10 Essential Yin Yoga Poses
Our body consist of 75% fluid when we were born, Yin tissues -such as ligaments, don’t respond or get elastic like yang tissues -such as muscles…..Too little exercise will degenerate, so we must stress tissue a little, but too much yang will deteriorate- tears, breaks can happen…Therefore, balance during exercise is important. Yin can balance our daily activities, which are more Yang. By holding the pose, pressuring and stimulating targeted areas, Yin yoga breaks fibers, collagen into small parts, reaches deeper into connective tissue. Yin poses are like therapy for joint capsule, and all connective tissues. Yin is like acupressure or deep tissue massage on the body, because it pulls on and pressurizes tissues. And this pressure, initiates body’s natural response to stress by stimulating the circulation of Chi through them.
Yang yoga such as Qi-Gong influenced dynamic movements like Taoist Vinyasa, create heat and moves dirt out of the channels in the body. Its a dynamic practice, incorporating steady flowing, fluid movements using the rhythm of the breath. Moving in a yang way safe and effective way to strengthen muscles.
Only two tools are used in Yin Yoga; gravity and time. Yin yoga has powerful effects on all levels of our being-mind, body, spirit. It cultivates patience, mindfulness and meditative aspects. Sarah Powers explains Yin Yoga, “As we settle into stillness, our yin aspects of being-our contemplative, receptive qualities are also enhanced. Yin creates environment and space for not only our physical body but mentally and emotionally. This practice has therapeutic effects on many levels and layers. by cultivating mindfulness about self and embracing self as is.”
There are 14 main meridiens, energy channels connected to yin and yang organs in the body and each Yin Yoga pose stimulates specific meridiens.
- 10 essential Yin poses are explained below. Be careful while getting in and out of the poses, take your time. It is natural to feel temporarily fragile and vulnerable while getting out of the poses. You can hold the poses minimum 3 minutes and maximum 12 minutes.
- In Yin yoga, place of hands and feet, and alignment are not important at all. Hands and arms can be used as leverage during some poses.
- After getting into the pose, start timing and become still, muscles should be loose.
- Finding the ‘Appropriate edge’ is important. Coming into the pose just enough to stimulate chi flow without any feeling of strain is the key.
- Learning difference between Tension and compression: Compression is the ultimate limit for stretching or elasticity of the muscle and fascia. Tension is necessary stress on joints and ligaments.
- If you are pregnant or have any injuries in any part of your body or chronic health issues, consult your doctor before practicing Yin yoga.
Taoist black & white circle represents the two polarities within our physical bodies and in all our existence as human beings. According to Taoist belief, lower body is Yin as it is closer to earth and upper body which is close to the sun is Yang. Inner body -like bones, ligaments closer to our core- is Yin and outer layers of the body- like muscles and skin –is Yang.
Props used for Yin Yoga Poses: Yoga props can be used to support your body during poses such as bolsters, cushions, blocks, blankets while practicing Yin Yoga.
YIN YOGA POSES:
1. Balasana-Child’s Pose:
Begin by sitting on your heels and then slowly fold forward, bringing your chest to your thighs and your forehead to the earth. Can be done with arms stretched forward, which may avoid placing too much pressure on the neck (this reduces the shoulder relaxation) If you cannot get your buttocks to your heels, the head will have a lot of weight on it. Support the neck by placing the forehead on hands or on a bolster. Allow the knees to be as close together as is comfortable, but they do not have to touch. If there is any uncomfortable pinching in the lower belly and tops of the front hips, separate the knees wider. Many students love to place a bolster under their chest. You can stay in this pose as long as you want. if used as a counterpose, hold for up to one minute. If used as a yin pose on its own, hold for three to five minutes. If you cannot get your head to the floor, five minutes may be too long. Use your hands to push the floor away and slowly roll up.
Meridians & Organs Affected:
- The Spleen and Stomach meridians are compressed while the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder meridians are stretched.
- The spine and ankle.
- A healing, restful pose – useful any time a break is needed
- Gently stretches the spine and is always a nice counterpose for backbends
- Gentle compression of the stomach and chest benefits the organs of digestion
- Psychologically soothing when feeling cold, anxious, or vulnerable
- Can relieve back and neck pain when the head is supported
- If the knees are fairly close together, rocking gently side to side can help stimulate the flow of blood and lymph fluids in the upper chest and breast tissues.
- If you have diarrhea or are pregnant
- Can be uncomfortable just after eating
- If knee issues exist, you may need to place a towel or blanket between thighs and calves or avoid the pose altogether.
- You may need a blanket or other padding under the ankles to reduce discomfort on the top of the feet.
2. Saddle pose:
Meridians & Organs Affected:
- Stomach, Spleen, Urinary Bladder, and Kidney lines
- If your arms are overhead, you will also work the Heart and Lung meridians.
- The SI joints, lower spine, knees, and ankles
- A deep opening in the sacral-lumbar arch
- Also stretches hips flexors and quadriceps
- Excellent for athletes and people who do a lot of standing or walking
- Stimulates the thyroid if the neck is dropped back
- If you have a bad back or tight sacroiliac (SI) joints
- Knees can be tested too much here
- Ankles can protest
- Any sharp or burning pain here, you must come out!
There are several options for coming into this pose. Start with simply sitting on the heels and notice how this feels. If there’s pain in the knees, skip this one. If your ankles are complaining, try a blanket under them or skip the pose. Lean back on your hands, creating a little arch to the lower back. Check in with how this feels. This may be it for you today! If you can go further, come down onto your elbows.
