves postures that are held for longer periods of time than yang yoga. Some poses are held for up to 20 minutes. This stretches and strengthens connective tissues that are much deeper than superficial or muscular tissues.
Yin and Yang tissues are affected much differently with each style. Yang is considered more dynamic, because it stretches and strengthens muscular tissues with an emphasis on internal heating. Yin focuses on the connections in the pelvis, hips, and even the lower spine. Most yang postures involve standing while most yin postures involve sitting or laying down. Many yoga masters feel the combination of yin and yang poses balance each other out and give the body the full exercise it truly needs. It is even suggested that practicing only the Yang side of yoga is only half of the asana practice.
Yin yoga encompasses all skill levels, just like yang yoga. Beginners, intermediate and advanced yoga practitioners can all find postures that are at their level. The real challenge isn't deciding which one is best to do. It's how to achieve both to create a balance for the mind, body and spirit. Yoga masters seeking liberation, or moksa, do not practice only one side.