What Is Yin Yoga: Poses Sequencing And More
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Im an experienced yoga practitioner as well as a yoga teacher, and I suspect a bit of a showoff. I tend to go for vigorous yoga, like Ashtanga, or a fast yoga thats almost like a dance, Jivamukti. I like the energy, I like the workout and I like pushing my body. But, thats not necessarily what my body needs at any given time. Sometimes, its good to slow down. To not worry about winning . Sometimes, your body and your mind need stillness and peace and Yin Yoga is that practice.
Perhaps youre recovering from an injury or are stressed at work or in your life. You may not be able to sleep; there is a lot of stress in the world these days so insomnia wouldnt be a surprise. But, what if there was something you could do about your stress, your insomnia, or your injuries? Well, maybe there is. Theres a slower, more deliberate form of yoga called Yin. Its a yoga that stresses taking care of yourself, listening to your muscles and checking in with your breathing.
Now, Im not saying that other types of yoga wont give you a meditative feeling. I know that when I really know a sequence of poses in Ashtanga or Jivamukti, I may become mindful of my mind, body and breathing, and I may move from pose to pose effortlessly.
How Do You Sequence A Yin Yoga Class
Different Yin yoga classes may have different themes. You may see a hip-opening Yin class on your favorite yoga studios website. Or perhaps you may notice a Yin yoga class for better sleep. And, stress-busting Yin yoga classes are always popular. A hip opening Yin yoga class will have poses such as Butterfly, which will work extensively on your hips. You will also have a counterpose that will bring both legs together after stretching your hips in Butterfly. Childs pose is a good counterpose.
A restorative Yin yoga class will employ props and cushions and feature seated forward folds, light backbends and gentle twists. Youre trying to be kind to your body in yoga, and a class like this will give comfort while restoring movement.
A Yin yoga class to reduce stress will include forward folks to work your connective tissues. Yoga teachers believe that when you release stress in your muscles, youll release stress in your mind, and you feel so much better afterward. A stress-reducing Yin yoga class could have Butterfly pose, Childs pose, Melting Heart pose which is in between Childs pose and being on your hands and knees, Prone Shoulder Stretch, which is a twist, and then another pose you can do while lying down, Supine Bound Angle pose, which is like Butterfly except that youre lying on your back.
There are so many different sequences; Im sure you will be able to find a class or online instruction for one that will help you with whatever issue you may be going through.
Is Yin Yoga Good For Beginners
Yes! Yin yoga is great for beginners. Learning a slower type of yoga will allow you to become full acquainted with the poses. Youll learn about optional additions to the poses and youll be more familiar with adjustments to the pose. Yin yoga will allow you to pay more attention to your breaths, your mind and your movement.
Yin yoga will also allow you to find your edge. Youll be more be more in tune with your body and will be more able to notice when you need to back off of a pose or when you still have room for more. Through guidance from your teacher, youll recognize how a pose is supposed to feel, what sensations you should be experiencing. Theyll teach you the warning signs and what to look out for and what to do if a pose is too intense or painful.
Your teacher will also teach you alternate yoga poses. They give you instructions on how to adjust your pose so that it is easier on your body or harder, if you need something more difficult. The teacher will also show you that if you need to take a rest, childs pose is always available to you. That is true in any yoga class, whether it is Yin or not.
Just remember that in Hatha or a faster or more complicated yoga, like Jivamukti or Ashtanga, you wont be holding poses nearly as long as you do in Yin.
What should I expect in a Yin yoga class?
Here what to expect from a Yin yoga class:
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The Challenge Of Yin: Letting Go On Many Levels
Yin yoga can be very challenging. I never forget the first time my body got into a low dragon. Everything in my body, and inside my mind said ‘Stop! This is too much I’m feeling right now!’. I wanted to run away. I really had a hard time to become still in this pose, especially because of all kinds of frustrations and anger came up. After the class I learned that during intense hip openers you are stimulating the liver and gallbladder meridians who relate to the emotions anger, irritation and frustration.
The moment you think ‘I want to go out of this pose’ is an invitation to connect with yourself, become aware of the sensations you feel and listen if it is your mind that is telling you to stop or that is a physical call for attention. You can go as deep as you want in yin and you will notice that after one or two minutes some sensations will be gone. The practice of impermanence. Nothing is forever. A practice of letting go.
