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Last updated on December 6th, 2023.

In the modern practice of yoga, there is a wide variety of disciplines to choose from and each style has its own unique attributes and objectives. With so many different types of yoga out there, it is easy for one form to be confused for another. Case in point is the mistaken belief that yin and restorative yoga are one and the same.

Yin and restorative yoga may seem similar on the surface, but they differ in significant ways, including:

  1. Yin yoga stresses connective tissue while restorative restores the body
  2. Yin yoga challenges while restorative relaxes
  3. Yin yoga poses are held for a shorter duration than restorative

Contrary to what many people think, the modern version of yoga is not a singular activity, but rather, a collection of practices and disciplines that enhance the mental and physical well-being of practitioners in distinct ways. Among the most popular forms of yoga practiced today are yin and restorative.

In addition to the classes being different is of course the training used to teach teachers the two types.  Yin Yoga Teacher Training and Restorative Yoga Teacher Training are both Continued Education for Yoga Teachers helping them offer more options to their students. 

Read on to learn how they differ from each other and why they attract so many loyal followers.

Article Topics

Is Yin Yoga the Same as Restorative Yoga?

Although to the untrained eye, yin yoga and restorative yoga appear to be identical disciplines, they are in fact quite different from each other. They may utilize similar poses and their flows are similarly measured and deliberate, but yin and restorative yoga have distinct objectives, cater to different needs, and yield their own unique benefits.

While the aptly named restorative form of yoga seeks to heal practitioners and bathe them in comfort to promote relaxation and restoration of the body, yin yoga represents a more demanding form of yoga that challenges practitioners to explore the limits of their mental fortitude while targeting their bodies’ connective tissue.

What is the Main Difference Between Yin Restorative Yoga?

The main difference between yin yoga and restorative yoga is that the former targets a specific part of the body (all types of connective tissue – more on this later) through stretching and stressing while the latter utilizes yoga poses in conjunction with props to serve as a platform for achieving an enhanced state of relaxation.

3 Differences Between Yin and Restorative Yoga

For all their similarities, there are significant differences between yin and restorative yoga. They are not substitutes for one another but under the right circumstance they can complement each other. There are specific reasons why people opt to practice yin or restorative yoga and they can be best understood by recognizing these 3 major differences:

1. Their Fundamental Objectives are Different

One needs to look no further than the fundamental objectives of practicing yin and restorative yoga to understand the main difference between them.

Yin yoga targets parts of the body that many popular forms of yoga neglect – the body’s connective tissue (as opposed to the muscle groups as during a Hatha Yoga session). Connective tissue includes the fascia (the connective tissue that envelops muscles, organs, nerves, and blood vessels) along with ligaments, tendons, joints, and even various bones.

By utilizing certain poses that challenge connective tissue and holding them in a carefully measured manner, yin yoga stretches ligaments, tendons, and joints past the point of being comfortable but stopping short of actual pain. In so doing, the following key benefits can be achieved:

  • Reinvigorates connective tissue by stretching and lengthening them and reviving lost elasticity
  • Reinforces proper breathing techniques by incorporating them in uncomfortable circumstances
  • Extended holding times of poses (lasting several minutes at a time) improve flexibility

In contrast to the targeted activation of connective tissue through yin yoga, restorative yoga aims to achieve a restful condition through the sequencing of selected poses and utilization of various props. The main objective of restorative yoga is to calm the body and the mind through poses that create a blissful, yet meditative, state of what some refer to as “active relaxation”.

2. Restorative Yoga Relaxes While Yin Yoga Challenges

Another major difference between yin and restorative yoga is the mindset of those that practice these disciplines. One of the objectives of yin yoga is to achieve a purposeful state of discomfort by targeting and stressing connective tissue throughout the body. Yin stops short of pain but ventures past comfortable. In other words, yin seeks the Goldilocks state of not too little, not too much, but just right.

In contrast, restorative yoga is a healing and nurturing practice that requires a passive mindset and a willingness to completely surrender to each pose in order to achieve a blissful state of relaxation. As strange as it may seem, getting the most out of restorative yoga requires a strong mental commitment to giving oneself up and letting go of all tension and exertion.

3. They are Practiced Differently

From the practitioner’s perspective, there are noticeable differences in the way that yin and restorative yoga are practiced. These distinct approaches include:

  • Number of poses – a yin yoga session will typically comprise ten or so poses while a restorative sequence will have around 5 to 6 poses
  • Duration of poses –yin yoga holds poses for no more than 10 minutes because of the level of stress that is purposefully placed on connective tissue but restorative poses can be held for up to 20 minutes to maximize the level of relaxation that is achieved
  • Use of props – both yin and restorative yoga utilize props but while restorative uses them to achieve the most comfortable, stress-free body positions, yin relies on props to facilitate stretching

Not only do yin and restorative yoga have differing objectives but they also utilize different approaches in order to achieve them. However, if you are suffering anxiety, stress, or depression, there are 7 healthy ways to handle depression without mmedication besides yoga or meditation.

Great Online Resources for Learning How to Teach Yin Yoga

When it comes to learning how to teach yin yoga, one of the best ways to gain proficiency is through online yoga schools, such as these great resources:

Loka Yoga School

The online yin yoga teacher training offered by Loka Yoga School is an immersive self-paced 50-hour course that thoroughly prepares students to lead classes and groups of their own. Highlights of this program include:

  • Certification by Yoga Alliance
  • 64 yin poses
  • Class sequencing guidelines
  • Digital library of lectures and presentations
  • Downloadable study materials

Aside from learning the fundamentals of yin yoga, enrollees will also gain valuable insights to make them effective instructors.

My Vinyasa Yoga Practice

Another reputable online resource for yin yoga teacher training comes by way of the team at My Vinyasa Practice. This online course is fully self-paced and is designed for students to learn as their schedules permit but can be completed in as little as two weeks. Here’s what it offers:

  • This course counts toward 40 CEUs through Yoga Alliance
  • Deep understanding of the fundamentals of yin yoga including its history and philosophy
  • Pose sequencing and class scripting
  • Lifetime access to online materials

With future yin yoga instructors in mind, this course also covers injury prevention to provide a comprehensive teaching resource.

Final Thoughts

Yin and restorative yoga are among the most popular disciplines of yoga practiced today. One challenges practitioners by targeting their connective tissue while the other promotes a state of relaxation and healing. Both serve vital purposes and under the right circumstances, they can be practiced in harmony with each other as part of a regimen of training and recovery.

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