Yin Yoga Session for Relaxation and Fluidity
Yin Yoga is a balancing practice that perfectly complements the Yang Yoga practice familiar to more of us. It also brings balance to other more active pursuits such as running, biking, hiking, and various sports. It not only allows deep relaxation and a time for going inward, it can make you a better athlete by rejuvenating the body after intense muscular exertion. Yin yoga helps the body age gracefully and with less pain. It increases flexibility and calms the mind.
Yin yoga, as the name suggests, is a passive rather than active practice. It focuses on stretching the deep connective tissue such as ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage and fascia. It lubricates the joints and increases our natural range of motion. Energetically, yin yoga enhances the flow of Prana or Chi. Like acupuncture, it removes blockages and opens up the meridians (the channels in Chinese medicine that conduct energy throughout the body).
In yin yoga, we hold poses for an extended period of time – usually about 2 to 5 minutes but sometimes up to 20 minutes. This time is the magic ingredient of the yin practice. It allows the deep connective tissue release that is so necessary for a healthy body and mind but often ignored. We are always using the muscles and rarely do we just give them time to relax. In yin yoga, we do just that. We assume a shape without being too strict about alignment. We come into the shape, which looks slightly different for everyone based on bone structure and flexibility, and relax all the muscles around that shape.
It can be very difficult to hold the poses for an extended period. Stronger poses like Dragon are demanding both physically and mentally. Part of the practice is to come to a comfortable edge where we feel challenged but don’t overdo it. Discomfort is OK but pain is not. If you feel any sharp, electrical pain, immediately back off or come out of the pose completely. A dull ache, however, is completely normal and healthy in some poses. For example, when we hold Sphinx or Seal for an extended period, we feel that dull ache in our lower back/sacral area. This is normal after a period of lower back compression. Coming out of the poses we sometimes feel hesitant or weak in the area that has been stressed. This is normal and will subside soon.
Yin yoga also lends itself beautifully to meditative practices. Each pose can become a mini-meditation and we can try either one or several meditative techniques throughout the practice. The physical difficulty I mentioned in staying in a strong pose – or sometimes simply boredom or irritation at feeling stuck – can be a great opportunity to non-judgmentally observe our aversions and overcome them. We can hope to bring this attitude to our daily life when we encounter situations we dislike. Instead of becoming alarmed, we can become comfortable with our discomfort or lack of control over outer circumstances. We can use the yin poses to observe the breath and bodily sensations, or to internally repeat a mantra. There is no limit to the creative possibilities. And if you prefer to just relax into the physical postures without trying to meditate, you’re still hugely benefiting your body and your mind.
Here is an approximately hour-long sequence you can try. I use a timer in each pose and suggest 5 minutes per pose except where specifically noted otherwise. Obviously feel free to change it up to accommodate your own needs! If you have any questions, please let me know. Love & Health to you all!
find a comfortable seated position and with all the muscles relaxed around an upright spine, close the eyes and focus on the breath
Wide-legged forward fold
Child’s (1 minute)
Baby Dragon/Low Lunge & Hamstring stretch both sides
Reclining Hero/Saddle Pose
or go deeper (after a minute or two in the above version)
Child’s (1 minute)
Full Forward Bend