Yin Yoga Poses to Reset Your Body and Mind

A yin yoga practice is a welcome addition to any yoga, fitness, or healthy lifestyle routine.

This slow, gentle form of yoga is the perfect complement to a hectic, fast-paced life or intense workouts. Yin yoga uses gentle, relaxing postures to alleviate tension, enhance breath awareness, and develop mindfulness.

Continue reading to find out more about the benefits of yin yoga, who it’s best for, and poses to get started.

Yin is a relaxed, passive style of yoga that involves holding poses, or asanas in Sanskrit, for longer durations and increasing your inner awareness. This includes paying attention to your breath, thoughts, and body sensations.

According to Elise Greenspoon, a yoga teacher, healing therapist, and wellness specialist, “Yin yoga is a gentle form of yoga that’s cooling, grounding, and nurturing. Holding poses for longer periods encourages stillness so you can go inward.”

The Chinese medicine principle of yin and yang refers to the harmonious nature of the opposite and complementary elements that make up the universe. Yin is cool, slow, and passive while yang is warm, fast, and active (1).

Greenspoon explains, “Yin yoga is very meditative in nature and taught in a calm and gentle way. Contrary to active and dynamic asana practices, yin is static, relaxing, and practiced closer to the ground. Yin yoga is contrary to powerful, stimulating yoga styles such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa, which are considered to be yang practices.”

Yin yoga is ideal for anyone who wants to engage in a quiet, reflective yoga practice that involves holding poses for longer periods.

This style is suitable for people who are new to yoga or want to balance intense workouts. It’s also great for people who have health concerns or injuries that require low intensity activities.

Greenspoon recommends yin yoga to anyone who wants to focus on calming their mind and relaxing their body.

She explains, “Yin yoga is the perfect antidote to the busyness of our modern society. The speed, pressure, and expectations many people constantly face keep the body in a state of stress. This activates the sympathetic nervous system, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. Being still while focusing on calming the breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is known as the rest-and-digest response.”

Yin yoga offers a wealth of benefits that may help you to alleviate pain and tension, relieve stress and anxiety, and improve your overall well-being.

The practice of holding a pose for an extended period teaches you to sit with and observe uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, or physical sensations as they arise.

According to Greenspoon, “Yin yoga benefits people who have experienced trauma or burnout by providing a safe space to reconnect to the sensations in the body without being overwhelmed by them. The practice provides the opportunity to experience the range of emotions that we so easily push away or hide from ourselves. This may be due to lack of time, feeling unsupported, or simply not wanting to deal with them.”

Greenspoon recommends seeking out a teacher or community where it’s welcome to talk about the emotions and deeper feelings that aren’t always recognized or appropriate to discuss in daily life.

What the science says

Research indicates that yin yoga may help develop mindfulness while reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

A 2018 study including over 100 adults investigated the effects of a 5-week yin yoga program on its own and combined with mindfulness and psychotherapy.

Compared with the control group who didn’t do any type of yoga, the two intervention groups experienced significantly reduced physiological and psychological risks related to noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease (2Trusted Source).

Both intervention groups reduced their levels of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The group that combined yin yoga with mindfulness and psychotherapy significantly reduced their stress levels.

In a small 2021 study, student pharmacists and faculty who practiced yin yoga and guided meditation for 6 weeks increased their mindfulness and reduced stress and anxiety levels.

The findings were reported at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months, which indicates the long-term benefits of yin yoga and guided meditation (3Trusted Source).

Larger, in-depth studies are needed to expand upon these findings.

Yin yoga may also help to:

  • balance emotions
  • improve flexibility
  • stretch connective tissue
  • boost circulation
  • improve sleep
  • enhance mental focus
  • promote relaxation
  • develop breath awareness
  • heal injuries

Before you start a yin yoga practice, there are a few things to keep in mind.

To ensure safety and comfort, Greenspoon advises, “It’s essential to ensure the spine is always in alignment and that the joints are not overextended. For example, the shoulders, knees, and ankles should always move in their natural range of motion.”

Greenspoon encourages her students to focus on maintaining a smooth, even breathing pattern.

She explains, “Finding it difficult to breathe deeply is a clear indication that you’ve gone too far in a posture. You need to pull yourself back or use more props to find that sweet spot of tolerable discomfort.”

Yin yoga uses a variety of props that provide support, comfort, and modification options. This allows you to go deeper into the poses and fully relax.

According to Greenspoon, “Props support the process of unwinding without overstretching, especially the tendons and ligaments. Experiencing pain, especially in your joints, is a sign that you need to use props or modifications. Additionally, in most postures, it’s beneficial to rest the head on a cushion to encourage relaxation.”

