I was recently asked the following question from a teacher at a studio that offers Yin Yoga. Here is the question, followed by my reply:
I teach a Yin class at a studio and I often tell my students that the practice of Yin yoga is best practiced when the body is still cold/cool and I have used something like the elastic example that you describe to explain this idea. So, the question I have for you: at the studio where I teach a "Yin" class we also have a class titled "Power Vinyasa with a Yin finish". This is a nice sounding idea, but I feel that this title conflicts with what I tell my class (as the body is good and warm after 45 minutes of Power flow). I have mentioned this to the other teachers, but...they feel that the postures at the end of this class are "not really Yin" because they are only held for a few minutes (not five minutes), so...what else should calmly held yin-like postures be called? Is it "wrong" to hold postures after a vigorous yang practice? I'm just a bit of a semantic nut and since we all use language as a tool I want to be able to use my tools as efficiently as possible...other wise it's all just a bunch of gibberish. Any ideas on this?
There are many "yins" and remember yin is a relative term. Nothing is absolutely yin, but only in a relative context. The key is your intention. IF your intention is to work the physical tissues deeply, then it is indeed best to do the yin practice before the muscles are warmed up. (See the elastic band demo to understand why: http://www.yinyoga.com/ys2_1.1.1_cold-warm_muscles.php) However, IF your intention is to work the energy body, it does not matter so much if the muscles are warmed up because you are massaging the meridian lines however you stress them. Even here, though, I would prefer the muscles to be cold so you can also stress the joints more deeply. IF your intention is to do a mindfulness yin practice or one that calms the whole body, then doing this after an active practice can be very beneficial. After all, Shavasana is very yin and we do this at the end of every practice, because of its yin-like calming effects.
If you want to keep the term "Yin Yoga" solely for a practice where you are targeting the muscles, then you may want to title the class you teach "Power Vinyasa with a Mindfulness Finish" or some other term, but it is still yin compared to the vinyasa practice.
Hope this helps.