It's no secret that a lot of people have picked up yoga over the last few decades. But if you are new to the world of yoga, the variety of styles and amount of trends out there might be overwhelming. There's hot yoga, aerial yoga, and there's even cat yoga! But like a lot of the methods that have become popular of late in big cities around the globe. So what makes Yin yoga different from all the other yoga styles out there?
New to yoga? Here's how to start yoga.
Yin yoga: An introduction
People come to this practice for a variety of reasons. Some want to restore a full range of motion, some want to quiet their mind, and some are avid yogis who want to make sure they try every approach to yoga available. When it comes to Yin yoga, we've put together everything you need to know, as well as some great poses to get you started.
What is Yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga practice that involves holding poses for roughly five minutes. Beginners may hold poses for shorter periods and work their way up, but experienced Yin yogis will often hold each pose for up to five minutes. This yoga style doesn't require any equipment and can be done anytime, and anywhere you have a mat or a little space to practice.
The name of this practice originates in Taoist notion of Yin and Yang, words you've probably heard before. Yin and Yang form two polarities of energy; both necessary for a balanced life. Yin is passive and stable, while Yang is active and dynamic. The practice began as a way to meet the need for balance between these two ways of living; as humans, we tend to approach living with too much of one or the other. Some credit the recent popularity of this style of yoga with people realizing that their high-stress, demanding lifestyles are unsustainable without taking the time to invest in their wellbeing with slower, more mindful routines.
Yin yoga poses
Yin yoga poses are passive, and produce little active strain on muscles. They are not intended to strengthen and challenge the physical body, but stretch out, restore and unwind areas of stress and tension in the body and mind. These passive yoga poses can be done as solely part of a restorative yoga practice or as a way to complement yang practices that are more active, twinning flexibility and strength.
Come into the sphinx pose by laying on your stomach and propping up your elbows in alignment with your shoulders. Look straight ahead and don't strain your shoulder, back or neck muscles trying to reach up, just relax into the pose and spend up to 5 minutes letting your body loosen, and your mind wander. You will feel a mild sensation in your lower back. If you ever feel an uncomfortable strain there, leave the pose.
Forward fold pose
Sit on your mat, and stretch your legs out straight in front of you. Consciously let any tension in your legs or spine unwind as you lean forward for up to five minutes. There is no need to bend all the way forward, instead, set up a few cushions to rest your head onto, and let your body dictate how far you take the pose. You will feel this pose in your hamstrings and lower back, but, as with all poses here, do not strain, passively allow gravity to do all the work.
Sit in a cross-legged position on the mat. Draw your bent legs out wider until your feet touch, and press them together. Lean forward as far as is comfortable or prop cushions under your knees for support as you bend forward. You will feel this pose in your back, hips, and quads. Only go as far as is comfortable, and remain in the pose for up to five minutes.
Come first into a tabletop position. Connect with the floor via your hands and knees. Form a table with your body, with your hips directly above your knees and your shoulders directly above your wrists. Then, move into swan by placing your right knee forward to meet your hands, and your right ankle under you, just in front of your hip. Slide your left leg out straight back behind you. Rest down into this pose, as far as is comfortable, for up to five minutes. You can prop your hip up with cushions if more comfortable. Lean your torso forward over your bent knee and rest your forehead on the mat or cushions. You will feel this pose in your quads and hips, as well as your lower back. Repeat swan pose on your left side to balance out your body.
Upward swan pose
You can rest after swan pose for as long as you like, or you can continue into upward swan pose right away. Whenever you are ready, first come to swan pose as described above, and then straighten your torso up and let your arms stabilize you by your sides. You can use cushions or your fingertips/knuckles to reach the floor here, whichever is most comfortable. Stay in the pose for up to five minutes, and repeat using the opposite leg.
This pose is common across yin and yang yogas, and involves laying on your back on a mat or patch of floor. Move your arms and legs to rest straight out, your arms as close to your sides as you like, your legs as turned out as is comfortable. Look straight up to your ceiling or close your eyes and let your mind wander for up to 5 minutes. This pose is wonderful for a first or last pose as it is often used in warming up or cooling down.
Health benefits of Yin yoga poses
Yin yoga poses have diverse health benefits, including:
Reducing mental and physical stress and improving overall psychological health according to a recent study
Allowing for mindful meditation due to the slow pace of the practice
Helping to balance and enhance the body's flow of energy
Making space for stillness, a rare benefit in today's busy, fast-paced world
Lowering blood pressure according to a recent study
Rounding out other forms of yang yoga practices
Facilitating more self-awareness and self-esteem.
Should you practice Yin yoga?
The wonderful thing about most forms of yoga is that anyone can do it: anytime, anywhere. This is no exception, as it requires no equipment (apart from a cushion) and no need to warm up or cool down. The benefits of this practice are countless and ripple out into every part of your life. If you take the time to listen to your body and help it unwind, the results can be staggering. Indeed, there is a reason numerous studies are being conducted to understand the phenomenon and try to apply it to people struggling with stress and anxiety, among other psychological challenges.
But being healthy isn't just about putting out proverbial fires when physical/mental challenges when they arise. Preemptive healthy habits and lifestyle choices are preventative: they maintain your wellness, and in turn, your lifestyle, allowing you to live a fulfilling, meaningful life. Curious about other styles? Here are 8 different types of yoga to get you started.