Most studios will provide blocks, bolsters, and straps. Eye pillows and blankets are sometimes offered. If you’re practicing at home, you can improvise with towels, belts, and pillows.

Here are 6 yin yoga poses that encourage relaxation, revitalize energy levels, and alleviate tension.

Wide-legged Child’s Pose (Balasana)

This forward bend allows you to draw your attention inward while releasing tension. Wide-legged Child’s Pose stretches your spine, hips, and inner thighs.

Greenspoon recommends this pose for its ability to reenergize while helping you feel grounded and connected to the earth.

Tips:

  • You may place a cushion or bolster under your forehead, chest, or hips.
  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Touch your big toes together and bring your knees out to the sides.
  3. Lower your hips toward your feet and lengthen your torso along the floor.
  4. Reach your arms in front.
  5. Breathe deeply, allowing yourself to sink deeper into the pose with each exhale.
  6. Remain in this pose for up to 5 minutes.

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Pigeon Pose improves hip flexibility and mobility. It also alleviates low back tension, benefits digestion, and promotes relaxation.

Tips:

  • You may place a cushion under your torso or front hip.
  • Avoid collapsing onto your front hip. To maintain alignment, draw your back hip slightly forward and your front hip slightly back.
  • To deepen the stretch, position your front foot closer to the front of your mat.
  • To reduce the intensity, position your front foot closer to your hips.
  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Bring your left knee toward your left wrist and lower your shin onto your mat.
  3. Keep your left hip lifted and come onto the toes of your right foot, inching forward or backward until your hips are in a comfortable position.
  4. Lower your left hip.
  5. Place your right leg along the floor with your toes facing straight back.
  6. Place your hands under your shoulders with your elbows slightly bent.
  7. Elongate your spine and take 5 deep breaths.
  8. Slowly walk your hands forward as you lower your torso and forehead to the floor.
  9. Remain in this pose for up to 5 minutes.
  10. Repeat on the opposite side.

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

This pose allows you to relieve tension in your hamstrings while supporting your spine.

For this pose, you’ll need a strap or towel.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended.
  2. Bend your left leg to draw your knee into your chest.
  3. Press out through the heel of your right foot and draw your toes toward your shin.
  4. Place the strap around the ball of your left foot, holding onto both ends.
  5. Extend your left leg straight up, with the sole of your foot facing the ceiling.
  6. Maintain a slight bend in your knee.
  7. Remain in this pose for up to 3 minutes.
  8. Repeat on the opposite side.

Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

This gentle backbend improves flexibility in your back, core, and hip flexors. Fish Pose stimulates the throat chakra, which relates to communication. It’s also known as a heart-opening asana, which relates to love, emotions, and compassion.

Greenspoon explains, “Fish Pose can help instill a sense of joy. It helps alleviate feelings related to heartbreak, such as grief, sadness, or depression.”

  1. Sit with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Use cushions and blocks to create an inclined support starting at the base of your spine.
  3. Gently lean back to rest on the support.
  4. Allow your head to tilt back or use props to support your neck in a neutral position.
  5. Remain in this position for up to 5 minutes.

Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

This pose improves flexibility in your chest, spine, and glutes.

Tips:

  • You may place a cushion or block between your knees or under your thighs.
  1. Lie on your back with bent knees, placing your feet flat on the floor near your hips.
  2. Reach your arms straight out to the sides with your palms facing down.
  3. On an exhale, lower your knees to the left side.
  4. Turn your neck to gaze in any direction.
  5. Remain in this pose for up to 3 minutes.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose restores energy levels, boosts circulation, and promotes relaxation.

Tips:

  • You may place a cushion or blanket under your hips.
  1. Sit with your right side near a wall.
  2. Swing your legs up against the wall as you turn to lie on your back.
  3. Position your hips close to or up against the wall.
  4. Place your arms overhead or alongside your body, or place your hands on your chest, belly, or thighs.
  5. Remain in this pose for up to 15 minutes.

Yin yoga is ideal for people of most fitness levels who want to develop a relaxed, meditative practice or balance an intense exercise routine.

The practice allows you to slow down, relax, and turn inward, which helps alleviate stress and restore your energy levels. Yin yoga also improves flexibility, boosts circulation, and reduces tension.

Reach out to a healthcare professional if you’re new to yoga, take medications, or have any health conditions. Look for yin yoga classes at your local studio or online if you want to learn from a qualified teacher and connect to a supportive community.

In time and with practice, you’ll reap the many benefits of slowing down and turning within.

JPeei Clinic

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