Yin yoga helps balance our yang lifestyles – I believe this is why it’s so popular, particularly on the North Shore where we love to be outdoors and active! As I mentioned in the 8 Limbs of Yoga , the physical Asana practice has traditionally been a minor portion of Yoga. The primary purpose being to learn to sit still in order to meditate, to ultimately seek the bliss state of enlightenment.
How Yin Works
Yin is the feminine, intuitive, gentle aspect. Yang is active and powerful, requiring that we be conscious of alignment and engaging our core for support and to protect our bodies. Yin allows us to let go completely – we melt into the earth. In a Yin class, you will typically hold poses for 3 to 5 minutes – don’t worry, they are generally comfortable, easy poses. The reason for holding is to allow the muscles and surrounding fascial tissues to melt, which allows us to reset our posture, and release deep tension which is often subconsciously holds our emotions. It’s ok to be emotional in yin, as I believe it is in any class. It’s quite beautiful to know that moving your body with breath can provide a release deeper than the physical. Through Yin and Pranayama (breath-work), you can help heal yourself. This practice encourages you to dive into meditation, focusing on the breath during challenging poses to escape the chatter of the mind. This is a powerful tool in any aspect of our life.
My Experience with Yin
I can appreciate that when we need yin the most, it can be a struggle. I was a hyper child, which is why my Mam taught me meditation in the first place. During university I became so disconnected from myself, constantly working, volunteering, working-out, I struggled with a 5 minute savasna – I simply didn’t have the time to sit around…or so I thought. That was until I broke my ankle running early before work. In that instant I fell, it was as if a light-bulb went off – SLOW DOWN Katie!! I began to laugh at myself – how ridiculous I had been constantly pushing myself – but this was one of the moments that helped me change my life for the better. This was a wake-up call for me to reconnect to myself, my spiritual side, and heal. That being said, I appreciate it can be challenging to meditate and stay put at times. I think most of us experience this at one point in our life, at least. If Yin doesn’t immediately sound like you’re cup of tea, I would recommend a combination class of yang and yin, like Kundalini or Yoga for Ski + Bike. The deep stretches in Yin are important to prevent injury.
Some Yin Poses to Ease Common Areas of Tension:
Below are Yin poses to ease common areas of tension. As with anything you do, please listen to your body first and foremost. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email me: Katie@yoganorthvancouver.com.
- Yin for Your Neck + Shoulders
One of my favorite poses is to take a bolster and place it along the spine, from just above the hips to the head. You can rest your legs in front of you, or bring the soles of your feet together into butterfly. This pose encourages deep breathing by opening the chest. Take an inhale to your chest, and allow your neck & shoulders to melt. Take an inhale into your belly, and allow your body to melt. Continue with a deep slow breath.
You can do a variation of this at work to alleviate tension by coming into prayer behind your back, or simply clasping your hands. Exhale letting your right ear lean towards your right shoulder – hold for a minute. Inhale to centre, and exhale to the left for another minute.
- Yin for Your Hips
Pigeon releases the glutes and sciatic, moving into the hips. Begin in Table, sweep your right foot out behind you, and bring your knee into your chest. Place you right foot towards the left side of the mat, bringing your leg and body towards the ground. Breath into the Heart Chakra and release. Breathe into the Root Chakra and release. Continue with a deep steady breath. This pose is challenging for many and can trigger emotions. Continue focusing on the breath – one requiring you to count helps, or inhale white light into the area of tension and release it with your exhale. Repeat on the other side.
Try this breath: Inhale 4 counts, retain 4 counts, exhale 6, hold out 2. Repeat.
- Yin for Your Legs
Hamstrings: Taking a tall seat, bring one leg out to the side and exhale folding over this leg into Maha mudra – hold for 3 minutes. Inhaling using your core (to protect your low back) to a tall seat and switch sides. Inhaling back to a tall seat, bring your legs together and exhale fold forward into Paschimottanasa – hold for 5 minutes.
Quads: Supta Virasana or Hero pose is a great one, but can be challenging. Come to kneeling, slowly lean back onto your forearms – you can place blocks under your forearms if this is enough for your quads, or if you feel comfortable, coming completely onto your back with your arms stretched out overhead. Hold for 5 -10 minutes. Be gentle coming out of this pose – swing your legs out in front of you and slowly come back to seated. See below for full Hero pose.