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If you are new to Yin Yoga, first things first, Hi!!! We are happy to have you here!
Whether you are a long time practicing yogi trying a new style, or a brand new student, the following 7 pose sequence will provide you with a nice place to get started in Yin.
Yin yoga as a practice is done by holding passive poses for extended periods of time. These asanas are not about increasing strength or endurance. As you hold each pose avoid using muscular effort, instead try to relax, soften, and let gravity do the work. The focus of this practice is more in to the joints. And the goal here is to increase your range of motion and improve your flexibility.
Each pose is typically held for 3-5 minutes to allow your body to open over time, but you can start with a goal of a couple minutes a pose and work your way up to longer holds.
You will want to have 2 blocks and a strap handy, if you don’t yet have props at home a cushion or pillow and a belt will also do the trick.
1. Child’s Pose – From kneeling, bring the big toes together and take the knees apart. The wider the knees, the more intense the sensation you are likely to experience through the inner thighs and inner groin. You don’t want to feel any pinching or compression here, however if you do that is an indication you should narrow your knee positioning. Walk your hands out and bring the forehead to rest either on the mat, on your palms, or on a block. Find your edge, not going so far that it becomes painful or is hard to breathe. The same goes for each of the poses that follow. Let your hips be heavy to the heels, melt your chest to the floor, relax your shoulders and upper back. Breathe in and out, slowly and steady through the nose. After a couple of minutes here, push in to the palms and slowly ease your way back up.
2. Sphinx – Come forward, to lay down on the belly. With your toes untucked, bring your feet about hip width distance apart. Slide your forearms out in front of you, with the elbows and palms about shoulder width distance. Note that in this pose, you control how deep you take the back bend. The further forward you bring your arms, the easier the pose will be. The closer you walk your elbows in towards you, the more intense the pose. Shine the heart and chest forward, while pressing the shoulders down and squeezing the shoulder blades back. Keep the chin parallel to the mat. As mentioned in the previous pose, if there is any pinching or compression, you’ve taken the pose too far and should walk your arms further forward.
3. Baby Dragon – Come up to table top, then step your right foot through between the palms at the front of the mat. Since we will hold here for a while, you may want to fold the mat in to double up the support under the back knee. If you find it hard to keep the fingertips on the floor, bring a block under each hand, at whatever level feels best to you. Keep the front ankle, underneath the knee. Melt your hips forward and down, draw your shoulders away from the ears. Let gravity do the work as you hold here. If you need a break from this deep hip opener, feel free to straighten the front leg and come back to the low lunge. It’s your practice. When you are ready to move on, push in to the right heel, returning to table top, and then switching legs.
4. Seated Forward Fold – Coming to a seat, extend your legs out in front of you and bring feet to hip width. As this is a passive forward fold, it means you should not be pushing or pulling and forcing your way deeper. Instead, you want to let yourself relax and round naturally in to the stretch. Slowly allow the body to find its own way deeper. Feel free to bend your knees if that feels good. Wherever you come to your edge, relax your neck and head. If you are close to the ground, you may want to bring a block or cushion underneath to support the head or chest. If you find yourself tempted to pull yourself further in to the pose, you may opt to turn your palms up to the sky. After a good long hold, be extra slow and careful as you ease your way back up, using your arms and hands to move inch by inch.
5. Simple Seated Twist – Keep the left leg straight out. Bend your right knee and cross the right foot over the top of the left thigh. Grab hold of your right thigh with the your left elbow. Bring your right fingertips down to the ground behind you, and open the chest to the right. Draw the bended thigh in to the belly. Avoid rounding the spine, keep shining your crown up to the sky while also grounding the sit bones down. Keep the shoulders drawing down and away from the ears. Slowly unwind and switch sides.
6. Reclining Leg Stretch – Grab hold of your strap and ease your way down to lay on your back. Bend the knees and bring the soles of your feet to the mat. Hook the strap over the ball of your right foot and extend that leg straight up. Holding lower on the strap will allow your arms to stay nice and relaxed down to the ground. If you want a bit more sensation, you can straight the left leg out to the ground in front of you. Again, if it feels good to keep a bend in the right knee, do so. If your leg begins to shake here, it’s another indication you have gone too far and want to ease off a bit for now. Just be sure to keep ankle, knee and hip in line with one another. Slowly switch legs.
7. Banana Pose – This is a great way to open up the sides of the waist. Remain laying down, bend in to your knees and bring the soles to the ground. Lift the hips, shift them over to the right, and lower back down. Bring your head, shoulders and chest more towards the left. Extend the legs out straight in front of you, and then shift the ankles to the left as well. Reach your arms up over head, holding on to opposite elbows. To deepen the stretch further, cross the right ankle over the left. Feeling a nice opening in the right side, specifically the hip. Stay here for a few minutes, sending your breath down the right side body. Relax in to the pose more with every exhale. After a good amount of time has passed, ease back through center and switch sides.
If you think it would be more useful to practice your first time through by watching and listening along, check out the video below. It’s the full 35 minute practice I shared on YouTube.
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