Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they…
Yin Yoga is a more passive, meditative style of yoga during which the poses are held for anywhere from three to five minutes.
This particular yoga practice targets your bones, fascia, joints and ligaments and the focus often lies on the lower body, i.e. the pelvis, hips, lower back, thighs and feet. In comparison to a regular warm-up, which aims to stretch out the muscles of the body, Yin Yoga should be practiced in a cold state, without warming up the body beforehand. This ensures that the connective tissue of the joints is stretched out in addition to the muscles. And that’s exactly what you want when practicing Yin Yoga. The goal is to strengthen the joints by actively putting a positive stress on them and at the same time allowing them to compress.
Yin Yoga also focuses on keeping the fascia healthy, resilient and malleable, especially as we age. The fascia are one of the most important parts of the human body – they are literally what holds us together. These bands, which are made up of collagen and wrapped around all of the internal organs, help reduce the friction inside of the body so that it may run like a well-oiled machine. Fascia play an important part in many bodily functions – mobility, stability and movement, even pain and healing. They are essentially what allows us to complete many of our daily movements such as brushing our teeth, sitting, standing, walking etc.
How to Practice Yin Yoga?
Practicing Yin Yoga can help the body heal injuries as well as protect it from incurring new ones. This practice helps our bodies stay flexible and prevents muscles from tightening up and becoming stiff. There’s a myriad of reasons why our bodies tighten up and Yin Yoga can help us reduce that tension. Although Yin Yoga is a passive practice, it can still be challenging, both physically and mentally.
In Yin Yoga a lot of props such as blocks, straps and bolsters are used in order to find the right position and be able to relax into your deep stretches.
The following three principles are essential to the practice of Yin Yoga:
- Finding your own limits (the edge).
- Committing to stillness.
- Committing to stay in the pose for a longer period of time.
Always keep in mind though that duration is more important than intensity!
Why Practice Yin Yoga?
Engaging in Yin Yoga practice is recommended for many reasons. It helps us release stress and tension from our muscles and joints while at the same time improving our body’s flexibility, stability and mobility. Yin Yoga also teaches us how to slow down. It teaches us patience and how to read the signals our body is sending us. It allows us to develop self-compassion and find self-control. Yin Yoga teaches us how to sit through physical and emotional discomfort.
Learning to overcome this discomfort, mostly through our breathing, is part of the practice and something that can even prove to be beneficial for our lives off the mat. It can help us improve our relationships and friendships as well as our productivity at work.
Yin Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the rest and digest functions of the body. We live in a fast-paced world which often demands performing at a high level. In our everyday lives the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, is often over stimulated. Yin Yoga provides us with a great opportunity to slow down and let our bodies and hormonal systems know that everything is alright.
Yin Yoga poses should be held for at least three minutes. Throughout your practice, be sure to take long, slow, deep and rhythmical breaths. As your body loosens, allow yourself to fall deeper into the pose. It’s okay to feel some discomfort as you stretch out your muscles and fascia. However, you’ll want to pull back a bit if you begin to feel any sharp pain anywhere in your body.
>>Recommended Yoga Mat for Yin Yoga: Liforme Original Yoga Mat
In a kneiling position with your feet placed flat on the mat, lower yourself onto your heels and bring your knees to the edges of your mat. Walk your fingertips to the top of your mat (short edge) and lower your chest and forehead down to the mat.
This pose will stretch your spine and ankles. It will also stimulate your internal organs such as the bladder, spleen, stomach and kidneys.
Sit on your mat with your legs in front of you. Bring your heels together and let your knees fall widely off to the side. Place a block underneath each of your knees. Fold forward, letting your spine round off and your chest lower to the ground.
This pose will stretch your hips, spine and thighs. It will also stimulate your bladder, kidneys, ovaries and gallbladder. In addition, it will positively affect the adrenal and prostate glands and can help relieve menstrual pains.
>>Recommended blocks for your support: Gaiam Natural Cork Yoga Block
Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Fold forward from your hips, letting your spine round off. You can reach for your toes or lay your hands beside your hips.
This pose will stretch your spine and hamstrings. It will also stimulate your kidneys and bladder as well as your adrenal glands.
Sleeping Swan (½ pigeon pose):
Come into a table top position with your wrists directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Place your right knee behind your right wrist. Bring your right shin forward and place it parallel to the front of your mat (short edge) with your right foot flexed to protect the knee joint. This can create a very intense sensation in your hip and knee. You may prefer to bend your right knee a bit more and point the toes of your right foot towards your left hip. Straighten your left leg behind you as far as possible. You can place a block underneath your right hip to support yourself in this pose. You can either keep your chest upright or slowly lower it to the ground. Don’t forget to switch sides.
This pose will stretch your hips and groin. It will also stimulate your kidneys, spleen, liver and gallbladder.
Lie flat on your mat (on your back) with your arms stretched out above your head and press your tailbone into the mat. Without shifting your tailbone, move your legs to one side of the mat and cross your ankles to keep them in place. Move your arms to the same side of the mat as your legs and cross your wrists to hold them in place. Remember to switch sides.
This pose will stretch and flex your spine and IT band as well as both sides of your body. It will also stimulate the gallbladder, heart and lungs.
Stand on your mat with your feet hip width apart. Fold forward from your hips, keeping a small bend in your knees. Wrap each of your hands around the opposite elbow, framing your head. Shift your weight slightly forward onto the balls of your feet. Start with holding this pose for one minute.
This pose will help stretch your hamstrings as well as stretch and release any tension in your spine, neck and lower back.
Either sit on your heels or on a block or move your legs apart and lower yourself down to the mat in between your heels. You can place a block or a cushion behind you. Start leaning backwards until your shoulders reach the block, cushion or floor. You can either stretch your arms out above your head or place them at your sides. If you can’t quite reach the ground yet, you can also use your arms as support. This is a deep backbend, so take caution and always respect your limits.
This pose will stretch your thighs, ankles and hips. It will also stimulate your kidneys, spleen, stomach and bladder.
>>Recommended bolster for your support: Everyday Yoga High Impact
Who Should Practice Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is beneficial to everyone! However, it is especially good for:
- People who have to sit for longer periods of time, for example, someone who works at a desk all day or has any other type of sedentary job. Sitting causes a lot of deterioration in our muscles and fascia. Yin Yoga Poses can help restore this deterioration in the body.
- Athletes such as runners, bodybuilders, rowers, pitchers etc. However, essentially any athlete who carries out repetitive motions with one particular part of their body is prone to building up tightness in the muscles, thereby decreasing its flexibility and range of motion. Yin Yoga can help prevent injuries.
- As we age, our bodies naturally start to lose their mobility and stability. Yin Yoga can help us regain these abilities and age gracefully.
- Yin Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system and allows us to release the stress that’s lodged inside of our bodies. It further helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and decreases rumination. Yin Yoga may be practiced at any time of the day but is most beneficial after a day at work or before going to bed at night?