With the focus on your breath and with the help of my visualisation techniques you will notice that these challenging moments can be temporary. My role as a teacher is to guide you to get in and out of the postures in a safe way, to help you to get to know your body, and to help you to grow on different levels. With a lot of care, I help the students to go on a deeper level by softly including some acupressure. I often hear that this helps the students to feel better what is going on inside the body and the mind.
Tips For Practising Yin Yoga
- Find your appropriate edge: Move slowly and gently into the pose. Dont go straight to your maximum in the pose and never stretch so far as to cause pain.
- Stillness: consciously try to release into the pose, and to remain still, without fidgeting or shifting position too much.
- Hold the position: start with holding a pose for 1-3 minutes and progress to 5 minutes or more.
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Best Yin Yoga Poses To Release Joint Pain
With yin yoga, like all other types of yoga, it is important to listen to your body. A feeling of discomfort is inevitable while holding a pose for an extended period of time, but if you feel sharp pain or it becomes unbearable, it is important to listen to your body and carefully come out of the pose. Finding the right edge is vital in yin yoga: the amount of stress placed on the joints needs to be just enough to bring the benefits of increased fluidity of the joints and range of motion, while too much stress can damage the tissues.
Before beginning, cultivate a slow and steady breath in and out of your nose. Maintain this breath while practicing your yin yoga poses to help you stay focused and connected to your body and what you are feeling.
Restorative Yin Yoga Poses For Beginners
Ready to gain the benefits of yin yoga poses? Not only will you feel the effects physically you will also feel a calming of the mind.
Yin yoga is not only a practice for the body it is a practice for your mental and emotional state of being. Yin yoga can be used as a time of meditation and reflection.
Sonya Matejko Yin Yoga Instructor talks about the internal process of yin yoga and how it can effect your mental and emotional states.
While there are tons of physical benefits of yin yoga, Id like to focus on the mental and emotional part of yin yoga. In yin, you hold poses for longer than one might be used to. Unlike restorative yoga, yin tends to be a deeper stretch and isnt meant to be as relaxing as a restorative posture.
Yin yoga requires you to truly sit with the sensation you feel in the body, and I think its an incredible lesson for allowing yourself to do the same in other aspects of your life.
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Shifting Into The Parasympathetic Nervous System
Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is a powerful way to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system is beneficial to lower stress and tension, lower blood pressure, regulate sleep, assist digestion, boost immune function, balance hormones and more. More often than not, we spend our days locked in sympathetic nervous system overdrive, constantly being pulled from one overly important deadline to another. Belly breathing can be a quick and easy way to change this. In Yin Yoga the breath slows down significantly, drawing you deeper and deeper into this parasympathetic, or relaxation, mode. This is where the internal organs get a chance to catch up on their own to-do list such as digest, eliminate toxins, heal and repair.
It Targets The Connective Tissue
While yin yoga will stretch the muscles, its main goal is to work on the connective tissues, especially the fascia. Fascia is a fibrous tissue made up mostly of collagen, and its found in between muscles, bones, organs, and other connective tissues. It takes at least a couple minutes of continuous pressure for the fascia to respond to a stretch and start to change. Thats why the three tenants of yin yoga are so important adhering to them is what makes the practice work. If youre curious about yin yoga and want to look into making it a bigger part of your practice and perhaps a part of your teaching, check out our upcoming training HERE!
About the Author
Jen is a freelance writer, blogger, and yoga teacher who left her office job in Boston to travel the world with her husband. She previously worked in international development and academic research, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda. Some of her biggest passions include promoting responsible and mindful travel and helping her students develop their personal yoga practice.
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Some Dos And Donts Of Dealing With Soreness After Yoga
Yoga isnt a walk in the park, if it is, you may not be doing it correctly! You should feel some muscle soreness in your body, especially if youve not done yoga in a while or are new to yoga. Its not a bad thing, it means youre working muscles you havent used in a while. Heres what to do and not to do to get over soreness after yoga.
Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness is generally the soreness felt after yoga classes, its not any different from exercising at the gym, and occurs usually 12-48 hours after exercise. The extent of the soreness depends on the style youre practicing, how intensely and how frequently you practice as well as your own individual body type. Even if youre a regular practitioner, you might feel sore from time to time. Even though yoga is low-impact exercise, it can still put a big strain on your muscles.
Never fear! Being sore isnt a bad thing, quite the opposite, its actually a good thing. Once your muscles recover, they will experience growth and improved performance and ultimately make you stronger.
Here are a few dos and donts to cope with muscle pain and soreness after yoga:
Now for the DONTS
The Benefits Of Yin Yoga
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Elongates and stretches tight muscles
- Can promote feelings of deep calm
‘Yin is an incredible amalgamation of yoga postures and Chinese medical theory of energy channels ‘, says de Menthon. ‘The benefits stem from the stimulation of certain energetic pathways that run through our bodies. Due to the intensity of our modern lives, we tend to disrupt the fluidity of our energy which, in Chinese medicine, is explained as “stagnant” energy or “depleted” energy.
‘It can manifest in many ways from insomnia, lethargy, exhaustion, racing thoughts, body pain and so on. When we rebalance our energy by targeting these channels, we start to bring much more equilibrium into our daily lives.’
As well as the necessary breathwork that is involved in keeping intense postures for a considerable length of time, Yin greatly improves flexibility and joint mobility that will see you progress in all areas of your yoga practices.
Due to the pace, it teaches you a lot about the body; not just how small movements can change postures, but about how everything’s put together.
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How Does Yin Yoga Work On A Physical Level
On the surface, the yin practice might appear rather uneventful. But if you are able to tune in, you will encounter some pretty fascinating events occurring in the layers beneath the skin. Fascia is key to understanding the benefits of Yin Yoga. The muscles of the human body are encased in fascia, which is a continuous web of tissue that weaves in and around not only our muscles but also our organs, nerves and lymph. To keep fascia healthy and springy, we need to keep it hydrated and we need to subject it to gentle pressure.
Fascia is the framework of our form. Its a structure that organises us into a shape that functions and moves through life. Ageing and lifestyle choices can cause the fascia to become dehydrated, stiff and weak. Yin Yoga has the ability to change this connective tissue, promote relaxation and restore fascial fluidity. Your fascia requires at least 120 seconds of continued pressure to exhibit change. Opening your fascia through Yin Yoga boosts your range of motion and flexibility, while also helping to strengthen your muscles and maintain their length. This helps improve blood circulation to muscle and connective tissues and enhance lymph movement.
Lifestyle Tips To Improve Energy After Yoga
One of the joys of yoga is that its a whole life practice. Improving in the physical practice can require looking at how we live every day.
1. Get More Sleep.
A big lifestyle challenge I see in my students is lack of sleep. The Sleep Foundation recommends 79 hours for adults. This means getting to bed earlier and getting better quality sleep. One healthy habit is to limit screen time in the two hours before bed to usher in earlier, restful sleep.
2. Think about the time of day youre practicing.
Do you usually feel tired then? That can be a sign that your body is naturally winding down and yoga is accelerating that process. Take a class at a different time to see if that helps.
3. Eat lightly and more than two hours before practice.
In my yoga teacher training, we ate more than four hours before! A full stomach zaps energy for digestion from the rest of the body. This can create feelings of sluggishness during and after practice.
Consider adding stretches or simple asana to your morning routine. This opens up the body early in the day. A body thats already energized from the morning will protest less later on.
4. On to a controversial topic: caffeine.
Many ancient yogic traditions restrict usage of any stimulant, including tea and coffee. Unfortunately, thats not realistic for most people today.
One friend of mine swears by an espresso 30 minutes before afternoon Power Yoga class. Another friend of mine has a single cup of coffee four hours before any yoga.
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Check Out The Type Of Yoga Youre Doing To Make Sure Its A Good Fit
There are many different types of yoga to choose from, and its important you pick the right one for you.
As a rule:
Its always OK to take these classes until youre comfortable with the concepts. I attended the beginners level at my local Iyengar studio three times to prep for harder classes!
Functional Alignment In Swan
Now look at my collapsed Swan: I let my right hip come all the way to the ground, tilting both my hips. In this position, my right thigh and femur arent being asked to externally rotate as much as in the aesthetic version. My knee is no longer stressed, but Im still experiencing the desired stress in my outer right hip. Ugly as collapsed Swan may be, it is functionally best for my body.
