DIVE INTO STILLNESS WITH
YIN YOGA THERAPY
YIN YOGA THERAPY
Within different styles of modern yoga practices, there is a gentler approach that is gaining more popularity each day among yoga practitioners of all backgrounds. That is Yin Yoga. It is taking space in the curriculum of a variety of yoga studios around the globe and becoming a way to balance its practitioners’ hyperactive, fast-paced lifestyles. To have a better understanding of the Yin practice, we should get familiar with the Taoism Yoga philosophy. Taoism yoga explores the ancient Indian traditions and the Chinese Knowledge of energy maps running through the body. In both Indian and Chinese traditions, the subtle energy body influences all bodily systems when it comes to optimal health.
This subtle energy within the body is called Prana by the yogis in India that runs its pathways, the nadis. According to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the same energy is the Qi flowing through the meridians. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists advocate that the Qi should flow smoothly in these meridians for excellent health. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, physical and emotional health go hand in hand. Therefore, when the Qi flow gets deficient or disturbed, imbalances might arise. “When Qi does not flow, pain occurs ”- says the ancient Chinese medical text.
How Yin Yoga works in similar ways to acupuncture:
The concept of Qi is core in acupuncture as a therapy. The acupuncturist will target specific points on the body by using a microneedle. On a physical level, this causes a micro stretch on the tissue influencing glands, organs, and the immune system in general. On the subtle energetic body, acupuncture assists the Qi to flow smoothly throughout the body. In more recent years, science has been studying the effects of acupuncture on psychological health.
Studies have been showing encouraging results on acupuncture as a supplemental therapy for anxiety disorders. Similarly, the gentle and long passive holds of postures in the yin practice has an acupuncture effect. It helps to dissolve stress and is a healthful influence on connective tissues providing more strength, hydration, and mobility to them. The connective tissues are ligaments, tendons, and fascia. They are more resistant and not easy to target. Due to a sedentary lifestyle, the connective tissues lose elasticity that is the reality of many individuals these days. The good news is, the connective tissues are receptive to the stimulus provided in those long-held stretches. Over time it leads the body to more suppleness and increased relaxation response.
On an energetic level, it restores energy stagnations leading to equilibrium from the inside out. The state of stillness achieved in Yin yoga allows the parasympathetic system, often referred to as the rest and digest system, the time to reset. In this mode, it works at its best in recovery, regeneration, and rejuvenation of the body. Our contemporary lives are pretty much yang-driven. Most of us lead very active, stressful, and draining lifestyles. Incorporating yin practices to our routines assists us to dive deep into the body, developing concentration and a meditative state.
“For those who practice not-doing, everything falls into place.”
Lao- Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Understanding the Yin Yang Theory:
The concept of Yin and Yang lies in the observation of the natural world. Ancient civilizations were in tune with the environment around and recognized yin yang in all that is in nature. One way to see yin yang is to reflect on substance and movement. For instance, Earth and Fire are opposing forces. Earth is the substance. Fire is the agent that creates transformation. The ocean is yin since it is the power source of untapped energy. The waves represent activity, movement, and transformation to this substance. Yin and Yang are opposing forces but interdependent at the same time. They seem to be different forces when at its core, they are just different aspects of the same energy that come into play.
In yin yoga, we explore subtle aspects of the yoga asana practice. We are encouraged to tap into the introspective qualities available within us. It is a chance to allow receptivity, self-reflection, and tolerance to unfold in our daily lives. It is not about activity, achieving, and doing more. It is all about cultivating awareness, acceptance, and allow yourself to surrender to the moment.
“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”
The Principles Of A Yin Practice:
(1) Find your Edge
In Yin yoga, the unique practitioner’s body structure is taken into consideration when accessing the postures. A posture that feels good on someone’s body might feel uncomfortable to another individual. The practitioner is encouraged to listen to the body and find the ideal intensity in the pose.
(2) Resolve to be Still
Once you find your edge within the pose, use long deep diaphragmatic breaths allowing the body to relax completely. Do not create resistance or tense the body. Be patient and let gravity pull the body into the pose.
(3) Be Gentle
One of the most important ethical aspects of yoga (Yama) is Ahimsa which means non-violence. Ahimsa involves no harm in thoughts, words, and actions.
Be respectful to your body and let go of negative body image. There is no ideal shape since each body structure is unique. In yin, we challenge the body but do not push over our limits.
Finally, surrender to time and keep total absorption in the breath. The long holds of postures may feel uncomfortable at first. The breathwork is a toll to overcome the discomfort. Let go of control and judgment and contemplate your experience.
Yin Yoga Daily Routine
A well-rounded yin practice will target all major joints in the body. Those are simple yin postures that you can do daily to relieve stress and treat achy spots. You can hold these poses anywhere from two to five minutes or even longer if it feels good on your body. Remember to be gentle to your body, breath throughout the process, and come out of the poses slowly.
(1) The Butterfly Pose
The butterfly pose is a potent stretch for the groin area and also the lower back. It helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, besides being beneficial to the female reproductive system. For beginners, it might be necessary to elevate the hips by sitting on a pillow or cushion. To enter into the pose, join the soles of the feet together close to the groin area. Gently fold forward from the hips, allowing the back to round slightly. The hands can rest on the feet or the floor in front of you.
(2) The Shoelace Pose
This one may be a challenge if your hips are stiff but worth it to give it a try. The Shoelace pose targets the glutes and is a deep outer hip stretch.
On hands and knees (the tabletop pose), slide one knee behind the other and ground the seat bones between your heels. Stack one knee on top of the other and slide the feet away from the body.
Elevating the hips by sitting on a bolster may help the pose work for your body type.
You can stay in this position with the spine straight or tilt the torso forward to your degree.
(3) The Straddle Pose
This pose targets the hips and groins. Like previous postures, you might need to elevate the hips.
From a seated position, spread the legs wide apart and keep the feet flexed or pointed.
Start bending forward from the hip joint. When you feel you have reached your edge, rest the weight on the palms or forearms.
If there is stiffness in your legs, bend the knees and place pillows under them.
To exit the pose safely, push the floor with the palms. Come back up slowly and gently.
(4) The Sphinx Pose
The Sphinx Pose is a mild backbend, opens the front of the chest, and gives gentle compression to the lower spine.
The sphinx pose is also a spinal extension that counterbalances our everyday unhealthy posture patterns. Most people spend their days sitting in an office desk, working on computers, or even hours driving in a flexed (bending forward) spine position that leads to lower back pain.
Lie down on your stomach and come upon the forearms. Stack the shoulders on top of the elbows aiming the chest forward.
Notice the sensations in your lower back, if you feel discomfort, move the elbows slightly in front of the body.
This pose prepares the spine for our following backbend of this sequence- Seal pose.
(5) The Seal Pose
From the previous pose, sphinx, place the palms on the ground a few inches of the shoulders and extend the arms. A good tip is to balance the weight evenly on both palms and micro bend the elbows to protect it.
The seal pose offers a more intense compression on the lumbar spine. If this backbend feels too deep on your body, practice holding the sphinx pose for longer.
(6) The Swan Pose
From placing hands and knees on the floor (tabletop pose), slide the right knee in between the palms. Lean-to the right and adjust the knee as needed.
If there is no pain or discomfort, keep flexing the right foot and move it forward. In case the knee position causes discomfort, bring the feet closer to the body.
Bring the body to the center and spread the weight evenly. Keep sliding the back knee backward until you feel the right seat bone close to the ground.
One alternative to make the pose more accessible is to place a pillow under the chest and under the right hip too.
When you settle into this position, bring the torso forward to rest. If it is your first time in the swan pose, it might take some trials and errors until you get it right. Be gentle and adjust as needed.
This pose is a great hip opener and provides gentle compression to the lower back.
(7) The Caterpillar Pose
In the Hatha Yoga tradition, this pose is also called Paschimottanasana, which is an intense forward bend. It stretches all the muscles in the back body, assists with digestion, and relieves menstrual pain.
From a seated position with the legs extended in front of the body, tilt forward from the hips. Allow the whole back body to relax in this pose.
If the back body or the hamstrings are tight, try to elevate the hips by sitting on a pillow. For very tight hamstrings, bend the knees as much as needed and lengthen the spine.
It is not about touching the toes. The aim here is to tilt from the pelvis and lengthen the spine.
Let the breath be your guide and an anchor throughout your practice. Finish the Yin practice in Shavasana (the Corpse Pose) to cool down. Simply lay down on the floor with the eyes closed and palms facing up. Keep observing the flow of your breath and the effects of the practice on your body.
Stay in Shavanasana as much as you like savoring this moment of stillness. Remember that there is nothing to do and nowhere to go.
At Royal Wellness, our teachers tailor the practice to match your needs. We believe and commit to your uniqueness. We strive to provide you a bespoke and remarkable experience.
Yin yoga is a gentle, accessible practice to everyone who wishes a supple body and a tranquil mind.
Take a moment to pause and slow down. Discover the sweetness of the yin world within you by taking care of your body and mind.
As American author Jim Roth says, “It is the only place you have to live.”
The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga- The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark, 2012