If you’re in need of some Yin Yoga, but don’t feel like doing much more than lying down, this is the sequence for you. The entire practice is done on your back, or supine position. It’s about as Yin as Yin Yoga can get, with seamless transitions from one posture to the next and minimal effort.
Give it a try and let us know how it goes!
How to Practice
There are four main principles of Yin Yoga. If you’re new to Yin Yoga, please read through these principles a few times before beginning.
The first principle of Yin Yoga is to come into a posture and play the edge of appropriate sensation. Upon entering the pose, begin at your first edge of resistance. From that mild edge of sensation, observe what is being felt. Sensation should be no more than a mild and moderate sensation of stretch or pressure. Nothing in the range of sharp, stabbing, aggressive sensation should be tolerated. If you experience strong discomfort or pain, please back off from the pose, re-evaluate your alignment, and/or come out of the pose entirely.
The second principle of Yin Yoga is to relax the muscles in the area you’re intending to target. With the muscles relatively relaxed, the stress will transfer to the dense connective tissues in and around that specific region. You may find that there are multiple target areas within one pose, and that’s completely normal. The targeted experience may also change and shift throughout the duration of the hold.
The third principle of Yin Yoga is to remain relatively still for a relatively longer period of time. Postures can be held anywhere from three to six (or more) minutes, but start with a time frame that makes sense for you, honoring the previous principles. Keep in mind, you are not fixed to a single spot for the duration of the pose. It is important to change the angle or depth of the pose to accommodate for any release, or it is important to back away from an edge of sensation that becomes too intense. Remaining relatively still in a pose does not supersede the importance of skillfully playing your edge.
Lastly, the fourth principle of Yin Yoga is to enter and exit all poses slowly. Be sure to release each pose with care. There will likely be a sense of fragility in the area of the body that received the gentle stress of the Yin postures. Move slowly and mindfully as you transition out of the poses.
Practice the postures sequentially as listed, allowing for 3-6 minutes in each pose. Be certain to honor the principles of the practice, and release sooner or change the angle of the pose if you experience pain or sharp sensations. The descriptions for each pose are meant to serve as a starting suggestion. Feel free to creatively modify the basic idea, and be sure to give yourself at least 1-2 minutes between postures to rest while observing the effects.
Disclaimer: Not all yoga poses are suitable for all people. Always consult your health care provider and obtain full medical clearance before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice or direct guidance of a qualified yoga instructor.
The Postures (in detail):
1. Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor, and cross your right ankle over the left knee. Draw the legs toward the chest, holding onto the back of the thigh or front of the shin. Hold for 3-6 minutes, then repeat on the second side.
- TARGET AREA: Outer hip. TIP: keep the foot on the ground if drawing the legs in towards the torso creates too much discomfort in the hips or back.
2. Supported Bridge
Supported Bridge: Begin on your back with the knees bent, lift the hips and place a block, cushion or blanket underneath the sacrum. You can keep the knees bent and feet on the floor, or you can try straightening one or both legs. Hold for 3-5 minutes
- TARGET AREA: Lumbar spine. TIP: Experiment with varying arm positions, either down by your side, resting on the abdomen, or raised overhead.
3. Stirrup/Knee Hug
Stirrup/Knee Hug: From your back, draw the knees toward your chest. Stay with the knee hug, or collect feet, taking the thighs apart any amount. The lower legs can be at any angle that feels appropriate. Hold for 3-6 minutes.
- TARGET AREA: Hips/Spine. TIP: If catching the feet proves to be difficult, hold the backs of the thighs or shins.
4. Spinal Twist
Spinal Twist: Lying on your back, draw your knees into your chest and roll to your right side. Peel the left arm open, allowing the upper body to rest toward the floor, arm extended to the left. Hold for 3-6 minutes (repeat other side).
- TARGET AREAS: Spine, Chest/Arms. TIP: Explore variations of the arms, and turn of the head to influence other potential target areas of the upper body.
Bananasana: From your back, bend your knees and plant the feet to the floor. Pick up the hips and move them to the right side of your mat, keeping the sacrum in contact with the floor. Straighten the legs toward the left corner of the mat, and shift the upper body toward the left, creating a “banana-like” shape with the body. Raise the arms overhead, elbows bent or straight, with option of clasping wrists or forearms. Hold for 3-6 minutes (repeat other side).
- TARGET AREA: Side body, especially the side waist. TIP: explore crossing the ankles – inner ankle over outer or outer ankle over inner – and determine which, if any, is preferred based on what you feel in the target area.
Pentacle: Conclude your practice with at least 8-10 minutes of complete rest and observe the resonance throughout your body. Pentacle pose allows the body to be fully relaxed with the arms raised overhead and legs wider than the hips. Allow yourself to let go of any muscular effort in the body.
- TIP: if raising the arms overhead is problematic for the shoulders, bring the arms alongside the body.