Yoga practices such as Hatha and Vinyasa focus on active movement of the body to stretch and strengthen muscles. These practices provide great benefit as they increase our vitality and health. Yin yoga, by comparison, applies healthy stress to joints and connective tissue. Connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, and fascia) respond to long, steady, and moderate loads of stress by lengthening and growing stronger. Yin postures focus on the joint and connective tissue in the low back, pelvis, and hips. The biggest difference in Yin from other yoga practices is the need to relax muscles around the area being stressed. Engaging muscles around a joint often draws the joint together which creates stress on the muscles but not the connective tissue. In Yin, you cannot "push harder." To do so is counterproductive. For more information on this concept, read this excellent article by Paul Grilley.
Yin Yoga is an all-level practice. It is accessible as an entry-level practice and is also an excellent adjunct to an active Yoga practice. Although not a complicated physical practice, it can be quite challenging due to the long duration of the poses. For those with an established asana practice, yin postures provide space in which you can uncover subtle patterns of holding or clenching and then decide if they are helpful or necessary. Insights into these patterns can lead to greater freedom and flexibility in your physical practice, and in your life.
In Yin Yoga we learn to dwell inside our bodies and minds with equanimity, as we practice a relaxed awareness of physical sensations and mental states in various poses and contemplations. If you are looking for a practice that adds flexibility to the body and flexibility to the way you approach challenges in your life, come join the Yin side!