Yin yoga is a yoga style in which you try to relax your body completely and hold the poses for a longer time, usually about 5 minutes. Although this may sound easy, it can be quite challenging. You can feel intense tension as you stretch all tissues in your body. Furthermore, staying in the same pose for a longer time requires a lot of mental strength.
The relaxing effects of yin yoga are mainly caused by the physiological processes that you are stimulating in the postures. Moreover, you learn to keep breathing in a calm and natural rhythm, and to keep observing the sensations in your body and the events in your mind that come and go. Thus, you learn how to stay calm in stressful circumstances.
A few yin poses that you can practice at home are described below.
I do recommend, however, if your have never practiced (yin) yoga before to visit a yoga class to start. The teacher can help you performing the poses correctly and safely; every body is unique and you should know how to prevent injuries. Even if you have been practicing for a long time, stay mindful and careful when you practice at home.
When you want to do a home practice, the following sequence can be a nice start:
1. Butterfly: place your feet together, knees falling to the side. You can place your feet further away from your hips if you feel a lot of tension, although you should feel something. Then bring your chin to your chest and roll down, rounding your back, gently and without using force. You can place your forehead on a cushion, on two fists or on your feet if your head reaches all the way down. In this pose, turn your attention inwards; notice how you are feeling, and keep breathing naturally.
2. Saddle: place a cushion behind your hips and bend your knees, placing you feet at the sides of the cushion. If you can’t do this (like me, I have a knee injury), you can keep your legs straight or let your knees fall to the side (like in buttefly). Roll your back down on the cushion, so you come into a supported back bend. You can let your arms rest by your side or grab your elbows above your head to open your heart even more. Practice full surrender in this pose, letting go of any tension or fear.
3. Reclining twist: lay down on your back, knees above your hips, legs in 90 degrees. Stretch your arms to the side on shoulder height. Try to keep your shoulders on the mat when you drop your knees to one side, growing heavier and heavier. Keep breathing to all parts of your body, and notice where you can create more space. After 5 minutes, change to the other side.
Hold each pose for 5 minutes (set a timer for yourself), so you will have a 20-minute practice. If you combine this with some breathing exercises or meditation before the poses and a full relaxation in savasana at the end, you have a complete yoga practice!