Yin Yoga is the Moon energy to the Sun energy of the more dynamic/yang styles, like Hatha, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa Flow. While these dynamic styles build strength, stamina and focus on linking breath with movement, Yin embraces stillness by holding each posture for between 2 and 5 minutes, takes place predominantly on the mat and works with strengthening the joints and connective tissues rather than muscles. Yin has been growing in popularity over the past decade and the wonderful part of this is that you can now wander into pretty much any studio and find a Yin class on the schedule. Originally developed by the Taoists, Yin was brought to the West by Paul Grilley and Bernie Clark who have been spreading the benefits of the style far and wide. They espouse that Yin makes the perfect balance to the Yang styles, by helping to open energy channels in the body, preparing one for comfort in meditation and can even help to improve ones' more dynamic practice as well.
Some benefits you might reap from practicing Yin Yoga are:
- Calming effects on the mind and body
- Increased mobility, particularly in hips and joints
- More flexibility of the joints
- Greater stamina in your Dynamic Practice
- Lowered stress levels
- Greater ease seated in mediation
- Easing of TMJ and migraines
- And many more!
If you are curious to try some Yin, please enjoy this Yin sequence (complete with pics and everything!) put together by Yours Truly and tested out at Power of Now Oasis (http://www.powerofnowoasis.com/), the gorgeous Beach-side studio I have recently begun teaching at (I am so Blessed!).
Yin Yoga Sequence
Before You Begin: Our energy is different depending on the time of day and so I would recommend if following this sequence in the morning to complete a few simple, slow sun salutations before beginning the sequence. If practicing in the evening, a few minutes sitting in a meditative pose or taking some gentle cat/cow stretches can be a nice way to begin.
**Experienced Yoga practitioners may be confused by the similarity of certain poses to those in the Yang styles and wonder why the names are different. This is because Yin is a more passive practice in which it is important to remember to let go of holding and tension, unlike the tension we hold and build sometimes in more dynamic styles - hence the uniquely Yin names.**
1. Dangling Pose
Take your feet hip distance apart on your mat, bend your knees slightly. Fold forward so your upper body hangs down over your legs, if you experience any low back pain bend your knees a bit more. Bring your hands to opposite elbows and "Dangle". Hold for approximately 2 minutes or 20 breaths. Take a Squat (or a few) as a counter pose to this Yin version of a Forward Fold.
2. Sphinx Pose
Lie on your belly on your mat, feet and legs together behind you, hands palm down under the shoulders, forehead resting on the mat also. Lift into a Cobra and then walk your hands out until the elbows, forearms and hands are resting on the floor. Keep your heart lifted and shoulders away from the ears. Hold for 5 mins (remember you can always come out early if you feel pain). Counter this pose with a long Child's pose.
3. Seal Pose
Repeat the steps to come into Sphinx and then walk your hands a little further away from you until your elbows and forearms lift off the mat. Arms should be straight, shoulders relaxed. This is a more intense backbend than Sphinx so hold this for only 1-2 mins and then counter with another Child's.
4. Caterpillar Pose
Sit on your bum with the feet and legs together. Inhale your arms up alongside your ears and as you exhale fold forward, draping your upper body over your legs. Let the upper back round, and close your eyes. Breath (hopefully you have been doing this step all the way along!). Hold for about 5 mins, readjusting if you need to at any time. Counter this stretch with a few quick Inverted Table Tops (pictured below).
5. Swan/Sleeping Swan Pose
From hands and knees, bring your right knee forward so it rests on the mat just behind right wrist and bring your right shin as close to parallel with the front of your mat as you can (again without causing pain). Slide the left foot away from you down the mat. Hold here in this subtle backbend for 1-2 mins and then start to walk your hands forward, coming onto your forearms and then maybe right down to your forehead for Sleeping Swan, hold this for 2-3 mins. Counter with a Downward-facing Dog and remember to complete these steps on the other side as well. ;)
6. Toe Squat Pose
Come to a kneeling position on your mat, sitting on your heels. Place the hands down in front of you on the mat and shift your weight forward so you can tuck your toes under, then come back to kneeling, while giving the feet and toes a great stretch. Hold for 2 mins and if you find this uncomfortable perhaps distract yourself with a some breathing exercises, like counting your breaths or counting to 4 with your inhale and back from 4 with your exhale. To counter this, untuck toes and lean back on tops of feet, lifting knees off the floor and supporting yourself on your hands.
7. Snail Pose
Place a bolster/pillow/cushion length-wise behind you and lie down on your back with your head pointing towards the bolster. Bring knees into your chest as you exhale and then extend feet back towards bolster, bringing them down to rest. You can support your low back with your hands or have them resting at your sides. Keep your head and neck still. Hold for about 3 minutes (up to 5 if you enjoy this pose). Counter this pose with a "Baby" version of Fish (pictured below).
8. Reclined Spinal Twist
Lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest again. Stretch your arms out at shoulder-height on either side of you and with your exhalation bring the knees over to your right side. Hold for 2 mins, and switch sides. Counter this twist by bringing the knees back into your chest and rocking gently side to side.
9. Savasana/Final Relaxation
Lie on your back on your mat. Widen your feet to about mat width apart and bring the hands palm up at your sides. Tuck your chin slightly and close your eyes. Focus on your breath, relax and enjoy! Stay here as long as you want!
I hope you enjoy the sequence and that if it happens to be your first ever Yin-experience that you feel inspired to seek out more Yin-liciousness at a studio near you! If you have any questions/comments or would like some guidance on specific poses or sequences feel free to leave a comment below!
Until next time..
Be Happy, Eat Healthy!
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