In contrast to mainstream “yang” yoga styles such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram and Power, Yin yoga is grounded in a functional approach that targets the connective tissues in the body.
Students are asked to find their first edge in a pose, become still, and hold it for a “long” period of time (around 2-8 minutes). This practice can help increase flexibility and mobility if done in a controlled setting.
As an avid practitioner of Ashtanga and Power Vinyasa, I have noticed that my practice benefits greatly from a regular Yin practice. For those who are new to Yin, I encourage you to read more about the practice or take a few classes before trying this sequence. As always, come out of the pose if you feel pain or sharp/tingling sensations.
The sequence below is one that I use to increase flexibility in my hips and knees in order to maintain Padmasana (lotus pose). The inspiration behind this practice came from talking to my yoga students about ways to improve flexibility in the asana. If you are not interested in practicing Padmasana, your hips and knees can certainly still benefit from this sequence. Since this pose requires a high level of external rotation of the hips, the poses below emphasize these actions in the legs.
On that note, when you practice these postures, be mindful of where you experience tension and compression and always ask yourself, “what is stopping me from going deeper in this pose?” Every body is unique, and some hip sockets and femurs do not allow for such an extreme degree of external rotation, so don’t be discouraged if after weeks, months or years of practice you still struggle to find the classic “full” expression of the pose.
The great thing about Yin is that what matters is how the pose feels, and not necessarily what it looks like.
1. Pranayama (5 minutes)
2. Square (3 minutes each side; 6 minutes total)
Option for easy cross-legged pose (right ankle in front of left—3 minutes, left ankle in front of right; 3 minutes opposite; 6 minutes total)
3. Butterfly (5 minutes)
4. Extended butterfly (5 minutes)
The diamond shape of this posture places more stress on the knees than the “classic” butterfly pose. If you feel dull pain in your knees, come out of the pose.
5. Squat (2 minutes)
6. Dangling (2 minutes)
Dangling is the yin counterpart to Uttanasana, standing forward fold. From squat, place yours hands on the floor in front of you and lift your hips until your hamstrings reach your appropriate edge. You can clasp opposite elbows, or walk your hands forward for different sensations.
Dangling will help release the lower back and hips and serves as an excellent counterpose to Squat.
7. Squat (2 minutes)
8. Half Saddle (2 minutes each side; 4 minutes total)
From Dandasana, keep your left leg extended in front of you as you bend the right leg so that your foot rests on the ground. Slide the right foot back to rest on the outside of your right glute in half hero’s pose (Ardha Vajrasana). Walk your hands back until you feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Repeat on the second side.
9. Saddle (5 minutes)
Saddle is the yin version of “fixed firm” pose or Supta Vajrasana. Starting from hero pose, sit between your heels and start to walk your hands back. Pause when you reach your first edge and come out if you feel too much pressure in your knees. As an alternative, you can try half-saddle.
10. Pigeon (5 minutes each side; 10 minutes total)
11. Shoelace (3 minutes each side; 6 minutes total)
Shoelace is the yin counterpart of “cowface pose” or Gomukhasana. From Dandasana, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. For the first side, slide your left foot under your right leg so that your left foot rests on your outer right leg. Then, stack your right leg on top of the left so that the knees are in alignment. If this is comfortable on your hips, then fold forward. Repeat on the second side.
This pose will help open the lower back, hips, and knees.
12. Supported butterfly (5 minutes)
13. Savasana (5-10 minutes)
Author: Caity Placek
Image: distelfliege/Flickr; author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron