How To De-Stress and Unwind with Yin Yoga
I've been practicing yoga for close to 15 years. I discovered it through my sister and fell in love with the concept of contorting my body into funky positions and breathing deeply. I've tried Ashtanga yoga, Bikram or Hot Yoga and pretty much everything in between. But it was when I discovered Yin Yoga that my love and desire to practice sky-rocketed. There was something about Yin Yoga that caused me to feel great, both mentally and physically, even though the poses were not in themselves, particularly challenging. The challenge of Yin Yoga came with gravity and time.
What Is Yin Yoga
So, what is Yin Yoga, you ask? It is taken from the Taoist concept on Yang and Yin, where Yang is considered more active, vigorous yoga that creates heat and space in your body. In contrast, Yin Yoga is an introspective practice, where you hold yourself in a position for a longer period of time (anywhere from 1 - 5 minutes) and allow your body to melt into the position, often with the assistance of gravity. Most of the poses involve sitting or lying down. Too easy, you think? Think again! This practice can be incredibly challenging from both a physical and a mental perspective.
So Why Do Yin Yoga?
There are many benefits of doing yin yoga. Because yin yoga is done sitting or laying down and is not an active, vigorous practice, almost anyone can do it. Also, yin yoga activates your parasympathetic nervous system through deep belly breathing, helping to reduce stress, improve sleep, digestion and your immune system.* Yin yoga also stretches your connective tissues and fascia, and with longer hold times, allows your body time to release trapped energy and toxins. Lastly, yin yoga is a physical reminder to "let go", and while allowing your body to release negative energy, encourages your conscious mind to let go of negativity and reflect on positive aspects of your life. Yin Yoga guru Bernie Clark always says we have "issues in our tissues" and I believe this is true; I've often found that stretching my hips can impact me emotionally in profound ways.
Six Simple Yin Yoga Poses I Do At Home
I love yin yoga so much, that I have my own "yoga room" at home. It consists of a yoga mat, an oil diffuser with my favorite essential oils (I like Now Foods 'Peace and Harmony'), some props (like bolsters / pillows, a strap and blocks), some electric candles to set the mood, and finally, some relaxing music. Below are five simple poses that I do at home, holding for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
Pose 1: Butterfly Pose
Sit with your knees out and the soles of your feet together. I put a bolster between the ground and my stomach to make this pose more comfortable.
Pose 2: Child's Pose
Kneel down with your feet together behind your bottom. Stretch your arms forward.
Pose 3: Sphinx Pose
Lay on your belly with your arms and head forward.
Pose 4: Squat Pose
Bend your knees completely while keeping your heels flat on the floor. If you have problems with balance or keeping your heels flat, you can always use a bolster under your bottom if your calves are tight.
Pose 5: Swan Pose
Start laying on your belly and your right leg up so that your ankle is close to your left hip bone. Use bolsters to prop yourself up, or lay the rest of your body down. Don't forget to switch legs when your done, so your body is balanced.
Pose 6: Wide Leg Pose
Sit down and spread your legs wide. I will gradually work my body down to the floor, using bolsters to support me.
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