A slow, gentle, meditative practice that complements our hectic and fast-paced lives, yin yoga is perfect for balancing out yang practices like dynamic and fast-paced yoga (Ashtanga, Vinyasa, etc.), running, cardio workouts and many others. Yin yoga poses help you slow down, release stress and tension, and develop mindfulness, among many other benefits.
Its most significant differentiator from other practices is that the chosen postures are held for 3-5 minutes or longer, targeting the deep connective tissue and it includes passive stretching. Doing this allows you to pay attention to your breath, thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the body. It encourages one to come out of their comfort zones into a space of stillness. Calm, slow and passive, yin yoga is grounding and nurturing.
When practicing Yin yoga, you can use a variety of props for additional support and comfort, and to go deeper into the poses and fully relax. Props will allow you to be comfortable for an extended period of time without overstretching, especially the tendons and ligaments.
Top 5 Yin Yoga Poses
Yin yoga poses are earth-based, that is, seated or supine postures. A yin yoga sequence is usually created to engage, strengthen and relax targeted regions. These postures encourage deep relaxation, release stress, and rejuvenate the mind and body.
Also known as Bound Angle pose or Baddha Konasana, here the legs come into a diamond shape. The posture works on the legs, hips and groin region. It targets the connective tissue in that entire region. Once you are relaxed in the pose, you can deepen it by moving the hands forward, stretching the spine, and gradually lowering the head towards the ground. In the yin yoga variation, the muscles are relaxed, and you can allow the spine to round so that the head comes closer to the knees.
How to do butterfly pose
- From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together, a comfortable distance away from your pelvis.
- Bend forward from the hips allowing your spine to round a little. Place your hands in front of you.
- Relax your legs and spine and allow gravity to let you go deeper into the pose. You can also elevate the hips with a bolster, place the head on your hands or a cushion and also place a cushion below the chest for more comfort.
- Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Benefits of the Butterfly pose
- This posture stretches and strengthens the hips and legs. It targets the connective tissue around these regions, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
- It calms the mind, reducing stress and anxiety.
- It improves flexibility in the lower back and hip region.
- It releases fascia and improves the flow of energy in the targeted area.
Wide-Legged Child’s Pose
Known as Balasana, this relaxing forward bend allows you to release stress and tension. It draws your attention inward while stretching your spine, hips and inner thighs. It’s a great posture to revitalize and relax the mind and body and it can make you feel grounded. You can use cushions or bolsters under the forehead, chest or hips to deepen the posture.
How to do wide-legged child’s pose
- Come onto your hands and knees. Now touch the big toes together and take the knees apart.
- Lower your hips toward your feet and lengthen your torso along the floor. Extend the arms in front.
- Breathe deeply and sink deeper into the pose with every exhalation. Stay here for a few minutes.
Benefits of the Wide-legged child’s pose
- This posture is deeply relaxing. It releases accumulated stress in the back, especially the lower back.
- It improves blood circulation and blood flow to the brain, which helps in letting go of tension.
- It works as a beautiful counter-pose for many postures, especially intense backbends.
Reclined Spinal Twist
This posture targets the upper parts of the body. It has a profoundly relaxing effect on the back. It also works as a great posture to counter intense twisting postures. You can explore different variations with the arms as well as how close your knees are together. Doing this will potentially target slightly different parts of the spine.
How to do reclined spinal twist
- Lie down on your back with your arms perpendicular to the body.
- Bring your right knee over the left. You can support the knees with a bolster or blocks.
- Place the left hand over the right knee and turn your head to look towards the right palm.
- Hold the posture for 3-5 minutes.
- Then repeat this on the other side.
Benefits of a Reclined spinal twist
- Improves flexibility in the chest, arms, back and glutes.
- The posture targets the connective tissue in the back and chest.
- Has an intensely relaxing effect on the spine and is lovely to practice after extreme postures.
Known as Viparita Karani, this posture is a very effective restorative asana. All you have to do is sit close to a wall and swing your legs up against the wall. Let your arms rest by the side or overhead. Practice slow, deep breathing as you completely let go and relax here.
How to do legs-up-on-the-wall pose
- Sit with your right side near a wall. Place a cushion or blanket below the hips for more support.
- Take the legs up against the wall as you lie down on your back. Bring the hips close to or up against the wall.
- Place the hands above the head or beside the body. You can also place the hands on your chest, belly or thighs.
- Stay here for around 10-minutes.
Benefits of Legs-up-on-the-wall pose
- Relaxes the legs by boosting blood circulation back up the body.
- Restores energy and is very rejuvenating.
- Calms the mind and releases tension.
- Targets the legs, hips and lower back region while also relaxing the chest.
- Induces deep and relaxed breathing.
- Perfect for practicing after a long day spent on your legs or sitting.
Supported Fish Pose
This is a gentle, passive backbend and is also practiced as a counter pose to the shoulder stand. Since the posture is held for longer in yin yoga, supporting the back with cushions or blocks is helpful.
How to do Supported Fish pose
- Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Take the support of cushions and blocks to create an incline starting at the base of your spine.
- Now slowly lean back to rest on the support.
- Allow your head to tilt back. You can also support your neck and keep it in a neutral position.
- Stay here for about 5-minutes.
Benefits of the Fish pose
- This posture dramatically improves flexibility in the back and hips.
- It strengthens the core and abdominal muscles.
- It also stimulates the throat chakra and is beneficial for those with thyroid.
- Since it is a heat-opening posture, it induces positive emotions of love, compassion and joy.
- It targets areas of the back, chest and hips.
Initially, practicing yin yoga can be a challenge for many. It may bring about unpleasant feelings, emotions and sensations as the practices are very reflective. However, as you navigate this, strength and awareness improve significantly. The effect on the tissue, fascia, tendons and ligaments is intense and profound. Our recommendation is not to fear or overthink your experience. Give it a try, let go and allow your experience to unfold naturally!
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