People often ask…”What is the difference between Yin and Restorative Yoga.” Well, here goes…..

Both Yin and Restorative forms of yoga are very slow-paced. They enable you to move slowly and focus on just a few poses for the entire 60 to 90 minute class. Both forms of practice calm the mind, the body, and the nervous system, helping you to turn inward, and focus on the breath. They’re both gentle and suitable for all levels – from total newbies, to experienced practitioners, to recovering athletes and seniors. They’re both a lovely way to reconnect with your spirit within – when we slow down physically, we have more space to devote internally. 

Some differences:

Yin yoga is a practice that uses props, and focuses on stretching your connective tissues (particularly the fascia) in order to strengthen and lengthen them. Poses are held for 3-5 minutes each and work with the energy meridians in your body as well as cultivating active stretch in your connective tissues to increase strength and flexibility, improve joint mobility, improve posture, and release trauma in the body. Yin yoga works deep into the connective tissues to activate change at that deepest level.

Restorative yoga is a meditative practice that uses props like blocks, straps, sandbags, bolsters, and blankets to encourage a passive release of mind and body tension. This style works to release deep tension passively, without active stretch. 

The Difference Between Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga

These practices are similar in the sense that they are slow, meditative practices focused on long holds. So how do they differ?

  • Stretch: In yin yoga, there is an active stretch but in restorative yoga, the goal is to be 100% supported and passive with no active stretch.
  • Focus: In yin yoga, the focus is on stretching your connective tissues but in restorative yoga, the focus is on the passive release of mind-body tension.
  • Props: Both styles may use props but in yin yoga, if props are used, they are used to either deepen or soften the stretch. In restorative yoga, props are used to completely support your body. Generally, restorative yoga will use far more props than yin, which may include straps, blankets, blocks, sandbags and especially bolsters. 
  • Poses: Yin yoga poses are held for about 3-5 minutes, while restorative yoga poses are held for anywhere from 5-10 minutes.

The Essence of Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is best for:

  • Increasing strength and flexibility
  • Keeping your joints healthy and mobile
  • Improving your posture
  • Releasing trauma and emotion stored in the connective tissues of the body
  • Bringing your negative thought patterns into your awareness so that you can work with them and release them

Some questions to ask before deciding:

  • Do you lead a very active lifestyle?
  • Are you holding onto narratives from the past that are no longer serving you?
  • Do you sit at a desk most of the day?
  • Are you 60+?

The Essence of Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga is best for:

  • Meditation
  • Stress release
  • Deep relaxation
  • Breath-work
  • Creating a sense of safety in the mind and body
  • Reaching a state of mindful rest (think yoga nidra— a sort of receptive trance practice)
  • Cultivating contentment

Some questions to ask before deciding:

  • Do you deal with an abnormal amount of stress and anxiety on a daily basis?
  • It is difficult for you to unwind after a normal day of work?
  • Do you struggle to find time for yourself?

If you’ve never tried either style, I recommend trying both out! Both styles are beautiful practices to incorporate into your weekly or monthly yoga routine, regardless of which one you may lean more towards! My favorite aspect of both of these styles of yoga is they teach you to feel. Rather than rushing through asanas from breath to breath, Restorative and Yin yoga both cultivate a powerful inner awareness.