Yin tissues and Yang Tissues
Our joints can be seen simply as spaces between the bones where movement is possible. Stabilizing the joint are ligaments, muscles, and tendons, which bind the bones together. The tendons and muscles also provide a force to move the bones relative to each other. Generally one of the muscles' jobs is to protect the joint; if there is too much strain on the joint, the muscle will tear first, then the ligament, and then finally the joint itself may become damaged. In this regard, yang yoga is designed to not stress the joint. This is why there is so much care taken to align the body and engage the muscles correctly before coming into asanas in the yang practice. However, Yin Yoga is specifically designed to exercise the ligaments and to create space and strength in the joints. The topic of tissues is discussed more fully in the Chapter Three: Our Bodies and Yoga's Benefits.
An example can help explain the different roles of the muscles and ligaments. Take your right index finger in your left hand. Tighten the muscles of the right finger and try to pull it away from the knuckle. Notice that there is no movement there. The muscles' job is to bind the bones together and limit the range of motion allowed in the joint. Now relax the finger completely. Shake it out for a moment. Now, keeping the muscles passive again, try to pull the finger away from the knuckle. Notice the slight dimpling there? Perhaps you can feel only the slight pulling away. When the muscles are relaxed the stress is moved to the ligaments binding the joint. The joint can open a little now and the ligaments can receive some of the stress. The first exercise was yang-like, whereas the second exercise was yin-like.