Unlike yang yoga which focuses on developing muscle, flexibility and stamina; its spiritual brother yin yoga is slower paced and more mindful, with an emphasis in deep release and relaxation.
Yin yoga poses are are all about the connective tissues; the tendons, fasciae, and ligaments.
What makes Yin Yoga different?
If you’re new or unfamiliar with yoga practice, some of the most well known yoga poses belong to a style known as yang yoga. Yan yoga includes styles known as Vinyasa, Vini, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, Kundalini, Power, etc. While many yin yoga poses closely resemble the famous flows and poses of yang yoga, they have different names and are used in different ways.
Yin and yang yoga are based on the Taoist concept of the opposite and complementary principles of nature, and while yang yoga is strength-based, yin yoga is slow and deliberate. The focus is on the release and rejuvenation of the connective tissues which keep your muscles healthy and flexible. It focuses centrally on the Chinese theory of Meridians; or energetic highway in the human body.
The aim of yin yoga practice is increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. It provides a more relaxed and mindful approach to yoga, bringing about awareness of inner silence and contemplating a universal, interconnecting energy.
Is Yin Yoga Good for CrossFit Athletes?
For athletes of all kinds, including CrossFit athletes, yin yoga is a great practice for recovery. During any weight or cardio training, recovery can be neglected, but yin yoga offers a new way of moving that helps release the muscles soreness and help prevent injury and DOMS. It’s excellent for mobility.
Furthermore, the contemplative, meditative, inward reflection provided by yin yoga can help with an athletes mental game; providing the kind of mental toughness needed for some of the hardest workouts.
Is Yin Yoga Good for Beginners?
Yin yoga is an excellent practice for beginners to try. Its relaxed nature means you can settle into each pose at your own pace and in your own time. You usually hold each pose anywhere from 45 seconds to 4 or 5 minutes — possibly even longer.
This gives the connective tissues time to stretch and release, loosening up tight muscles and sore joints brought on by office work or hard workouts. Yin yoga poses are endlessly scalable, so there’s no need to push yourself too hard.
Is Yin Yoga Hard?
While yin yoga poses and flows themselves aren’t as hard as those in say, power yoga, some people may find yin yoga extremely difficult. This is because while you stretch and relax your body, yin yoga encourages you to stretch and relax your mind. Sitting quietly for 5, 10, 15, or 60 minutes can be a huge challenge for our brains, which usually have to be alert and running for an least 8 hours out of the day. Yin yoga poses bring awareness to body and breath, and allow us to disconnect from our daily worries and stresses.
Yin Yoga Poses for Recovery and Reconnection
Here are 10 yin yoga poses to unwind, relax, and massage the connective tissues that are vital for movement, stability and injury prevention. While the practice is meant to be peaceful, you are seeking a state of “comfortable discomfort.”
You want to feel a stretch, and have the ability to relax into it. End the practice if you experience any serious discomfort or pain.
This movement has many names, and pigeon pose is one of them. Draw your right knee toward your right wrist. Bring your right foot in front of your left hip, and slide your left leg back. Depending on your flexibility, you might be unable to come all the way forward and over your knee, but rest on your hands on elbows, which ever is most successful.
Hold this pose for 3-5 minutes on each side. This pose opens up the hips, stretches the hamstrings, and releases tension in the nervous system which may be a cause of sciatica.
Similar to the Cobra, or Bhujangasana, the Sphinx is a more relaxed version of the yang yoga pose, which usually involves full extension of the spine and arms. This movement encourages gentle flexion of the spine.
From lying flat on your stomach, lift your chest up off the floor and rest on your forearms — like the famous Sphinx in Egypt. Keep your lower body and legs pressed into the ground. The pose is to open your chest, and stretches and strengthens the vertebral column. Hold this pose for 4-5 minutes.
3. Yin Yoga Poses: Butterfly
A great pose for opening up the hips, the butterfly (known sometimes as the bound angel) stretches out the joints in your pelvis. Sit with your back straight and bring the soles of your feet together. Push your sitting bones into the floor and lengthen your spine. Your legs should make a diamond shape.
