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Drive past Memorial Park on any given day and you’ll find it bustling with runners, bikers, boot-campers, swimmers, and tennis players. Houstonians excel at finding a variety of ways to be active, but what can be done when you hobble out of bed the next day feeling stiff and sore?

The answer could very well be Yin Yoga. This slow, explorative practice is the ultimate tune-up for athletes, and provides a change of pace from the “yang,” or faster flow yoga that is more commonly offered in studios.  While no one can deny that exercise makes the body stronger, repeated or intense engagement of muscle groups can also lead to tightness, a decrease in mobility, bad posture, or worse—injury.

So what makes Yin Yoga the ideal maintenance plan for athletes? In Yin, each pose is held for 3-5 minutes, which allows enough time for the level of release to go beyond the muscle and deep into the joints and fascia. That is something that even the beloved foam roller can’t do. As students move through each pose and muscle group, the practice can often highlight areas of imbalance and tension in the body that would not otherwise receive attention.

Lee Moffett, a runner, cyclist and instructor at Yoga One Heights, spends a lot of time focusing on tight hips in her classes, which she says is the most common ailment among athletes. Many of the poses are held in a seated position, allowing for complete surrender of hip and leg tightness. The results include “greater mobility, joint stability and longer and stronger connective tissues, even flexibility,” Moffett says.  The meditative aspect of Yin Yoga can also help balance out the chaos of a busy routine, create mindfulness and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. With time, a regular Yin Yoga practice will create a more finely tuned running stride, golf swing, deadlift, lay-up, or other activity of choice, with fewer injuries and a clearer mind.

For beginners, Lee recommends easing in slowly with two to four classes per month, and adjusting as needed.  “There's a myth that [Yin] is ‘easy yoga’”, she says. “Plan to experience some discomfort in the poses!  Playing at your edge where you start to ‘feel something’ means you're doing it right”.

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Image: Shutterstock

Get started with one of these local studios:

Yoga One Studios
Multiple locations (Midtown, Uptown, Pearland, Bellaire, Heights)
Look for: Restore or Vin Yin classes

BIG Power Yoga
Two locations (Montrose & Memorial)
Look for: Devotional Flow classes

Yoga Collective
Garden Oaks
Look for: Yin Yoga + Meditation classes 

Namaste Yoga
Energy Corridor
Look for: Yin/Restorative Yoga 

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