Yin Yoga takes patience and kindness, for yourself. In the practice of yin yoga, you learn to quiet the mind and listen to the body. It becomes a way to mindfully observe your experiences in the present moment. I like to call this experience 'JOYFUL DISCOMFORT'. Discomfort is not something we need to always avoid, instead try practicing listening to it. What can you learn from it?
The following are some of my favourite yin yoga poses to find my 'joyful discomfort'.
1. Cat Pulling It's Tail
I love this pose because it stretches so many things at the same time. Depending on the day I feel it different areas of the body. It's challenging but you can adjust it by placing your head and chest on the floor for those days when you need more 'joy' and less 'discomfort'.
-Stretches the upper quads and hamstrings.
- Teaches us to surrender in the moment.
- Releases tension in the hips, lower back and pelvis.
- Great for sciatica.
- Stretches/ strengthens abdominal muscles.
- Good for liver, kidneys, stomach and spleen.
Begin laying on your stomach, with your head resting on your hands. Turn your head to the right, resting on your left cheek. Bend your right knee and externally rotate your hip, so your inner knee/thigh are rest on the floor. This is a great place to rest on days when your lower back is feeling tight and you want a more restorative practice.
To go a bit deeper you can come up to your forearms like you would in sphinx pose. Or bend your left knee straight back and hold your left foot with your right hand or a strap.
Want to go even deeper combine all these options. Lift up onto your left forearm, use your right hand on the back of your right hip first to lengthen out of the lower back and then gently twist to the right. Now you can hold your left foot or use a strap.
Remember to breathe and ease into the pose so you can stay in 'joyful discomfort'. Repeat on the second side.
Butterfly in yin yoga is a great forward fold variation. I like to take my feet further away from my pelvis so my legs create a diamond shape. This allows my hips to release so I can fold deeper.
-Stimulates abdominal organs like the ovaries, bladder and kidneys.
- Stretches the inner thigh/adductors, groin, knees.
- Relieves symptoms of mild stress, menstruation and menopause.
- Helps relax and lengthen the pelvic floor, releasing tension in the pelvis, hips and lower back.
There are many great ways to practice this pose. For the purpose of yin yoga its nice to have some props handy like block, a blanket and a bolster. Start seated in easy pose (cross-legged on a folded blanket or towel. Sit towards the front edge so that your sitz bones are slightly behind you and the pelvis wants to tip forward in an anterior tilt.
Uncross the legs and bring the bottoms of the feet together. You may want to support the knees and hips by placing blocks or rolled blankets/towels under your thighs (or a bolster). With the pelvis tilted forward slowly allow the spine to fold forward towards your toes. You may want to support the head here with a bolster so you can relax the neck and shoulders as well. Begin with about 30 seconds and gradually build your time up from there.
One of my all time favourite stretches, even before I started practicing yoga. It feels great in the hips, legs and lower back.
-Opens groin, hips and hamstrings.
-Stimulates liver, spleen, kidneys and urinary bladder meridians.
-Lengthens the connective tissues in the pelvis, releasing tension in the deep core muscles, including the pelvic floor.
-Releases the muscles along the spine, including neck and shoulder tension.
- Begin sitting on a folded blanket or towel once again to support the forward tilt of the pelvis with the sitz bones slightly behind. Extend one or both legs out to your natural range of motion. In yin yoga we try not to worry too much about alignment because we want to let the body naturally relax into the pose. Bring your hands behind the hips to ensure the pelvis tilts forward and the spine extends. If you can maintain this position in the pelvis bring our hands to the floor in front of you. And you might want to grab a bolster or chair to rest your head on so you can relax and breathe.
This one, I've learned to love. It didn't start off that way. I always avoided back bends because they aggravated my lower back. But once I learned how to make my body find space in them they quickly became a new favourite.
-Stretches the abdomen.
- Improves digestion.