yin yoga versus restorative yoga

The new yoga studio I’ve recently signed up with (Claremont Yoga – I love it!) offers an array of classes for its students.  One of which is “Yin Yoga”.    And then they offer a “Restorative Yoga” class.  Are these similar?   I’ve decided to read about them – in addition to attending the classes.  Understanding the purpose of the class and what to expect is very important and can change the outcome of the class greatly so here we go.

Yin versus yang yoga

To understand what yin yoga is we need to understand the term yang yoga.    It is probably the type of yoga you’ve been doing.  Vinyasa flow, Ashtanga, and Strala’s Strong yoga are examples of yang yoga. These are rather vigorous forms of yoga which focus on our muscles resulting in sweat and an increased heart-rate.  These forms of yoga are heat building.  As we flow through an hour of one of these classes the purpose is to build strength, stamina, and also flexibility in our muscles.

Yin is the opposite or balancing partner of yang yoga.  The roots of yin yoga are in China rather than in India as most yang yoga is. It is based on simple poses which are held for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes.  It is meant to balance out the yang practice. Instead of focusing on the muscles, the focus in on connective tissue – the bones, the ligaments, and the joints.  The atmosphere of these classes is more meditative and the object is to relax into the poses.  Although it is described as simple it is not meant to be “easy”.   It is meant to be for those yoga practitioners who are not currently injured and to improve their health. For these yogis it will act as a restorative form of yoga.

Restorative yoga

Generally, a class which is titled “Restorative yoga” will be a very gentle form of yoga.  More low-key than yin if you will.  If you have injuries, are new to yoga, are stressed, or just want a relaxing and easy-on-the-body class then look for a restorative yoga class.  These classes often use a lot of props, encourage ease and gentleness, and do not stress the connective tissue compared with a yin class.

I tried a yin yoga class the other day.  It is more strenuous than a restorative yoga class.  The poses are held for longer than might seem comfortable.  I will say it was a different experience.  I will probably try it again.  My ultimate favorite yoga is still restorative though.  I love it for its stress reducing qualities in my life.  My body is generally very flexible and the yin will be a good addition to my practice though.  Learning to use the poses as a meditative tool will be my challenge.  Learning to relax in the poses for up to 5 minutes will also be another challenge.  But after all yoga is a practice rather than an art. So adding a new dimension to my practice is exciting.

To your health.

Ease neck, shoulder, and upper back tension

Hours spent at the microscope can be a literal pain in the neck for many laboratory professionals.  Pipetting can also put strain on shoulders and upper backs.  Much of corporate America sits at computers for long stretches of time.  Many workplaces are implementing ergonomic work stations to help ease some of the pain many of us encounter on the job.  While this is definitely a positive move, there are many things that we, as self health advocates, can do for ourselves.


How do we sit at work?  Are we slouching in our chairs?  Just getting into the habit of sitting up straight is a great starting point.  As you slouch, your shoulders hang forward, and your neck and upper back try to compensate.  Muscles which are not meant to maintain posture, such as smaller neck muscles end up doing jobs which they are not meant to.  They get tired; we end up with neck and upper back pain.

Stretch and strengthen

We need to stretch out the tight muscles and we need to strengthen the weak muscles.  Stretch out the chest muscles; strengthen the upper back muscles.

Yoga is great for accomplishing both of these tasks in a way which is both gentle and easy on the body.  And with yoga’s calming effect some stress may be alleviated too.  Stress is another contributor to muscle tension.

Deep breathing will help relieve neck tension.  Sit comfortably with your hands on your belly and inhale.  Feel your belly inflate; exhale and feel it fall.  Do this for 10 breaths.  Be aware of your neck muscles as well as your posture.  Sit up straight.  You can do this at your desk or at home.

“The Clock” is a pectoral or chest muscle stretch.  Stand next to a wall with your hand up on the wall above your head in a 12 o’ clock position.  Slowly move your hand to 1, 2 and 3 o’clock.  Try to keep your ribcage facing straight forward. You should feel a stretch in front of the right shoulder.  Hold for 6 breaths and then repeat with the left arm.

Arms overhead with strap can be done with a yoga strap or a belt.  Holding the strap in both hands shoulder width apart raise your arms overhead.  Your palms should face away from each other.  If you can’t straighten your arms, just move them farther apart until you can.  Now drop your chin to your chest to release your neck muscles and gently pull your arms apart from each other.  Hold for 6 breaths and repeat twice more.

Downward dog at the wall is a variation of downward dog.  Press your hands against a wall and walk your feet back until you create a table top position.  Lift your sitting bones towards the sky as you press in to the wall with your hands.  Keep your knees slightly bent.  You should feel like your heart is melting towards the ground.  Hold for 6 breaths as you focus on opening the chest and lengthening your spine.  If done correctly this pose will feel incredible!

There you have it.  A couple of poses to help ease your neck pain through the stretching and strengthen of key muscle groups.

To your health.

P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, questions, or comments.  Send me a reply below.

Disclaimer:  All articles written on Microyogi are opinions and not meant to serve as any kind of instruction for how to move your body.  I am merely writing to serve as a means of trying to find my own answers.  I am not a certified trainer or medical expert.