Yin Yoga is a type of slow-paced Hatha yoga that incorporates traditional Chinese medicine principles.
The sequences in a Yin Yoga session consist of asanas that are deliberately held for long periods of time, designed to apply mild stress to connective tissues. The aim is to improve flexibility and increase circulation in the joints.
As well as the physical benefits, Yin Yoga is a meditative practice that strives to bring awareness to inner silence, and connect the body with the mind and spirit. Yin Yoga isn’t exactly an umbrella term or category of yoga practices, instead, it is a yoga practice in its own right.
What Is Yin Yoga?
Firstly, let’s take a look at what Yin Yoga actually is.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced yoga practice inspired by hatha yoga and traditional Chinese medicine.
It’s a holistic approach to yoga that focuses on the connective tissues of the body, including the ligaments, tendons, and fasciae. This is achieved through holding specific poses for longer periods of time than other hatha yoga poses.
Yang Yoga, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Yin Yoga. Where Yin Yoga focuses on the connective tissues, Yang Yoga is a type of Vinyasa yoga that targets the muscles. Both work well together, but you can focus on one practice at a time.
Yin Yoga is designed to improve the flow of energy, as well as the flow of chi in the organs – the purest form of energy that is achieved through awareness and stillness.
The concept is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts, which explains the practice style of Yin Yoga.
Yin Yoga is considered a type of hatha yoga, as it consists of the elements that make up a hatha yoga style – breathing, yoga poses, concentration, and meditation.
However, the inclusion of principles from traditional Chinese medicine makes Yin (and Yang) Yoga an interesting branch from hatha yoga.
Best Yin Yoga Poses
Anahatasana is typically one of the starting yoga poses in a Yin Yoga routine.
This is one of those exercises that is great for stretching the upper and middle back, while opening the shoulders and chest.
The key with this yoga pose is to go nice and slow into the back bend. A common issue with this pose is that people move into the position too quickly, resulting in the compression of nerves.
This is signified by the feeling of tingling hands and fingers. So, make sure to go slowly into the yoga pose to prevent this.
The Butterfly pose is designed to open the hips, making this the perfect pose for people who excessively sit down or have tight hip muscles.
This is a seated yoga pose that is popular in Yin, Hatha, and Vinyasa yoga, as it promotes good posture and awareness of how the hips are sitting in relation to the spine.
This pose is also good for increasing range of motion in the lower back and thighs. It is a relaxing pose that works well with a deep breathing exercise to boost energy levels and release emotions in the lower body.
Another back bending asana is the Camel pose, which works to deeply stretch the lumbar spine while opening the thighs. This is one of the best poses to practice for those with bad posture or a lifestyle that is mostly sedentary.
Creating compression in the lumbar spine stimulates the bladder and kidneys, as well as the heart and lungs, if tension from the shoulders is released.
When practiced in Yin Yoga, it’s essential to perform this pose slowly to prevent back injury. If you get into position too quickly, this can cause back spasms or neck pains.
The Dragon yoga pose is a deep lunge that opens up the hip and groin to target the joint.
By stretching the hip flexors and quadriceps, this is a great pose for helping sciatica. There are several variations of the dragon pose to better target the hip socket.
One variation of this pose is the Twisted Dragon, which works to twist the torso as well as open the hip flexors. This is a good option for those with knee pain, as the knee is allowed to drift into a more comfortable position.
The Swan pose is a deep, vigorous stretch that opens the hips, stretches the hip flexors and quadriceps, and compresses the lower back.
This is one of the best poses for those struggling with menstrual pains, as it forces blood flow to the pubic region and soothes lower back pain.
The Swan pose is meant to be held for 3 to 5 minutes before switching to the other side and repeating the process. To go deeper into the position, this pose requires deep breathing.
The Twisted Root pose is an intense pose that works to massage your internal organs.
This is a lying down pose that works to release tension in the spine, activate the internal organs, and encourage belly breathing. It is commonly performed at the beginning or end of a Yin Yoga session.
For the sake of confusion, this pose is also often called the Reclining Twist. It is great for stretching your hips after sitting down or after an intense hip-specific yoga routine.
The Child’s pose is a restful and healing pose that is most commonly performed during breaks in a Yin Yoga session.
This position stretches the spine, working as a counterpose for back bending poses, and gently compresses the stomach and chest. This is great for aiding the digestive organs and releasing tension in the chest.
The notion of crawling into a ball is psychologically soothing, which is why people often feel comforted, nostalgic, and even emotional during this pose.
It works to attack the feelings of vulnerability, leaving the student feeling safe and comfortable in their body.
The Happy Baby pose is great for deeply opening the hips and optionally targeting the arms.
Keep in mind that if you use the arms to pull, this will activate the biceps, which makes this more of a Yang Yoga pose rather than a Yin Yoga pose.
This pose is good for compressing the stomach organs and releasing stress from the sacroiliac joints. Like the Child’s pose, this is a child-like pose that is good for helping students reconnect with their inner child.
The Caterpillar pose is good for creating moderate stress on the ligaments along the spine.
It compresses the stomach organs and stimulates the kidneys, which is helpful for improving digestive organs. This pose also massages the heart, as the heart is moved into a position below the spine.
This isn’t an easy pose for people who have back problems or aren’t flexible. However, sitting on a cushion or bending the knees with a bolster will help the spine comfortably to comfortably round.
As the name suggests, the Dangling pose is where you literally allow your upper body to dangle!
This is a great stretch for the lower spine, and also works to compress the stomach and internal organs, loosen the hamstrings, relax the shoulders, and massage the abdominal muscles.
Due to the nature of the stomach compression, this is a good position for those dealing with menstrual pains. The key is to come out of this pose slowly to prevent dizziness and strain on the back.
The Snail pose is one of the deepest poses to release the entire spine. This pose relaxes the heart by bringing more blood flow to the head, and the notion of compressing the chest and internal organs is good for draining the lungs.
Due to the nature of pushing the blood flow to the head, this isn’t a good pose for those with high blood pressure. It also isn’t ideal for those who are pregnant or have recently eaten.
So, there you have it! Yin Yoga is ideal for those who need to relax their bodies, especially if you live a sedentary lifestyle or commit to regular high intensity workouts.
Hopefully, this guide has introduced you to your new favorite Yin Yoga-inspired yoga pose.
Frequently Asked Questions
In Yin Yoga, there are 5 archetypal poses that make up the majority of Yin Yoga sessions. Virtually every pose practiced in Yin Yoga is a variation of one of these archetypes. These archetypes include:
Yin is a type of restorative yoga that is inspired by Hatha yoga and traditional Chinese medicine.
It’s a holistic approach to targeting the connective tissues in the lower body, and the positions are held between 1 and 10 minutes. It is intended to increase flexibility and relaxation, and connection between the mind and body.