Yin Yoga: Why You Should Try It
Yin yoga is all about restoration and healing. You can expect to hold poses for much longer periods of time and focus on practicing from a passive position on your mat. Each pose is performed while seated or lying on the floor and the intention is to simply relax. You won't flow from one asana to the next, but instead, focus on resting your muscles.
A majority of yin yoga postures place an emphasis on working the lower half of the body, from the bottom of the spine to the pelvis, hips, and inner thighs. This includes the connective tissues around these parts of the body as well, allowing for a drastic reduction in tension and an increase in circulation and flexibility.
If you're looking to slow the pace of your practice with deep bends, hip and shoulder openers, and longer-held poses, give yin yoga a try.
Related: What Is Restorative Yoga?
What Makes Yin Yoga Different?
While the deliberate pace of yin yoga concentrates on releasing the tension in the muscles and connective tissues, this form of yoga is also good for focusing the flow of energy into your internal organs. As the slow tempo might suggest, yin yoga is ideal for anyone looking to incorporate more meditation into their practice. Yin yoga is about turning your attention inward, allowing for better emotional and mental health outcomes. This discipline, similar to many other types of yoga, can work wonders in lowering stress and anxiety and reducing the feelings of depression.
The Benefits Of Yin Yoga
While improved circulation and flexibility are some of the primary benefits of this type of yoga, there are many other ways to benefit from a routine yin yoga practice. You can expect to find calm and peace with a clear mind. The reduction of stress and anxiety promotes relaxation while the physical benefits include greater mobility in the joints and healthier organs.
Objectives For A Successful Practice
Any time we decide to pursue a certain type of yoga, we expect certain attributes that come with that particular style. Some disciplines might be easier than others, some might provide an intensity that is best suited for those with more advanced skills. In either instance, we strive to achieve specific objectives that might come as part of that particular style.
For some, the objective might come in successfully linking one pose to another or focusing more on your breathing. The challenge might lie in clearing your mind or strengthening certain areas of the body. In the case of yin yoga, the greatest objective is to do everything slowly and gently, while remaining as still as possible.
Concentrate On Your Pace
Every pose you're going to perform during a yin practice is to be initiated slowly. This will set the pace for your practice. Start each posture in this fashion yet always strive to increase the intensity in every stretch, twist, and bend.
As you initiate the posture, your mental strength plays a role in getting you into position. Stay aware of your movements and enter the pose at a deliberate pace. When you are finally in position, you must hold still. Try not to shift or move in place. This is tougher to do than you might expect.
Holding The Pose
This is how yin yoga sets itself apart from other styles. You are going to hold the pose for an extended period of time. You might start out by holding the pose for a minute, or as long as up to five minutes at any given time. These are passive poses that have you lying or sitting on the floor, holding them for these extended lengths of time work towards relaxing the body.
Keep It Slow
When it comes time to release the posture, do so in the same manner in which you entered – slowly, gently, and fluidly. When we say slowly, we mean spending up to half a minute on releasing the pose. This is where your body needs to be able to rest and taking this additional time to exit the pose works towards providing the relaxation you're seeking with yin yoga.
Rest In Place
Once you have released the pose, take another half minute to simply rest on your stomach or your back to allow the flow of energy to reach the organs and move through your body. Breathing in through the nose evenly and calmly also helps to keep the body in a resting state before you initiate the next pose.
Common Poses For Yin Yoga
The following are just some of the postures you would expect to encounter in any yin yoga class. All of these (and many others of a similar nature) are designed to relax and restore:
Start from a sitting position and place your soles against one another. From there, bring them away from your body as you fold forward and round the back. Lie your hands on your feet or place them on the floor ahead of your body. Lower your head to the heels of the feet. Staying in this position, simply let gravity do the rest.
Start from a seated position with your legs spread as far as they will go. Fold over, keeping your weight on both hands and the arms locked in place. You can also do this by taking a block and resting both elbows on your prop. Keep the head heavy with the spine rounded forward towards the floor.
If you're reading this, you're no stranger to Child's Pose. But if for some strange reason you have yet to ever execute this pose, it's very simple to perform. Sit on your heels and fold forward, tucking your chest to the thighs and placing your forehead to the floor (or the forearms if you can't reach the floor). If need be, spread the knees out so you can hold the pose comfortably.
Toe Squat Pose
Start with your feet placed side by side, seated back on the heels. Bring your toes tucked in and focus on staying on the balls of the feet and not your toes. With your hand, slip the small toes underneath. Hold for one minute or break it up into two 30 second long poses.
Pick the variation that works best and hold for a minimum of five minutes. The biggest challenge, of course, is not to fall asleep but to stay awake, present, and relaxed for the full duration.
Looking to learn more restorative yoga poses? Be sure to visit the Yoga Society Yoga Poses Blog.