Yin yoga targets connective tissue, specifically ligaments and tendons in the joints and spine. Over time, the practice of yin yoga can lengthen these tissues, increasing range of motion. To convey the role that connective tissue plays in determining range of motion, muscles account for about forty percent of the resistance against the body’s flexibility, while connective tissue accounts for about fifty percent. The intensity and physical benefits of the practice depend on two variables, duration of the asana and the temperature of the muscle.
Duration of Asana
In order to lengthen the connective tissue, you hold an asana, engaging in static stretching. This applies stress, in the form of tension, to the muscle and connective tissue in the targeted region. The muscle, more elastic than the connective tissue, responds immediately, lengthening to its limit. When your muscle is fully stretched, the stress reaches the connective tissue, which is not elastic and does not immediately lengthen. In order to affect the connective tissue, stress must be applied for several minutes at a time. In yin yoga, asanas are usually held for three to five minutes, but can be held for as long as twenty minutes. Because of the long duration of asanas, one of the key values cultivated in the practice of yin yoga is patience.
Temperature of Muscle
If the muscles are cold, they will be less elastic, and more stress will be transferred to the connective tissue. For this reason, it is recommended that yin yoga be practiced earlier in the day, before physical activity that warms the muscles and increases their elasticity. However, practicing yin yoga after a strenuous day can be psychologically soothing.