Yin Yoga Poses: How To Do & Benefits

Innovated by 1980’s California, Yin Yoga is a unique, modern interpretation of ancient Yoga practices that features a slow-paced mixture of Yoga positions based on Chinese “energy channel” theories.

These theories suggest that because modern lives are busy and stressful, people deplete their internal energies. 

Yin Yoga is thought to stimulate the energy channels, bringing calmness and relaxation to the body. Yin Yoga positions are held for between three and five minutes, and benefits include increased mindfulness, a marked reduction in feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as improved flexibility and joint mobility.

Rebalancing our internal energies is thought to bring balance to our everyday lives. Practicing Yin Yoga allows us to be in the present moment, observing thoughts and emotions as they arise without judgment, focusing on physical sensations within and outside of the body.

It can help people to cope with periods of emotional distress better and works by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest response) which tones down an overactive nervous system to promote calmness. Yin Yoga also works well alongside other exercises such as cycling and running as it strengthens muscles and improves balance. 

Yin Yoga is a form of Yoga especially beneficial for these types of sports where the lower body is of great importance, as it focuses on poses that engage the lower half of the body. 

Yin Yoga positions utilize different props to support a variety of poses and to enhance comfort. Props are an important part of this style of Yoga because they protect the body from overstretching when making specific postures, particularly the tendons and ligaments. 

It’s especially important to use props, even if you just use pillows if you tend to experience painful joints or have a certain condition which means that Yoga poses may lead to overstretching and pain. Yin Yoga can be uncomfortable at times, as it requires intense stretches, but its main focus is on breathing and relaxation, and it is an extremely rejuvenating practice.  

To get you started and on your way to achieving enhanced mindfulness and relaxation, we’ve put together six excellent Yin Yoga poses to try out.

1. Wide-legged Child’s Pose 

The Wide-legged Child’s pose makes you feel grounded and rejuvenated by stretching your lower back. 

Place a pillow or cushion down for support if required.

Starting on your hands and knees, sit backward between your heels.

Exhale slowly as you lower your stomach between your knees, coming into a Wide-legged Child’s Pose. Hold this position for five breaths.

2. Butterfly

The Butterfly is a relaxing pose that engages your spine, outer hips, and inner thighs.

Begin in a seated position and draw the soles of your feet together, sliding them back away from you to put some space between your heels and pelvis. 

Slowly fold yourself forward, letting your spine round and your head drop towards your feet. You can either rest your elbows on a cushion on top of your feet, or on the floor with your head in your hands. Hold this position for 3-5 minutes.

3. Sphinx

This position is great for enhancing mindfulness and targets your lower back. 

Start by lying on your stomach with your elbows placed underneath your shoulders. Rest your body into your forearms, allow your back to relax. 

Feel your abdomen and thighs soften. You should feel your spine extend and have mild stress in your lower back. Hold this pose for 4-5 minutes. 

4. Open Wing

This pose works to open up your hips and targets your chest, shoulders and arms. 

Lay on your stomach and put your right arm out to the side, around 90 degrees away from your torso, with the palm of your hand facing downwards. Push your left hand into the floor and use it to roll onto your right side. 

You should feel a sensation across the right of your right arm, shoulder and chest. Attempt to bend your knees, and open your left leg up towards the ceiling by putting your left foot down on the floor. Hold this position for 3-4 minutes per side. 

5. Caterpillar

An excellent meditative pose for rejuvenating your internal energies, the caterpillar targets the back of your legs and spine. 

Begin in a seated position, with your legs out in front of you. Gently fold yourself forward, rounding your spine slowly. You can rest your head and arms on a cushion for support if needed. Keep your legs and spine relaxed.

Hold this pose for 4-5 minutes.

6. Dragon 

The dragon pose is excellent for opening up the hips and groin and targets areas such as the back and front of the legs, as well as the inner thighs. There are several variations of the Dragon pose to try. Here we will cover the Inside Dragon, Twisted Dragon and Gecko.

Inside dragon

Start by supporting yourself with a tabletop. Take your right foot between your hands. With your right knee above your right heel, slide your left leg backwards and let your hips slowly sink down.

Move your right hand to the inside of your right foot, you can put your hands on the floor or slowly lower your forearms to the floor to support you while holding this pose.

Twisted dragon

To transition from the inside dragon pose into twisted dragon, move your right hand onto your right knee, twisting your torso to the right. 

Gecko

Transition from twisted dragon back into the first dragon variation, inside dragon. Once you’re holding the inside dragon pose, walk your right foot forward until your right heel sits in front of your right knee. You can choose to keep your hands on the floor, or lower your forearms slowly to the ground to help support you.

Final Thoughts

Starting with these six fantastic Yin Yoga postures will slowly introduce you to the practice and help you understand your body more, as well as the amazing benefits of this type of exercise. These poses can be achieved by the majority of fitness levels, but there are a huge variety of positions out there that you can try as you become more accustomed to Yin Yoga. 

Laura Simmons
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