Calming Your Nervous System, Reducing Cortisol with Yin Yoga


Yin Yoga might not be as widely talked about as other styles of Yoga, but the benefits of Yin Yoga are profound. This slower, more passive style of Yoga is like a therapeutic escape from the hectic pace of everyday life. While other forms of Yoga can be dynamic and physically demanding, Yin Yoga slows things down. It’s all about deep, prolonged stretches that help you unwind and connect with your body on a deeper level.  

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is an amazing practice that was first created in the 1970s. Paulie Zink created it but it was Paul Grilley who spread the word and popularised Yin Yoga. Although Yin is a more modern Yoga practice it is inspired by ancient practices like Taoist Yoga and Hatha Yoga, blended with contemporary insights from anatomy studies and even Chinese medicine. 

It’s a big contrast to more energetic Yoga styles. Yin Yoga offers a slow-paced, meditative approach, holding poses for longer periods from 3 minutes to 10 minutes. This allows for deeper stretching and a unique kind of relaxation. Don’t worry, you won’t be in eagle pose or Virabhadrasana III! Think, long pigeon holds to release tight hips and Pashchimottanasana to stretch the hamstrings. These long holds are also the perfect time to turn inwards. In this go-go-go world we live in there are never moments of reflection or contemplation, Yin creates the perfect opportunity for this quiet reflective time.

Whether you’re a seasoned Yogi or a beginner, Yin Yoga offers a gentle, yet profound way to balance your physical and mental well-being.

The Benefits of Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga is particularly effective for increasing mobility, releasing tension and promoting overall well-being. What sets Yin Yoga apart is its deep focus on the body’s connective tissue, the fascia, ligaments, joints and bones. It targets the parts of the body that are often neglected in more active styles of exercise, offering a unique opportunity to increase circulation within the joints and improve overall flexibility. The gentle tension applied to the connective tissue also helps to strengthen these areas, supporting better posture and mobility. But these physical benefits just scrape the edges! 


Calms the Nervous System

One of the most significant benefits of Yin Yoga is how it calms and balances the nervous system. In today’s world of technology, the majority of us are overloading the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the flight or fight response. This state of being comes in handy when you are in true danger, it helps you run away from, or fight immediate danger. However, it’s often triggered by daily stressors, like a busy inbox or a never-ending to-do list.

When you spend too much time in fight or flight it can negatively impact overall health, it can lead to:

  • digestive problems
  • high blood pressure
  • mental health issues
  • adrenal issues
  • unexplained weight gain
  • low immunity and more. 

Yin Yoga can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as rest and digest. This response helps to reduce stress levels and slow the overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system.

The meditative breathing and mindfulness during Yin Yoga encourages a state of deep relaxation and peace. Are you ready to try out a Yin Yoga class yet? 

Lowering Cortisol Levels

Further on from the Nervous System, let’s go a little deeper. Cortisol is best known for its role in the body’s stress response. When you’re faced with a stressful situation, your adrenal glands release cortisol, which helps your body manage the stress by providing the energy needed to handle the situation.

For example, if there was some kind of wild animal chasing you, fight or flight would activate, cortisol would be released and you’d be able to react and run faster (hopefully away from the wild animal).

The systems you need for survival would be optimised and the other systems you don’t need in that urgent moment (like digestion and endocrine) would be unoptimised.

As you can now clearly see, in most of our lives… these levels don’t need to be elevated all the time. Especially when your immediate danger is an overflowing inbox.

You might also be thinking right about now, ahhh that’s why I always have tummy issues on busy stressful work days!

Chronic high cortisol can lead to a bunch of health issues like anxiety, trouble sleeping, issues with weight management and even heart disease. This is why it’s more important than ever to have a relaxation practice, like Yin.

By focusing on deep, prolonged stretches and calm breathing, Yin Yoga helps to slow down your cortisol production. This helps you feel more relaxed and also helps to bring your body’s chemistry back into balance.  

Weight Loss and Homeostasis

With our MerryBody Yoga and Pilates classes we don’t focus on weight loss and external transformation, however, we like to touch on it in case you’re looking to lose weight for health purposes or whatever other reason.

How you go about losing weight is important. In around 2011, we both went on a regime to lose weight. We lost over 15 kg each by eating a low calorie diet and working out 1-2 hours a day. The weight came off easily, but we also lost all our energy, we were sad, hungry and said no to many social occasions. We reached our ideal weight but at what cost?! Also, as soon as we stopped the diet, all the weight came back on, plus more.

It wasn’t until we discovered Yoga, Pilates and Yin Yoga that everything shifted for us. We worked out less, we added relaxation practices (Yin and meditation). We quit dieting altogether (we eat Pasta every week) and now we feel amazing. Although we no longer weigh ourselves, we feel that we are within a healthy weight range. We’ve stopped over-exercising and diet restrictions, and most importantly, we now feel happy and balanced.

Yin Yoga will help you reduce stress and balance your hormones, and this can indirectly influence weight management. Diet culture and the fitness industry will have us all believe that weight is only impacted by calories in vs out, but there is so much more. By lowering cortisol levels and calming the nervous system, Yin Yoga leads to so many health benefits, like maintaining your body’s natural state of homeostasis.

A Gateway to Meditation

We have always said that Yin Yoga is the gateway to meditation. If you struggle to sit still and meditate, Yin Yoga is for you! As you hold each pose, tune into the subtle feelings within your body and the flow of your thoughts.

Yin Yoga is the perfect moving meditation, it brings you to the present moment and slows down the mind. For us, it’s our go-to practice for times of high stress and anxiety. 

“Meditation is painful in the beginning but it bestows immortal Bliss and supreme joy in the end.”
Swami Sivananda

Alright, it’s time to stop just reading about the many benefits of Yin Yoga! It’s time to press play on an online Yin Yoga class right now! That’s right, we have a class waiting for you. You don’t need to research your local studios, you don’t need to attend a 7:30pm evening class, you can do it right now in the comfort of your home! 

To get one of our amazing MerryBody Yin Classes for free, head on over HERE. Enter your email and we will send it right to your inbox. It’s time for you to reap all the benefits of this beautiful practice! 

Always merrymaking,
Emma + Carla 

Ps. Here’s the link to get instant access to your Yin Class:

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