How to Practice Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is a genre of yoga that focuses on the deeper connective tissues wrapping around the joints, particularly in your hips, pelvis and lower spine. This is quite different from most forms of yoga which focus on the muscles. With yin yoga we hold yin yoga poses for longer periods of time, usually about five minutes rather than the typical five breaths.
Most forms of yoga focus on the superficial muscles rather than the deeper layers of connective tissues, ligaments, joints and bones that we focus on during yin yoga. Muscles respond well to the faster rhythmic movement you find in these forms of yoga because this increases their fluid content giving them more flexibility and strength.
There are three main principles of yin yoga that I will be introducing you to in this beginner yin yoga class: #1 edge, #2 we resolve to be still #3 we stay for awhile. Let’s explore each one in depth (which are both aspects of yin by the way if you want to go back and look at what yin means from last week’s class)
#1 We come into the yin yoga pose (remembering that this is not an aesthetic practice and it doesn’t matter what your pose looks like) and find an appropriate edge. Edge is not sharp shooting pain, burning or electric, but it may be a dull ache or uncomfortable.
“If the sensation is burning of sharply stabbing or electrical or if it is especially intense in a small area, then this can indicate overstretching and potentially damage tissue. If the sensation is more dull or aching or throbbing, then this normally indicates tissue being tugged in a way that is healthy. If tingling sensation occurs, that could be a sign of damaging a nerve or a blockage of blood flow. Pins and needles can be a consequence of too much pressure in particular parts of your body and a sign of the need to slightly shift the shape” Norman Blair Brightening Our Inner Skies, Yin and Yoga
Remember you want to be able to take a full breath that is slow and unlaboured, if your breath is shallow you’ve gone too far.
I like the instruction to come to about 70% effort in a yin yoga pose. You want to be able to feel sensation in your yin yoga posture, but if you come too deeply into your posture and feel too much resistance you will stop the flow of chi and this goes against a the yin qualities of yin yoga. It has become our normal experience to push and to strain to go deeper in all things in our lives, including our yoga. What would it be like to let go of the pushing, straining and struggling in our yin yoga practice?
#2 Become still, allow your muscles to soften, let gravity take the weight of your body. We want the energy to pool in the deeper layers of the bones and the joints. If we are continue to move, the energy will continue to move at the more superficial layers of the muscles. The stillness of the poses will also allow us to access the yin qualities of surrender, ease, relaxation, and restfulness. Additionally the stillness allows us to explore physical sensations and emotions that arise without our habitual reactivity and impulsiveness. We are learning to soften into our discomfort, cultivating non-abandoning attention. Softening the muscles and allowing gravity to take us will also allow us to access the deeper connective tissues that wrap around the joints and bones.
#3 We stay for awhile. For beginners we stay for one to three minutes. In a typical yin yoga practice we stay for five minutes anywhere up to twenty minutes. The reason we stay for longer in a yin yoga practice is to affect the deeper connective tissues that wrap around the joints and bones. While muscles love the fast rhythmic repetitive action to develop strength and flexibility; these connective tissues require slow and gentle traction in a passive way over a longer period time. Connective tissue is more “plastic” in nature compared to muscle which is much more elastic. This dense and less pliant connective tissue needs time and the effect gravity over time. Just like braces the deeper layers of our connective tissues respond to slow gentle traction.
Yin Yoga Postures/Yin Yoga Sequence: Butterfly Pose, Sphinx Pose, Half Stirrup Pose (Half Happy Baby Pose), Hand to Big Toe Pose, Dragon Pose (Lunge Pose), Dragon Pose with Twist (Lunge Pose with a Twist), Lying Twist Pose, Savasana
Yoga Props: blocks, bolster, strap, folded blanket
Resources: Brightening Our Inner Skies Yin and Yoga by Norman Blair
Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers
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If you know somebody who would like to learn how to practice yin yoga and the principles of yin yoga, please feel free to share it with them
Our next live class is November 24th at 9:00 am PT Beginner Yin Yoga: LIVE Introduction to Meridians & Energy Flow
Let me know in the comments, which principle of yin yoga is most impactful for you: edge, stillness, or staying?
Learning yin yoga is not something you can do in just one yoga video. Just like brushing your teeth, yin yoga is a way of life and is something you can embrace everyday. The best way I have learned to care embrace the yin way of life is to make yoga a part of my everyday life. I am going to share with you a good, better and best way to do that now.
- Good: We release a video here every Friday at 9 am PT, when you subscribe and turn on notifications by pressing that bell, you will receive that video and it will support you in your daily practice
- Better: At the beginning I told you I will tell you where you could go to get 7 days of yoga for anxiety. If you go to melissawest.com/anxiety you can sign up there to receive 7 days of yoga for anxiety – this will help you embrace a more yin way of life.
- Best: The best way to make yin yoga a part of your everyday life is to join our membership community. It is there that we can support you in making yoga a part of your daily life with our curated content. We have our monthly YinDulgence 90 minute LIVE workshops with 2 way videos on the last Sunday of every month at 9:30 am and 4:00 pm PT, with archives recordings made available to our members afterwards.
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