August 23, 2020
The Science Of Yin Yoga And Why It’s Called The Fountain Of Youth
Hopefully you’ve already read my posts on how Yin Yoga changed my life personally and Taoism, which is a crucial concept in understanding this practice.
In this post, let’s discuss the science behind Yin Yoga and why it’s often referred to as the “fountain of youth” practice. I’ll cover why we hold deep stretches in this practice, what’s going on when you do that, and what body parts are affected.
We have to start first with the concept of connective tissues. Connective tissues are the most extensive structure in your body. It provides form. It provides support. It also functions as a protective shield for all the organs.
It connects everything from your skin all the way down to the nucleus of all the 50 trillion cells in your body. You can look at the connective tissues like the Tao of the body that links everything together. Your connective tissues are like the web of the body, and although you may move one body part over here, the connective tissues are connecting it to other body parts over there.
When we do Yin Yoga, we are initiating a very positive impact into these connective tissues. Your connective tissues include your tendons, your ligaments, bones, cartilage, joints, and something called fascia.
Fascia is a Latin word for a band or bandage. You can think about your fascia like a type of Saran Wrap. If you’re familiar with Saran Wrap, it’s thin plastic you pull out of a box that you can wrap around a dish – it keeps everything sealed, fresh and packaged in. Your fascia is like that for your body. It wraps around your bones and your muscles and all your organs.
Fascia is made of collagen, and collagen provides the strength within the fascia. It’s also made of elastin. And elastin, just like it sounds, provides elasticity to the tissues.
When you hold a Yin Yoga pose– you’re on the floor. You’re doing a deep stretch. After you’ve held the pose for about 90 seconds, there is a phase change that happens where you go from your superficial tissues to your deeper tissues, you go from your yang tissues and into the yin tissues.
90 seconds into the pose, a minute and a half into the deep stretch, you start to get into that deeper fascia and you’re going to produce something called fibroblasts.
Fibroblasts are these molecules – you can think of them like a construction worker – and they are responding to the positive pressure that’s going into that deep fascia. They’re going to bounce back by making the fascia become stronger, more resilient, and more durable.
Why is that important?
Well, let’s look at the aging process. What typically happens as somebody gets older? And keep in mind, this can even start as early as your late 20s or early 30s. As we age, if we don’t have a practice like yin yoga, muscles and tissues become drier, stiffer, tighter, and things begin to atrophy because there is a lack of circulation within this deep fascial matrix.
The fibroblasts create something called hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is known as nature’s moisturizer and anything that has moisture and anything that is well hydrated is a sign that it’s alive. If you are walk over to the drugstore, you’ll easily find that tons of skincare products contain this potent ingredient.
As we get older, we get drier and stiffer. The connective tissues begin to break down because the cells in those tissues are no longer getting nutrients, and, even worse, they’re not able to eliminate their toxins so all the toxicity begins to get lodged up within the connective tissues.
It’s like living in a city that can no longer eliminate its waste. It can no longer eliminate its trash. So things begin to break down. Things get sticky. Things get nasty. Things get smelly. This begins to happen within that deep tissue.
However, when you’re in a Yin pose, 90 seconds into it, fibroblasts get activated, which creates hyaluronic acid which begins to moisturize, to hydrate, to invoke circulation. Old cells can get washed away and new cells can be fed and created. And now you have life within the connective tissues of the body, the structure of the body that’s most extensive and holds everything together.
This is why we often say that Yin Yoga is like the fountain of youth, that it can slow down, and, in many cases, potentially even reverse the aging process. You can think about hydrating your fascia so that your tissues become less like leather and more like sponge, a sponge that again has hydration and resiliency to it.
In addition, Yin Yoga is also one of the most powerful ways that we can dissolve stress and tension and allow the body to recover and rejuvenate so that we are balanced, whole and healthy.
In particular, if you also struggle with any sleep related issues, I highly recommend you check out my new Yin Yoga series targeted towards brining healing energy to your connective tissues while also balancing out the nervous system for better rest: