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Instantly Feel Relaxed and Restored with These 8 Yin Yoga Poses

Joanne Moules
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Relaxation, stillness, flexibility, surrender, joy and presence: all words that come to mind when we think of Yin Yoga. To retouch on yoga history, asana (or practicing the physical poses) was fundamentally created to enable the body to sit in meditation for hours and be still. The most wonderful aspect of Yin Yoga is that it combines asana and stillness.
 

Yin restores the equilibrium between mind, body and spirit to journey the body through asana to reach a peaceful and relaxed state.

 
During a Yin Yoga practice, the poses are held for 3-5 minutes. This extended time in a pose enables the fascia (fibrous tissue that encloses and connects muscles) to be stretched and strengthened which improves flexibility and releases energetic blocks as well as tension and tightness from our joints and muscles.
 
The idea of holding a posture for several minutes (when most of us are accustomed to only holding for several breaths) can sound intimidating for many, which is why there are no limits on how many props you can use. That’s why yoga blankets, blocks, straps, and bolsters can make a great addition to your Yin practice, and you can check out this article for some product recommendations.
 
Don’t have any yoga props? Just raid the linen closet and grab blankets, towels and cushions to use as props to help your body fully relax into these postures. Yin Yoga is about surrender, and the props support the body which enables the yogi to “let go” and fully “be” in stillness in the posture.
 

In stillness, a new sense of peace is discovered, and we are brought back to our center.

 
It’s important to note that some Yin teachers incorporate props, while others do not. There is some crossover between Yin and Restorative Yoga, and sometimes they will be referred to interchangeably. Just know that whether you choose to incorporate props or not, the top priority is having a safe, relaxing, and rejuvenating Yin practice.
 

Here are 8 Yin Yoga poses to relieve tension, open and create space in the body, and ultimately de-stress both mind and body:

 

Supta Baddha Konasana (Supine Butterfly)

This pose is great to open the front of the body: the chest, the hips, the belly, the throat and the pelvis. It releases tension from the pelvic organs and the groin. This is a great pose to begin your Yin Yoga practice and readying the mind and body for stillness.
 
Supine-Butterfly
 
Let’s try it!

  • Lay on your back and bring the soles of the feet to touch as the knees fall open to the side
  • If this is too much pressure on the hips, you can place a block or cushion beneath each knee for added support
  • For added comfort, you can support the head on a block or cushion
  • You can rest your arms at your side or rest them on your inner thighs to gently invite the hips to open
  • Relax – let go and hold for up to 6 minutes

 

Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)

Another great yoga pose to open the hips, quads, and hamstrings, Lizard Pose helps improve overall mobility in the hip ligaments. This prepares us for deeper hip openers and releases tension in the hips and pelvis.
 
Lizard-Pose-yin
 
Let’s try it!

  • From Table Top Pose, step your right foot to the outside of your right hand and slide the left leg to the back of your mat
  • Relax the hips as close to the ground as possible, keeping them squared towards the front of your mat
  • Stay here for a few breaths. If you would like to add more intensity, lower onto your forearms or rest your head on a block or cushion for support
  • Use your breath to relax and surrender into the posture and hold for up to 6 minutes
  • Repeat on the left side

 

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold)

Make the most of those lovely tension-free hips and take a restorative forward bend. This asana releases and strengthens the front and back of the legs, improves flexibility and builds strength in the hip joints. Wide Legged Forward Fold is also a great way to increase the blood flow to the brain.
 
Wide-Legged-Forward-Fold-yin
 
Let’s try it!

  • Begin with your feet about 3-4 feet wide and your hands on your hips. Keep your legs strong and engaged, toes slightly turned in and heels slightly out
  • Hinge forward from the hips and fold towards the ground
  • Bring your hands to rest on blocks or the mat beneath your shoulders
  • Relax your head and allow the Crown chakra to fall towards the earth
  • Feel free to rest the head on a block or a bolster for added support
  • Surrender to the posture for up to 6 minutes

 

 

Anahatasana (Melting Heart)

Let’s now take a backbend to open the chest and shoulders. This posture lengthens and relieves tension in the upper back and creates more space at the back of the sternum. Melting Heart will also re-ground the third eye chakra.
 
Melting-Heart-yin
 
Let’s try it!

  • Come into Child’s Pose with your knees hip-distance apart, stretch your arms forward and keep your forehead resting on the mat
  • Raise your hips so they are directly above your knees and slowly begin to “melt” your heart and chest toward the ground
  • Continue to take deep breaths as your body begins to gently open
  • Hold for up to 6 minutes

 

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Half Pigeon Pose)

This posture is a classic hip opener, and is also wonderful for stretching out the hamstrings and lumbar spine. Half Pigeon relieves sciatic pain and stretches the groin and the outside of the hips.
 
half-pidgeon
 
Let’s try it!

  • From Downward Dog, lift your right leg and swing it up between your hands so your right knee meets your right wrist
  • Extend your left leg to the back of your mat, lowering the hips level to the ground
  • Try to keep your hips square to the mat. If your hips are tight, you can place a block or bolster under your right hip
  • Depending on your hip flexibility, your right foot can be closer to the left hip crease for less intensity, or the right shin can be more parallel to the top of your mat for added intensity. Just remember we will be here for a while, so finding your edge right away may keep you from relaxing (better to ease in gradually)
  • Inhale, grow tall in the spine and exhale the forearms on the ground or a block. If you feel comfortable here you can reach your arms forward and rest your head on the mat or on a block
  • Relax, surrender and hold for up to 6 minutes
  • Switch sides

 

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Forward bends are a great way to stretch the entire back of the body. This posture will stimulate the digestive system, release anger and irritability and ease tension from the spine and neck. It will also increase flexibility in the hamstrings and lumbar spine.
 
Seated-Forward-Bend-yin
 
Let’s try it!

  • Begin seated in the middle of your mat with the legs together and extended. Keep a bend in the knees if the hamstrings are tight. Slowly hinge forward from the hips and rest the upper body on a bolster
  • If you have particularly tight hamstrings, fold a blanket several times and place it beneath your tailbone to aid in the stretch
  • Focus on your breath as you relax here for up to 6 minutes

 

Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)

Inversions give our heart a rest, give our brains oxygenated blood, and aid in overall circulation. The restorative effects of having the feet above the heart are wonderful. This pose reduces stress and can help alleviate headaches, boost energy levels, and even has anti-aging benefits (due to the extra blood flow to the face and skin).
 
Legs-Up-the-Wall-yin
 
Let’s try it!

  • This posture can be done at the center of your mat, or up against a wall for added support to allow you to completely let go
  • Begin on your back and lift the feet skyward. Allow the back of your legs to rest on the wall
  • Place a bolster or cushion under your tailbone to raise the pelvis – this helps relieve stress and pressure in the hips
  • These cues are for a wall, but you can perform this the same way on your mat by stacking legs above hips (with or without a prop beneath you)
  • Relax and surrender for up to 6 minutes

 

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

The benefits of Matsyasana include a deep stretch of the intercostal muscles in-between the ribs. Fish pose opens the chest and shoulders, and stretches the psoas, abdomen, and throat. It is also a heart opener, and helps balance the throat chakra (http://www.yogiapproved.com/om/the-throat-chakra-how-it-impacts-your-ability-to-communicate/).
 
Fish-Pose-yin
 
Let’s try it!

  • Begin seated on your mat with your legs extended long in front of you
  • Place a block at the center of your spine as you recline onto your back
  • Drop the head back to allow the head or crown chakra to brush the floor and throat open to the sky
  • Feel free to rest the head on a cushion or block for added support (optional)
  • Hands can rest next to the hips or in prayer mudra at the heart center
  • Relax and breathe for up to 6 minutes

The one thing I love so much about Yin Yoga is the mindset. When we hold these postures for a length of time, emotions come up, tension arises and our minds race. But this practice teaches us to be aware of this, acknowledge it, and in turn, let it go.
 

“By letting go it all gets done.” – Lao Tzu

 
Yoga is all about balance – a balanced life and a balanced practice. A balance of holding on to our intention and letting go of our expectations. To ensure that our yoga practice is balanced, we incorporate strength work, spiritual work and flexibility work. Establish a balanced yoga practice with Yin Yoga, a wonderful counterpart to the upbeat (Yang) of Vinyasa.
 
Do you practice Yin Yoga? How has it benefited your life? Haven’t yet tried it? Share any questions or comments you may have. We would love to hear about your experience with Yin Yoga.
 
Photos: craigpakesphotography.co.uk
 

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Joanne Moules

Inspired by her love of life and community, Jo specializes in teaching yoga to children with special needs and teens under 18. Also an online business coach, she mentors and supports other like-minded goddesses to achieve their goals. She will gladly admit that she is a Kundalini yoga chick but also enjoys and teaches a 'fusion' of different traditions - it's all yoga! When not teaching, coaching or writing, you'll find Jo at home in rural Lincolnshire, UK with her son playing at amateur dramatics and eating Indian food.

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