Slow and steady wins the race, as the saying goes. But it doesn’t have to be a race that you’re slowing down for. It might be Yin yoga, a practice that moves from one 3 minute or longer pose to another. It is in the words of Yoga Journal “a practice in stillness, patience, and non-reactivity.” If it’s time to downshift to a more meditative experience, or if you’ve been looking for a more sedate set of deep stretches to open up your muscles and connective tissue, this may be your answer. Depending on your personality type, Yin yoga may be a perfect way to kick start your morning, help take the edge off in the office or home environment or put a cool down coda at the end of the day.
Related: “New Twists On Yoga”
Yin yoga is based on traditional yoga principles but with the brake on, so to speak. Dating from the 1970s, each pose is held (30 seconds to 5 minutes) to encourage greater mental inwardness and work to open up tendons, ligaments, and joints.
Unlike vinyasa yoga, Yin (the symbol characterizing the female, rest, softness, and receptiveness) draws from the principles of Taoist Philosophy and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which aims at activating the meridians or energy channels of the body for health and healing.
For a healthy range of motion, layers of connective tissue must allow muscles to glide over each other. But injury, poor posture, and aging are factors that can restrict movement deep in the muscles blocking the flow of nutrients and energy through the body. Upshot? Pain and decreased mobility. Holding poses to gently elongate the muscles and, plus putting mild stress on joints and connective tissue, restores range of motion. Additionally, Yin yoga uses diaphragmatic breathing, (belly breathing) to move us out of the hurry and worry sympathetic nervous system and into the more Zen zone of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Pretty impressive rewards for what looks like doing very little.
No wonder a yin practice can leave you feeling like you’ve had a deep tissue massage. You won’t sweat but you will activate your sweet spot for compassion and self-love. Yin might even give that glass of wine a run for the money as a stress reducer.
Yoga takes you into the present moment. And Yin may do it more powerfully than other forms. Roll out your mat and give it a try.
Tips for Success:
- Aim to breathe deep and long through the nose throughout each pose.
- If you have no way to time each pose, count breaths instead. 10 or 15 slow breaths for each pose.
- Put away your watch and phone. You may only get through 4 or 5 poses in 30 or 40 minutes of practice. That’s fine. Don’t rush.
- Try a few props. If a strap, a block, or a pillow helps you ease into a position or help you hold it, use it.
Here are five easy poses (asanas) to start your yin yoga practice.
Twisted Root Pose
In this asymmetrical pose, your spine is gently rotated to release tension in your neck, spine, and lower back. It also activates your glutes and obliques.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Cross right leg over left leg, sliding the right foot under left ankle.
- Gently drop knees to the left and let legs rest on the floor.
- Stretch arms out wide and turn head to the right.
- Hold for 3–5 minutes, then release and slowly switch sides.
Opens up your hips and eases lower back pain; soothes tension and anxiety
- Start in a seated position. Bend knees and let them drop open to your sides, bringing feet together in front of you.
- Fold your torso forward. Relax neck, shoulders, and spine.
- Hold onto your feet. You can also place pillows or bolsters under your bottom or legs for support.
- Hold for 3–5 minutes. Or count 10-15 slow breaths
PUPPY DOG POSE
Opens up the upper and middle back and destresses the shoulders.
- Start in tabletop all fours position, with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips on a comfortable surface.
- Walk hands forward a few steps and lower chest to the floor. Forehead can rest on the floor during this pose if comfortable
- Press your palms into the floor, letting elbows and forearms lift off the floor. Draw your shoulder blades together and extend your hips toward the sky.
- Hold for 3–5 minutes, then slowly lift your chest and walk hands back to the starting position
Child’s Pose is the ultimate restorative asana. Simplicity itself, it helps stretch the spine, ease tension and mediate pain.
- Start in all fours position, with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Lower your hips and butt onto your heels, and then spread knees wide.
- Fold chest forward over your thighs, bringing your forehead to the floor.
- You can stretch your arms straight out in front of you or leave them resting at your sides.
- Hold for 3–5 minutes.
FISH POSE (SUPPORTED).
This posture-improving pose stretches out your chest, shoulders, and abs. It can stimulate the heart chakra and ease worries.
- Lie on the floor with a bolster, or pillow(s), placed underneath you to support your shoulders and head.
- Rest your pelvis completely on the floor and straighten legs. Alternatively, you can bring your feet together and let your knees fall open in butterfly pose.
- Let your arms relax at your sides, palms facing up.
- Hold for 3–5 minutes. Or for 10 long slow breaths with eyes closed.
Conclude your practice with a few minutes of savasana (relaxation). Lay comfortably on mat or blanket with eyes closed, arms and legs extended, punctuated by rhythmic breathing. Or sit upright for a few minutes of mindfulness meditation.
Photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash
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