In yin yoga, the focus is on stretching connective tissues and the like, but in restorative yoga the focus is on releasing tension between mind and body and bringing the nervous system to a state of healing. Both styles use accessories, but in yin yoga, when accessories are used, they are meant to deepen or facilitate stretching. Both Yin and Restorative Yoga practices stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and promote relaxation. The practices help to calm the mind, focusing attention on breathing.
Both are gentle and suitable for all ages and levels, from people starting to practice yoga to experienced practitioners. Both practices are a beautiful way to reconnect with your true self, your “atman” or the inner soul. While both Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga are slow-paced, stress-relieving practices, they are very different. Yin consists of stretching and applying gentle tension to certain tissues.
Restorative yoga is about supporting the body, allowing it to relax and heal. Born into a Jain family where yoga has been the way of life for five generations, my formal journey to yoga began at age eight in a Vedic school in India. While restorative yoga focuses on restoring bodies with certain ailments, Yin yoga works deeply on connective tissues to activate change. In my opinion, I don't see much of a difference between restorative yoga and yin yoga, other than posture choices.
Both restorative yoga and yin yoga are excellent; they are great options for all levels and allow the body to slow down and focus on the inside. Both are widely known as leaders in yoga therapy and in adapting yoga methods to meet the needs of the student: healing and restoring the body. Restorative yoga poses help you rest deeply and completely, says Judith Hanson Lasater, who has further developed restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is an ancient form of yoga, developed by my teacher BKS Iyengar, while yin yoga was developed in the late 70s.
Yin yoga uses more “active” poses, while restorative yoga uses poses that restore the body and move deep into the body's tissues to activate and modify it at deeper levels. Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga are often considered to be similar practices, but there are many differences between the two. Use this video and the list of ten yoga asana movements below to begin your restorative yoga journey. So, okay, if you really need to choose one, restorative yoga is more relaxing, but yin yoga is more elastic for the body and mind, so take it however you want.
In short, and it's always dangerous to make brief dogmatic definitions, but here it goes: restorative yoga takes a sick body and returns it (hopefully) to normal, while Yin Yoga takes a normal, healthy body and brings it back to an optimal level.