There have been lots of discussions about yin vs. restorative yoga. Is one better than the other? Should you use props in yin? Where is the line drawn between the two? Personally, I feel the difference simply comes down to ‘edge’, ‘time’ and emphasis. As discussed in my previous post the emphasis in yin is a gentle stretching of the connective tissue while softening the muscles, in restorative yoga the emphasis being is deep relaxation with no strain in body or mind. Edge is used to describe the amount of sensation/stretch felt in the pose and time is the duration of the pose. For example, in a yin pose you might feel quite a strong edge in the target area of the pose and hold it for 3-5 minutes, in a restorative pose you might feel little or no edge and hold for 5-10 minutes.
What about props?
Props may be used to help the body stretch, strengthen, balance, relax or improve body alignment. Restorative yoga poses tend to involve a lot of props to ensure the body is completely supported and thus feels safe to completely relax. It also means the poses are comfortable to be in for extended periods of time. For example in the restorative child's pose pictured below; there is a blanket for padding under the knees, the abdomen and chest rest on the bolster which raised at one end to provide extra support for the head and neck. If desired extra blankets can be placed under the ankles and between the hips and heels.
While fewer props are used in yin they can still be very important in helping students experience a pose more comfortably and safely. They allow students to hold an appropriate edge without over stretching (e.g. placing a rolled up blanket under the knees to protect tight hamstrings in a forward fold.) They can also be used to help relax other part of the body not directly involved, in particular supporting the head and neck so they are not dangling and adding additional strain to the shoulder girdle. In the yin version of child's pose below there is only a blanket under the knees for padding. If the forehead if it does not easily touch the floor, a block or folded up blanket my be placed underneath it to avoid straining the neck and back. Some people also enjoy having a block or blanket between their hips and heels for a little more support for the lower back.
Yin and restorative yoga are both wonderful additions to a traditional yoga practice and offer peace from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Why not come to class and give them a try?