Remember, whats functionally optimal for my body might not be for yours. This is why in Yin Yoga we give students so much freedom to explore variations. And in learning how and why your body experiences limitation in Yin Yoga, youll be able to apply that firsthand knowledge to your other yoga practices.
Another important aspect of avoiding injury Yin Yoga is what I call, playing ones edge. There are two components to this concept, which Ill get into in the next lesson.
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Claim 2: Yin Yoga Is Good For Your Nervous System
Another claim about Yin Yoga is:
- YY helps you relax
- It activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System
- YY helps you process old emotions
When this can be true:
All of the above can be true, IF you have enough emotional and nervous system stability to actually be with whatever might come up in you.
If the above mentioned points are true, YY can be a wonderful practice, because then it can
- Activate the so called Relaxation Response
- Increase awareness of our body
- And through the asanas activate the vagus nerve in our sacrum
Myth 5: Yin Yoga Is For Lazy People
People often think that being into Yin Yoga means youre too lazy to do a flow class or that youre fooling yourself that its exercise. First, Yin is not a standalone, complete practice unto itself; its a supplemental practice to active forms of exercise. No one should practice only Yin as their form of exercise. Many Ashtangis love to do Yin in the evening before bed to balance their active practice. They also have more grace in the Mysore room thanks to it. Cross-Fitters even have their own version of Yin Yoga called ROM-WOD , and they find their bodies recover faster and are less inflamed because of incorporating the principles of Yin Yoga. Avid runners love Yin Yoga for similar reasons.
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Tips To Cope With Sore Muscles After Yoga
The only true way to cope with sore muscles is to give it time! If youre sore, your muscle fibers are damaged and just need time to knit back together to become stronger and more stable. But here are a few techniques that have relaxing effects and may assist with easing muscle tightness:
- Epsom salt bath soak
- Self-massage with essential oils
- Plenty of sleep
- Moderate walking.
Pain Changes Breath; Breath Changes Pain
Just as sensations can be indicators that we are too deep in our posture, breath is another barometer for our practice. Pain changes our breath: when we have no pain at all, our breath can be free, easy, and quiet, but when pain arises the breath changes. There are degrees of breathing patterns that are indicative of levels of pain, as described in table 4. As pain increases the breath becomes noisier, labored, sometimes faster, sometimes shallower and sometime deeper. In some cases the breath may vary dramatically and even stop . This is not the kumbaka or breath retention sought in deep yoga practice, but an apnea that could potentially cause harm to the lungs and even heart failure.
Table 4: Pain assessment through the breath: the higher the number, the greater the pain being felt.
In the other direction, people suffering pain have found some relief in changing their breathing pattern to one of slow, easy rhythms. Deep, slow breathing, for exampleinhaling for 3 seconds, exhaling for 6 seconds and pausing for 1 second before beginning the next breathhas been shown to positively affect both the threshold at which people perceive pain and their tolerance of pain.
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Who Is It Good For
Many of us live fast-paced, active lives, whether were going for a run, powering through an Ashtanga yoga class, or sweating it out on a spin bike. Yin yoga is the perfect balance to those intense exercises, providing a slower, more meditative counterpart to help you round out your workouts.
Yin yoga is also for anyone who is dealing with injuries or a chronic condition like arthritis or osteoporosis as this style in particular is a more restorative practice than other forms of exercise. Yin can also be a great starting point for anyone interested in meditation as it has such an internal focus.
You Won’t Get As Warm So Wear More Layers
Typically people wear more clothes than in faster classes â opting to layer long sleeve and short sleeve layers. This is due to the still nature of the practice, as staying in poses for extended periods of time will cause your body temperature to drop. Socks, long leggings and a jumper are advisable.
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Is Yin Yoga The Same As Restorative Yoga
Not quite. Unlike restorative, itâs not focused on helping injured bodies back to health, but stretching into the fascia; the sheet of connective tissue below the skin that encases the muscles.
While both focus on relaxation and breathing, Yin can be uncomfortable â requiring exhaling into intense stretches .
Do Hydrate Then Hydrate Some More
Drink water, not sports drinks, says Amy C. Sedgwick, an emergency medicine doctor and Yoga Medicine certified yoga instructor in Portland, Maine. We want to help increase our blood volume so this fluid can be distributed more easily to the tissues to allow transfer of nutrition, healing cells and flushing out metabolic waste. Hydration is the way that happens.
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