Difference Between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga Explained

By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP

What’s the Difference Between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga?

Difference Between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga

Difference Between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga

Restorative and yin yoga are two wonderful slow yoga styles that have become increasingly popular over time. From the outside, they both look so similar, and they even share many of the same poses. Even many yoga teachers teach these styles in a similar way, and you might be hard-pressed at times to differentiate them.

So, what is the difference between yin yoga and restorative yoga? Yin yoga and restorative yoga are, in fact, two distinctly different yoga styles with very different origins, histories, and purposes. In this article, we will uncover these differences in greater detail and clarify this question once and for all!

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is a profoundly relaxing practice with one main aim: restoring your body, mind, and soul. This yoga style focuses on engaging in active relaxation by consciously positioning the body to settle into rest along with guided meditation and breath awareness to deepen this experience.

This yoga style traditionally incorporated many different props to support the body so that you can come into various yoga poses and shapes without having to make much active effort. Poses are typically held between 5 to 20 minutes long so that the body can deeply relax over time in each position.

The main goal of restorative yoga is to activate the body’s natural relaxation response and to fully restore the nervous system, switching you out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode. Restorative yoga is perfect for all people, but it is exceptionally well suited for recovery from injury, illness, or stress. Truly we all need some restorative yoga in our lives on a regular basis to help recover from the ongoing stressors of daily life.

Restorative yoga is based on the teachings of B. K. S. Iyengar, who was a prominent Indian yoga teacher who taught worldwide until he passed away in 2014. Iyengar yoga focuses heavily on alignment, props, and anatomical detail. But restorative yoga was primarily popularized by Judith Laster in the 1970s as a way to focus exclusively on relaxation and complete rest for the body, mind, and soul.

What is Yin Yoga?

Like restorative yoga, yin yoga is a passive yoga practice that is slow with very few postures that are held for more extended periods of time. But instead of focusing on relaxation, yin yoga focuses on improving mobility so that you can sit more comfortably and for a longer time in meditation. Yin yoga poses target the connective tissue around your joints to improve range of motion and flexibility.

Yin yoga poses are almost all seated poses, and each pose is held for between 1 to 20 minutes, although typically, the length is between 3 to 7 minutes for beginners. Holding poses for these extended periods helps to target deeper into the fascia or the matrix of connective tissue spread throughout the entire body.

As you may have guessed from the term “yin,” yin yoga actually has its roots in Chinese Taoist philosophy. This practice is based on the traditional yogic teachings of long holds in seated postures in India, but it ultimately has its origin in Chinese traditions. Yin yoga was first codified by Paulie Zink, a Taoist yoga practitioner who studied yin practices in China.

Paulie Zink then taught Sarah Powers, who gave the practice the name “yin.” In Chinese philosophy, yin has the qualities of darkness, coldness, passivity, internalization, solidity, and slowness. The other side is yang, which represents the qualities of lightness, heat, activity, rapidity, and energy. We need both yin and yang in our lives, but our modern society often over-emphasizes the yang, forgetting the yin practice entirely.

Yin yoga practices also incorporate more Chinese medicine theory, including techniques that stimulate the meridians or energy channels in the body. In general, there are three primary principles of yin yoga practice:

1. Come to an appropriate edge.

2. Make a commitment to stay still.

3. Hold the pose for a designated period of time.

Restorative Yoga versus Yin Yoga

As you can see, restorative yoga and yin yoga are two distinct practices, although they may look very similar to each other. So, in summary, what exactly is the difference between yin yoga and restorative yoga? See below!

What is Restorative Yoga?:

• Seeks opening and not sensation

• Focused on activating the body’s relaxation response

• Emphasizes complete rest

• Calms the nervous system

• Assists you in letting go of tension and resistance

• Total surrender in each pose without challenging yourself

• Uses extensive props to support the body in each pose

What is Yin Yoga?:

• Builds awareness of sensations in the body

• Focused on waking you up

• Emphasizes deepening into self-inquiry and meditation

• Builds a relationship between body and mind

• Increases stress on the tissues to build resiliency in the joints

• Brings some mild challenge by coming to your edge in each position

• Uses minimal props as needed only

How Can You Choose Between Practicing Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga?

