The Power of Yin Yoga
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga is a slower expression of yoga. There are only a few asanas you can practice because the key is to not use any asana that requires you to use the muscles. So rest assured — you won’t be sitting in chair pose with sweat running off your body! You’re actually either laying down on your back, stomach, or in a comfortable seated position.
Classes usually begin by slowing the breath and heart rate down. To create a peaceful ambiance, the lights are usually dimmed, setting the space to go deep within. While laying or seating down, you really begin to focus on letting go of your day and creating space for your practice. After a good 5-10 minutes of deeply relaxing, you then begin to move into your first pose. Each pose is very relaxing, offering a space for meditation. There might be points of discomfort, however, it is important to breathe through it and allow it to change. Each asana you are in can last 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how comfortable you are. Sometimes you can go a little longer and deeper in each pose, but only when you are comfortable with the practice.
We hold our repressed emotions in our fascia, which is the thin layer holding our muscles together in our bodies. Yin yoga works to open our fascia and release any held emotions in our bodies, giving us the freedom to breathe and move more easily. Benefits also include a deep sense of relaxation as our bodies shift into a meditative state while we hold the relaxed. asanas for longer periods of time.
Which poses should you practice?
After receiving my teacher training, I immediately dove into my yin teacher certification. I compiled a mini list of my favorite asanas I invite into my classrooms which offer a chance for deep release:
Melting heart: begin in table top pose, and leading with the heart, walk your hands forward until your heart reaches the mat and the arms are stretched out long. If your shoulders or armpits are tight, you may need to use a bolster underneath your chest to rest comfortably.
Seal: Lay on your stomach with your palms beneath your shoulders, and press them into the mat while lifting your heart up. As you straighten your arms, press your hips into the mat as you open the heart. A slight engagement of the core will protect and elongate the lower back in this pose. Seal Pose massages the kidneys, which detoxify our bodies and open the second chakra.
Caterpillar: otherwise known as paschimottanasana in hatha yoga, Caterpillar pose places less of an emphasis on alignment, and more of an emphasis on relaxing the body. Use a bolster between the legs and torso in this seated forward fold to feel the benefits!
Supported Fish: lay on your back, with a block or a bolster behind your heart and head, and breath into this heart opener.
Reclined butterfly: place the soles of your feet together and knees outward in butterfly pose, and roll back on your spine.
Knees to chest: lay down on your back and pull your knees close to your chest. You may roll your knees in small circles, rock side to side, or simply breath into your lower back.
Swan/sleeping swan: otherwise known as kapotasana or pigeon pose in hatha yoga, the final asana has your shin of one leg parallel to the front of the mat, the other leg straight behind and engaged, and your torso laying forward over the front leg.
Happy baby: while laying on your back, pull the knees up and at 90 degree angles, while holding on to the outsides of each foot with your hands, and rock side to side.
Frog: start in tabletop, open your knees wide with flexed feet. While opening your hips and placing the inner thighs on the ground, your knees will be in 90 degree angles, toes pointed outwards, and you may rest your torso on the ground or on a bolster.
What Do These Poses Do?
These poses target areas where we store trauma naturally, such as a low lumbar, shoulders, and iliopsoas muscle. With these poses and holding them for longer durations, we allow our body to breathe and relax into these traumatized areas. Sometimes while in these deep poses, you might notice emotions arising. It may be sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, bliss, or anything you are storing in your body that needs to be felt. In order to heal we need to feel our feelings. I have personally felt both of these emotions at separate times. While these emotions arise, it’s important to remember that they are only temporary. There is also never usually any direct source or specific thought you feel — it's just a rush of emotions and it's important to stay with your breath so you can continue to move through these with ease. Allowing yourself space to feel what you feel, but also remembering you have the power to pull yourself back to that neutral state of peace.
To experience all that Yin Yoga has to offer, join us for our upcoming Transformational Retreat!