There are several ways to end this pose. If you can, come back up the way you went down, propping yourself up on your elbows and then onto the hands. Lie down on your belly, straightening your legs slowly to allow the knees to release.
If they are not available, trying rolling to one side and slowly straighten the opposite leg. Before rolling onto your back, you may want to wait a bit or hold your sacrum with your free hand and ease down to your back. If you’re flexible, you can just lift your knees up and pop your feet out
3. Caterpillar pose:
From a seated position with your legs straight in front of you, fold forward, allowing your spine to gently round. Consider sitting up on a folded blanket or two and resting your head and arms on a bolster or cushion. Relax your legs and spine; it’s OK if your legs externally rotate a little when you do this. Hold for 4–5 minutes.
4. Sphinx Pose:
Lie on your stomach, and place your elbows under your shoulders. Let your weight rest into your forearms. Allow your lower back to relax, softening your abdomen and thighs. You’re looking for mild compression in your lower back. If you don’t feel this subtle stress, try pressing your palms down and straightening your elbows to increase your spine’s extension. Hold for 4–5 minutes.
5. Half Butterfly pose:
From a seated position, draw one foot in toward you and stretch the other leg straight out to the side. Allowing your back to round, fold forward, down the middle between both legs. As a variation, you can also fold onto your extended leg. This can be held a long time about five minutes, with the variations added after about three minutes. Slowly roll up, pushing the floor away with your hands. Before straightening the opposite leg, lean back on your hands to release the hips. Then slowly straighten the leg.
6. Supported Fish or Reclined Butterfly:
Meridians & Organs Affected:
- Urinary Bladder;
- If there is a lot of sensation in the groin and inner legs, the Liver and Kidneys are stimulated
- Spine, especially the back and side
- Knees, knees, although this is not as deep of a stretch for the inner knees as the Dragonfly
- Stretches the lower back without requiring loose hamstrings
- Targets the ligaments along the back of the spine
- Stimulates the liver and kidneys and aids digestion
- Can aggravate sciatica. If you have sciatica, elevate the hips by sitting on a cushion, until the knees are below the hips, or avoid this pose entirely. Beware of hips rotating backward while seated; we want them to rotate forward
- If you have any lower back disorders which do not allow flexion of the spine, then do not allow the spine to round: keep the back as straight as you can or do the reclining version
- Avoid dropping the head down if the neck has suffered whiplash or has reverse curvature
- Beware of any sharp pain in the knees. If you have issues in this area, tighten the top of the thigh (engage the quadriceps), which will close the joint, or bring the legs closer together
- If the bent knee complains, place support under that thigh or move that foot away from the groin
- If the hamstrings protest, bend the straight knee and support the thigh with a blanket or block
Using a block or bolster, positioned directly under the shoulders and head, lie back ensuring that your shoulders and chest are open and you feel supported. Find a comfortable position for your arms, allowing your palms to face up. Relax your legs—knees can be bent or straight, just find a shape that allows you to surrender your body for the next several minutes.
To come out, press into your elbows and release to one side, as you come off your props. Take a few breaths here before rolling onto your back.
7. Swan pose:
From Tabletop, draw your right knee toward your right wrist. Bring your right foot in front of your left hip, and slide your left leg back—seeking sensation in your right outer hip and the front of your left thigh and avoiding sensation in your right knee. Consider supporting your right hip with a blanket or block; also consider letting your right hip come all the way to the floor, allowing your left leg to externally rotate slightly. Hold for 3–5 minutes, then switch sides.
Target areas: outer hips (front legs) and hip flexors (back legs)
8. Dragonfly pose:
Activates: The Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Liver and Spleen meridian lines.
Target area: It opens the hips, groin, backs of the thighs, and inner knees.
Open the legs and lean forward on your sitting bones. If available you can grab a hold of the foot or rest your head on a bolster. Hold the poses for 3-5 minutes. Place your attention on the breath and aim to be present with the sensations in the body.
Note: If you have a history of sciatica make sure to elevate your hips. You can also support your knees with padding to ease tension in tight hamstrings or bend your knees and place feet on the floor. If you have fragile knees engage your quads (tops of the thighs). As an alternative you can lie on your back with your legs up the wall spread wide. To come out of the pose inhale, roll up and rest back on your hands.
9. Twisted root pose -Lying Cat stretch pose:
Target area: By rotating the spine the pose is releasing tension. Also stimulates the obliques,gluts and IT band.
Activates: the Gall Bladder channel related to the wood element, the Urinary Bladder channel related to the water element and also the Heart-Lungs pathways related to the
Contraindications: Proceed with care in case or hernia or prolapsed disc.
Support the knee if high in the air so the body can relax.
If the shoulder if off the floor, use a prop to support the arm enhancing relaxation.
If there is any tingling sensations in the arm or if you are getting numbness into the hand or fingers, lower the arm down as you may be pinching on a nerve
Target areas: lower spine, pelvis, and upper body
On your back, gently drawn your knees into your chest, holding onto your shins or the backs of your thighs. Do what feels good in your body, perhaps slowly rocking from side to side.
Stay on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor. Cross your right knee over your left. Then, lift and shift your hips a little to the right. Roll over to your left side in a modified fetal position, then slowly take your right arm out to the right side, allowing your upper right shoulder to rest toward the ground. If this is challenging, initially keep your right hand on your right waist, then gradually reach it out to the side to deepen the twist. Hold 4–5 minutes, then repeat on the other side.
10. Corpse pose-Shavasana: