If you’ve struggled with post-workout soreness, you’ve likely incorporated yoga into your exercise routine to help stretch and strengthen tired muscles. But if you’re injured, or have scar tissue buildup, you might benefit more from a Yin Yoga practice. Never heard of it? Read on for a breakdown of the practice, its benefits, plus a few effective poses you can incorporate into your routine.
WHAT IS YIN?
Yin is a slow yoga practice in which a series of relaxed poses are held for much longer periods of time, usually several minutes.
HOW DOES IT HELP?
Your bones and muscles are held in place by a connective tissue called fascia. You can think of fascia sort of like butter: when your muscles are “cold” after long periods of inactivity, your fascia feels stiff, but when your muscles are “warm,” your fascia allows you to move more fluidly and comfortably. Yin Yoga gently and slowly stretches your fascia, which lengthens and strengthens it, and in turn increases your flexibility and mobility, and protects your joints and muscles from injury.
Yin, like any yoga practice, is also clinically proven to increase circulation and decrease stress levels. Part of this is due to focused breathing through the nose, which boosts vasodilation and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
HOW TO PRACTICE
Here are a few poses to get you started. Hold each pose for a minimum of two minutes, as this is how much time you need to adequately warm up and stretch your fascia. You should feel a “comfortable discomfort” similar to stretching, but poses should not be painful. If you experience pain, adjust the pose until comfortable. Be sure to focus on your breath: take deep, measured breaths in and out through the nose. If it helps you to breathe on a count, you can start by breathing in on a count of three, and out on a count of six until you’ve established a natural rhythm.
From a seated position, press the soles of your feet together and slide them forward, creating a diamond shape with your legs. Then, fold forward and allow your head to rest on (or hang toward) your feet. Your spine should be rounded and relaxed. You can also rest your elbows on the ground to support your head if you can’t rest it on your feet.
targets thighs, hips, and spine
From a hands-and-knees position, gradually “melt” the center of your chest towards the ground while sliding your hands forward.
targets shoulders, chest, thoracic spine, neck, and lower back
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Lift your hips high enough to slide a yoga block or firm, folded pillow under your pelvis/sacrum (not the low back).
Targets sacrum, shoulders, and upper body
Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Cross your right knee over your left, shift your hips slightly to the right, and then let your legs “fall” to your left side as you stretch out your right arm. Your right shoulder and left leg should be resting on the ground, gently stretching your spine.
Targets spine, pelvis, and upper body