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Yin yoga, like all other forms of yoga, is aimed at helping practitioners have a healthy body. Yin yoga focuses on the Taoist energy known as yin, a dark and feminine energy. Through the use of different asanas, or positions used in yoga, yin yoga focuses on the joints and bones instead of the muscles. Those looking to restore their muscles and those who have back or muscular pain should not practice yin yoga, because this form of yoga does not focus on restoring muscles and can actually cause further pain in these people.
Yang yoga, the counterpart to yin, is a more popular form of yoga because it aims to restore muscles, has a large number of asanas and does not last for long durations of time, making it easier to practice. Yin yoga is the complete opposite. This form of yoga has far fewer asanas and focuses on the joints and tissues in the pelvis, lower back and hips. Positions can last for as little as one minute or long as 20 minutes, which can be much harder for yoga practitioners — old or new.
The poses used in the yin version of yoga are normally the same as those in traditional yang style yoga. Most of the poses though, while exactly the same position, have been renamed. This is to help practitioners distinguish between yin and yang styles of yoga. Most of the yin poses are done from a sitting position; yang has a variety of standing positions. The poses themselves are easier than yang poses but, due to the prolonged holding time, can be more difficult.
Benefits of yin yoga are similar to those of yang — greater strength, improved health and relaxation; practitioners also find it easier to meditate. Yin also offers a strengthening of the tendons, which helps practitioners of all ages avoid suffering tendon injuries. Practicing yin also has benefits for yang, including making yang yoga poses easier to perform because the poses are so similar.
Yin and restorative yoga are similar in that both offer positions that are held for a prolonged amount of time. Restorative yoga, though, is aimed at restoring muscles and is often helped along with props so the practitioner does not hurt himself or herself. Yin poses do not use props and often use gravity to make the stretch more intense, which can hurt those looking for the effects of restorative yoga.