Breathing is an important aspect of yoga. Over the years, breathing techniques have been incorporated into…
Yin Yoga has come to be known as a slow-paced style of yoga that requires you to hold yoga poses for three or more minutes at a time. Learning how to sequence a Yin Yoga class can be tricky though, as it can be challenging enough to ensure the safety of the students while at the same time keeping their interest for a whole 60 to 90 minute class.
All yoga practitioners can actually sequence their own Yin Yoga class. As long as you’re familiar with enough poses and the intention of a gentle Yin Yoga class as opposed to a strenuous Yang Yoga class, you can design your own yoga practice.
Download my personal Yin yoga sequence recommendation here: download
And use this spotify playlist for your 60 minutes practice: Playlist
Your heart rate is not meant to increase during a Yin Yoga class, but far from being an “easy” restorative yoga class, Yin Yoga style classes can still be challenging and move you out of your comfort zone.
Yin Yoga in History
The history of Yin Yoga is very closely tied with the history of modern postural yoga itself.
Most yoga classes and teacher trainings today are based on the teachings written in a medieval scripture known as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which were probably compiled sometime between 500 BCE and 400 CE.
The yoga that’s practiced in today’s modern yoga studios only vaguely resembles the yoga practice described in these texts. The asanas described in these readings were either meant to be a preparation for meditation or they were practiced in conjunction with various Pranayama or breath control techniques. Most of the poses were not even described the way they are described today because they were supposed to be taught in person, from guru to disciple.
In addition, most of the poses were meant to be held for long periods of time. One text even described Parsovottasanasa as a pose that could be practiced nonstop for three days for one’s Sadhana, or spiritual discipline, while fasting on nothing but ginger kichari in a small traditional hut made of cow dung and mud.
BKS Iyengar even wrote that some asanas should be held “for as long as you can.”
Merging of Tao and Yoga
The concept of yin and yang in yoga came to differentiate how most modern yoga classes approach yoga, compared with this slower style.
While Yang Yoga classes are designed to heat up your body, raise your heart rate and get you to sweat, Yin Yoga is meant to be the exact opposite – slower paced with longer holds. Some studios even turn up the AC in Yin Yoga classes. The two styles are therefore meant to balance each other out.
Yin Yoga, as it’s known today, began as Taoist Yoga and was taught by martial artist Paulie Zink. One of his students, Paul Grilley, initially took Zink’s classes because of his interest in Daoism. Through his dedicated study of this Chinese philosophy, he began to see parallels between the concept of meridians in the body and the asanas from Vedic yogic scriptures. He then blended his knowledge about Daoism with what he learned in Zink’s Taoist Yoga classes and the knowledge that he gained in his studies about the chakra system and meditation in Japan. He created what would be known as the beginnings of Yin Yoga while still calling it Taoist Yoga.
It wasn’t until Sarah Powers, one of Grilley’s students, pointed out that he was doing away with the more yang aspects of Zink’s original concept and that they should rather call this yoga style Yin Yoga.
Yin Yoga continues to follow the foundations laid down by Paul Grilley, who, however, maintains that he’s not the founder of Yin Yoga. The asanas are meant to encourage the flow of energy through specific meridians and have specific physiological benefits that are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and the energetic anatomy of the human body.
Asana Names in Yin Yoga
Although the yoga postures in Yin Yoga are the same as those practiced in Hatha Yoga, their renaming is deliberate. This idea is to keep in line with the intention behind Yin Yoga – to not introduce heat into the body or target the muscles.
Yin Yoga addresses the body’s energetic anatomy. The prana that flows through the meridians and organs as well as the long stretches are not meant to target muscular strength and flexibility but instead get deep into the soft connective tissues, which can only be lengthened when the muscles above them are relaxed.
Use of Props
Yin Yoga is also known for its generous use of yoga props to help prop up your body to comfortably stay in an asana for extended periods of time.
Sequencing a Yin Yoga Class
Yin Yoga classes follow a pattern that allows the class to flow smoothly and safely. It begins with determining which body part or organ you want to focus on and then designing the class based on how to address that particular issue.
Even though the class is slow and not practiced in a heated room, it’s still important to gently warm up the body to prepare it for the long holds and stretches in each asana. The difference to Yang Yoga is that you don’t want to approach the start of the class with a mindset of bringing in heat, but rather want to keep the muscles cool and open, thereby allowing the stretch to go into the deep and soft connective tissues.
A Yin Yoga class, just like a Hatha or Vinyasa Yoga class, may also last for 60 to 90 minutes at a yoga studio, but because the asanas are held for such long periods of time, only a few carefully selected poses can be practiced.
When designing a yin yoga sequence, it’s important to place at least one minute of rest in-between asanas, including the asymmetrical ones. Paul Grilley included 18 Yin Yoga poses in his book as well as 5 “yang” poses which could be sequenced between the yin poses.
Most Yin Yoga classes will also include 5 minutes of meditation at the beginning of the class and a minimum of 5 minutes of Savasana at the end of the class.
Sample Yin Yoga Class
An ailment that plagues many people in the modern world is stress. Here is a sample Yin Yoga class sequence that might help with stress.
- 5 minutes of seated meditation
- 3 minutes Caterpillar Pose
- 1 minute rest in Child’s Pose
- 3 minutes Frog Pose
- 1 minute Child’s Pose
- 3 minutes Supported Bridge
- 1 minute Modified Constructive Rest Pose
- 3 minutes Supported Corpse Pose
- 1 minute Modified Constructive Rest Pose
- 3 minutes Supta Baddha Konasana
- 5 minutes Savasana
To learn how to sequence a Yin Yoga class effectively, it’s important to know in what way the intention of Yin Yoga is different from a regular modern postural yoga class. The aim of the practice is not to be dynamic or create heat (yang), but to slow down and get into the deeper soft tissues underneath the relaxed muscles, as well as facilitate the flow of energy through the meridians and organs.
While the asanas in a Yin Yoga class may not be as diverse as in other classes, they can also be challenging due to the stamina that is required in order to hold them for periods of time that are longer than what we’re accustomed to. Each one of these classes is, however, just as rewarding as a dynamic yoga class.