Connective tissues are the physiological focus of a Yin Yoga practice. These tissues literally “connect” and hold the body together, supporting muscles, joints, bones, even our organs, and contain lubricating synovial fluid. The most familiar connective tissues are fascia, tendons and ligaments.
Why does Yin Yoga focus on the connective tissues? Several reasons, including:
- Pretty much nothing else does
- Because they are more plastic, connective tissues don’t respond to the type of “yang” stress that muscle, which is more elastic, appreciates
- Exercising connective tissues maintains and enhances range of motion (ROM)
- They respond best to slow, steady loads—that’s how we exercise connective tissues
- Connective tissues are everywhere, but are densely located around the joints
The long-held postures of Yin Yoga apply a steady, sustained and healthy stress on connective tissues. This stimulates cells called fibroblasts to secrete collagen, which strengthens and fortifies the tissues.
Yin Yoga focuses primarily on the joints of the hips—which include the femurs (thigh bones) and pelvis—and the spine, especially the lower spine. These areas are often perceived as immalleable. What we know, though, is:
- There are dense connective tissues in these joints
- We can exercise connective tissues
- Exercising connective tissues affects ROM
- ROM keeps us mobile and active, which keeps us overall healthy
If you want to learn more about connective tissues, check out this from Dr. Helene Langevin who, among other bona fides, is the current director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.