Restorative yoga and yin yoga are excellent for anyone looking to step into the slower side of yoga and connect to more gentle practices. Restorative yoga is perfect for people looking to heal from illness or injury or who need deep rest and emotional support from their busy lifestyle. In contrast, yin yoga is ideal for people who want a gentle practice but still want to maintain some intensity and to explore the principles of mindfulness and self-inquiry.

What Will You Learn in a Yin YTT

What is the Difference Between Teaching Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga?

Many yoga teachers teach restorative yoga and yin yoga very similarly, but this might be because they are not completely clear on the differences between these two yoga styles. Teaching a restorative yoga or yin yoga class involves very different intentions, focuses, and even different poses.

When teaching a restorative yoga class, the main focus is on relaxation, and a teacher may support students with additional props and guided relaxation. When teaching a yin yoga class, the students are more encouraged to tune into the sensations in their own bodies to find their edge. The teacher may also focus on guiding mindfulness and self-inquiry practices.

Additionally, when teaching a restorative yoga class, the teacher may bring in some yoga philosophy but will likely primarily focus on relaxing each student and connecting them to their nervous system. In contrast, yin yoga classes often have more guidance from the teacher and explanations of Chinese meridian theory, yin and yang theory, and the anatomical components of the fascia system while also incorporating self-inquiry.

Every yoga teacher offers restorative yoga and yin yoga classes slightly differently, and it is vital to discover your own teaching style in these techniques. But it is essential to remember the ultimate intention of these two yoga styles and to stay in tune with the needs of your students at the same time.

What Does a Restorative Yoga Class Look Like?

The best way to experience a restorative yoga class is by attending classes at your local studio or online. But if you are interested in practicing on your own or if you want to learn more about how to teach restorative yoga, then use the restorative yoga sequence below as a guide! This restorative yoga sequence focuses on centering the mind into the body and grounding from within.

What Will You Learn in a Restorative YTT?

Restorative Yoga Sequence

• Supported Child’s Pose – use a bolster with optional blocks

• Supported Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose – use a bolster, 1-2 blocks, and a blanket • Face Down Bound Angle Pose – use a bolster

• Supported Reclining Easy Twist Pose – use a bolster under the mid-back

• Legs Up the Wall Pose – use a sandbag, bolster, or blanket

What Does a Yin Yoga Class Look Like?

Yin yoga classes are similarly slow and calming like restorative yoga classes, but they can also be more stimulating to the body and mind. Try taking a lesson from a certified yin yoga teacher to really experience the difference. Or you can use the yin yoga sequence below to practice on your own or to teach yin yoga to your students. This beginner’s yin yoga sequence is perfect for students of all levels!

Yin Yoga Sequence

• Centering

• Butterfly Pose

• Windshield Wipers

• Straddle Pose

o Fold over the right leg

o Fold over the left leg

o Fold down the middle

• Windshield Wipers

• Child’s Pose

• Half Shoelace Pose

• Windshield Wipers

• Happy Baby Pose

• Reclining Twist Pose

• Savasana

Access Our Restorative Yoga Teacher Training and Yin Yoga Teacher Training Online

Restorative yoga and yin yoga are both profoundly nourishing and slow yoga styles that help us recover from the fast-paced nature of our modern world. But although these yoga styles may look similar from the outside, they are actually quite different. Understanding the distinction between yin yoga and restorative yoga is essential to honor the roots of these practices and bring more intention into our experience. If you are interested in diving deeper into the practice of yin yoga and restorative yoga, then check out our online yoga teacher training programs. We offer in-depth yin yoga teacher training and restorative yoga teacher training that will give you all the tools you need to teach both of these wonderfully healing yoga styles. Are you ready to step into your role as a yin yoga or restorative yoga teacher? Then check out our restorative yoga teacher training online or our yin yoga teacher training online to begin this exciting journey today!

Benefits of becoming a yin yoga teacher

Learn how to use restorative yoga for injuries

yoga for menstrual cramps

yoga for pms

Difference Between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga, 

Difference Between Yin  Yoga and Restorative Yoga