If you’re like most people, you’re finding it difficult to go about your day to day life these days. In a world already difficult to keep up with and fully understand, we’re now living day to day with widespread uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic upheavals, and social tensions. Racing thoughts, the inability to focus, and disrupted sleep are among the side effects.
We all know that it’s important to care for ourselves, and never more in times like these. Practicing yoga has many well-known physical benefits, including increased flexibility, cardio and circulatory health, and increased muscle strength. But perhaps even more important is the act of coming to a full stop, breathing, and quieting the noise of a loud and busy mind.
Yin yoga is especially well-suited to the latter. It is beneficial to beginners and experienced yogis alike, encouraging practitioners to focus on their mental state and breathe through their emotions towards a state of inner stillness.
What is Yin yoga?
The practice of Yin yoga comes from ancient Chinese philosophies and Taoist principles which hold that there are pathways of Qi (energy) that run through our bodies. By stretching and deepening into poses, we’re opening up blockages and releasing that energy to flow freely.
From a practical standpoint, Yin focuses on deep stretching of the connective tissue around the joints, fascia, bones, and ligaments. In Yin, poses are achieved slowly and held for several minutes. The goal is to help the yogi learn to sit with both mild physical discomfort and their inner thoughts without struggling. While in the pose, the body will soften, stretch, and release discomfort while the mind is stilled by the act of focusing so closely on the body.
Our Top 5 Yin Poses for Novices
The selected poses are meant to begin your journey with Yin yoga. These poses are simple to do and provide excellent relaxational benefits. While we recommend doing them in this order to keep a nice flow; each pose individually will aid in relaxation and help attain peace of mind.
In addition to a quiet space and maybe some peaceful music, you will need a yoga mat or soft piece of floor and a large pillow, rolled up blanket, or bolster. Begin by lying on your back and checking in with your body, starting at the toes and working your way up, part by part, to the top of your head. Pay attention to your breathing – evenly and through the nose is best unless mouth-breathing is more comfortable for you.
PLEASE! A little discomfort is normal, but don’t hurt yourself. If any of these poses cause you physical pain, stop immediately and make any adjustments you need to avoid strain or injury.
Focus Area(s): Lower back
This position begins on your stomach. Placing your elbows under your shoulders, let your weight rest on your forearms and place your feet hip distance apart. Gently relax your back to allow for mild compression in that area, stretching the vertebrae. You may adjust your arms to be palm-face-down if you are not feeling a stretch in your lower back. Hold for 4 to 5 minutes.
Focus Area(s): Back of legs & spine
If coming from Sphinx, slowly switch from your stomach to a simple seated position. Extend your legs in front of you and slowly bend downward, keeping the back straight until you reach your limit, then drop your head and bring your chest towards your knees. Use a pillow if needed to assist in propping your head above your knees and hold for 4 to 5 minutes, allowing the body to deepen into the pose as it softens. Your knees or legs may extend outward slightly if you find that more comfortable. Holding this pose, we encourage you to focus on the tension in the back of your legs, releasing stress from those areas.
Focus Area(s): Side and waist
Beginning on your back, bend your legs with your feet on the floor to shift your weight to the right. Straighten your legs and slowly move your feet towards the lower left corner of your mat or practice area. Cross your right foot over your left at the ankle. Attempt to keep your left hip down, leaning your upper body to the left as well, creating a “banana” shape. Place your hands over your head and rest your wrists on one another. Hold for 4 to 5 minutes then repeat on the other side.
Focus Area(s): Lower back, spine, and upper body
Lying on your back, bend your knees but leave your feet on the floor. Cross your right leg over your left and shift your hips slightly to the right. Roll onto your left side into a modified fetal position, and gently straighten your right arm out to the side. Alternately, you may keep your right hand on your right waist. Your upper body will be resting on the ground. Hold for 4 to 5 minutes and repeat on the other side.
Focus Area(s): Chest and arms
Lying on your back, rest your arms next to your body palms up, legs lying down and spread to the corners of the mat. You may also spread your arms and raise them above your head, in Pentacle pose. As you focus on your breathing, relax your muscles, and allow your mind to wander. Notice your thoughts, then let them pass you by. Hold for 10 minutes, or until you are ready to end your practice.
The Bottom Line
Be well, and use these poses when you are in search of a peaceful state of mind.
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