Beginners should sit on a pillow or folded blanket to encourage your pelvis to tilt forward. More advanced yogis can gently fold forward, allowing your spine to softly round and your head to drop towards your feet.
3.5 Reclining Butterfly Pose
Similar to the upright butterfly pose, the reclining butterfly pose does exactly what it says. Lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together, letting gravity push your knees towards the floor. Hold either pose for 3 – 5 minutes. Both of these yin yoga poses should help you get a gentle stretch in your groin and hips.
4. Child’s Pose
A popular relaxation or end pose in both yin and yang yoga practice, child’s pose helps extend the spine and allows your body to completely relax. Start by sitting upright on your knees, and then slowly fold your upper body over your knees, bringing your arms to your sides and relaxing into the stretch in your spine and back.
If you wish to feel even more of a stretch, you can bring your arms up and stretch them out above your head. This will open up the shoulders and stretch the connective tissues all along your upper body. It is highly relaxing, so you should be able to keep this position for 3-5 minutes.
Deceivingly simple, the caterpillar pose is performed by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. You then bring your upper body forward to fold in half, bringing your head to your knees. Your ability to complete this yin yoga pose depends hugely on the flexibility in your back and hamstrings.
Yin yoga poses like the caterpillar may take some time to get totally comfortable with, but this comes with practice so don’t worry if you can only just bring your hips forward.
Hold this post for 30 seconds – 2 minutes, and only bend as far as it’s still comfortable without causing any unnecessary pain.
One of the best yin yoga poses for stretching out the connective tissues around your lats is the Bananasana. This movement is simple and very effective; lying flat on your back with your arms above your head, shuffle your legs to one side. Do the same with your had and arms, so your body is in the shape of a banana. You should feel the stretch all along the side of your body. Hold for 3-5 minutes.
This movement provides lateral flexion of the spine, stretching all the side body tissues and muscles such as the IT band and intercostal muscles.
7. Twisted Root
Also known as a reclining twist, the twisted root helps to release tension in the spine. To do this pose, lie with your back on the floor. Bring your knees up towards your chest, and roll them over to one side, keeping your back and shoulders flat on the floor. Turn your head in the opposite direction to your legs, and bring your arms out either side.
Hold this pose of 3-5 minutes, and feel the release throughout your spine. Don’t forget to complete this movement on both sides.
8. Melting Heart
This yin yoga pose is great for shoulder mobility and counter-acting bad posture and rounding of the spine. You should feel your chest, ribs and front of the shoulders open up.
Starting on all fours, bring your upper body to the ground, keeping your hips in line with your knees and straightening your arms in front of you. You effectively “melt” into the ground, but keep your hips up, letting your spine elongate and stretch. Hold this pose for 3-5 minutes.
9. Yin Yoga Poses: Dragon
One of the most effective poses for stretching out tight hips, the Dragon pose has many different styles and variations depending on your experience and strength. The pose helps stretch the back leg’s hip flexors and quadriceps, opening up the hip and groin.
Starting on all fours or in Downward Dog position, step one foot forward and place it between your hands. Walk this front foot forward until the knee is right above the heel. Slide the back leg backward as far as you can. Keep your hands on either side of the front foot. Feel the stretch in your groin, and bring your upper body up to hold the pose and relax into it. Hold for 30 seconds – 2 minutes or longer, if possible.
10. Happy Baby
One of the more ridiculous-looking yin yoga poses, but one that opens up the inner thighs, hamstrings and groin, and releases knots in the hips and back, the happy baby looks exactly as it sounds.
Lying on your back with your knees to your chest, grab your feet with your hands. Spread your knees apart, shifting them toward your armpits. Flex your heels into your hand and gently rock from side-to-side — just like a happy baby — massaging your spine. Hold this pose for 1-2 minutes, breathing deeply.
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