Temperatures are rising and the days are growing longer. And as the energy of nature expands – waking up and stretching after winter hibernation – our own energy grows and awakens. A yin yoga practice is a gentle way to unfold the layers of dormant energy and embrace the cycle of new growth and renewed awareness.
Yin postures are seated postures that are held for extended periods of time, typically 3 to 5 minutes each. This accesses deeper layers of the fascia to help stretch the connective tissue around the joints.
These 10 poses encourage releasing old layers and encourage you to begin again, and they will help you get into the spirit of spring. TIP: Some of these poses are best practiced with a yoga block or folded blanket.
Easy Seated Pose
Start in a comfortable cross-legged seat. If your hips are tight, place a yoga block or folded blanket under the tailbone. Begin taking slow, deep breaths and work towards evening your inhales and exhales. Continue for 5-10 minutes.
Begin in a kneeling position, tuck the toes under and settle your weight back, drawing the hips toward your heels. Use a blanket folded under the knees if you have sensitive joints. Hold for 2-3 minutes.
This pose can be intense, and you may lessen this by leaning forward and placing your hands on blocks. Be sure to come out of this pose slowly and mindfully, leaning forward onto your hands and gently untucking the toes and drawing the tops of your feet onto the mat. This pose is very energizing and awakening.
Again from a kneeling position, keeping the toes untucked, begin to walk the hands behind you, lifting your knees off the mat to any height that is comfortable while feeling a stretch.
You may place a folded blanket under the knees for support. Lean back into your hands, feeling a moderate to intense stretch through the tops of the feet, the ankles and shins.
Gaze is toward the ceiling, and the neck, shoulders and jaw should be relaxed. Hold 2-3 minutes.
Breathe deeply and evenly into the sensations that you are feeling. To come out of the pose, lower the knees and walk the hands forward into a table-top position.
From table-top, come down onto your elbows and begin to take your knees wide until there is a slight tension in the inner thighs. Draw the hips toward the heels, and keep the ankles aligned with the knees, feet flexed and pointing out, inner ankles towards the floor. Breathe deeply and evenly.
You may find that you wish to walk your hands out further and move your knees wider as you continue to experience this pose. Listen to whatever your body is telling you. Hold 4-6 minutes. To come out, press into the hands and shift forward, carefully stepping your knees in towards the center without dragging. Come to a seated position with legs in front of you for a few breaths.
Begin lying on your back, knees bent, soles of the feet on the mat. Have a yoga block nearby. Press into the soles of the feet and slowly lift the hips towards the ceiling. Slide the block under your sacrum and adjust so that it feels comfortable to rest your weight on the block. Rest the arms at your sides on the mat or on your torso. You can stay here or if it feels comfortable, at the halfway point of the pose you may extend the legs out , heels moving towards the edge of the mat. Hold 4-6 minutes.
To exit, draw the hands by your sides, walk the feet in so that the knees are bent, and press through the soles of the feet to lift the hips. Carefully remove the block and slowly and mindfully roll the spine down onto the mat. This pose should be followed by a counter pose, so be sure to draw the knees in towards the chest and give your shins a gentle hug to release the lower back.
From a seated pose, cross the right thigh over the left, bending at the knee. Remain here or bend the left knee toward the hips if that feels good. Begin to walk the left hand out away from the body and extend the right arm overhead. Keep the gaze toward the floor and neck relaxed. Hold 3-5 minutes. To exit the pose, lift the torso upright and stretch out the legs, hands both down. Switch sides.
Fire Log Pose
Begin in a seated position and draw the right shin parallel to the front of the mat. Stack the left shin on top. This pose can be challenging, you can modify by allowing the left foot and shin to release in front of the right shin, or place a yoga block under the right (top) knee and one under the right (top) ankle for support.
You may stay upright if you are experiencing plenty of sensation there, or, keeping the sitting bones grounded, you may slowly walk your hands forward any distance that is comfortable. Arms can stay straight or you may come to the forearms. Again, listen to your body. Hold 3-4 minutes. To release, walk the hands back and slowly stretch the legs forward and shake them out. Switch sides so that the left leg is on top and repeat.
From a table top position, draw the left knee towards the left wrist and draw the right hip back. Keep the torso upright for several breaths and begin folding forward. You may fold as far as is comfortable, staying on the hands or forearms, or keeping a block under the forehead.
Continue to connect with the breath and release any tension you may experience. Hold 3-4 minutes. To exit this pose, press into your hands and straighten your arms to lift the hips and return to a table top position. Then switch sides and repeat.
Begin lying on your back and draw your knees towards your chest. Cross the right thigh over the left and release both legs to the left towards the mat. Keep the right shoulder on the floor. You may find placing a block or blanket under your legs is more comfortable. Stretch the arms out into a T shape and allow your body to soften into the pose. Hold 4-6 minutes. To exit the pose, engage the core and draw the legs back to center and uncross. Relax for a few breaths and then switch sides and repeat.
Lie on the back and place a folded blanket or bolster under the knees and a folded blanket under the neck or head. Allow the feet to relax and the arms to lie at your sides, palms up.
You may wish to place a towel over the eyes. Close the eyes and surrender completely. Hold for 6-8 minutes or as long as you wish.