Inhale for five counts. Exhale for seven. Then repeat.
Already feeling calmer, right? Deep breathing techniques are a large part of yin yoga, a type of yoga that focuses on gentle movement.
More than 300 million people worldwide practice yoga. Many choose at least one of the eleven major types to specialize in. So what separates yin yoga from the rest? In this guide, we break down how yin yoga can benefit you.
What Is Yin Yoga?
Let’s dive into the basics of understanding yin yoga. More rigorous yoga practices, such as hatha yoga or ashtanga, raise the heartbeat. They flow from one pose to the next, building strength and endurance.
Breathing And Meditation
Yin yoga does the opposite. It focuses on movements that prepare the practitioner for long periods of meditation. That means its main emphasis is on creating a relaxed, peaceful state.
Yin yoga poses are about holding a stretch and breathing into any areas of muscle tension. Those who try yin yoga will find many poses that allow them to sit or lay down. These poses are often held for minutes at a time, versus thirty seconds or less in some forms of yang yoga.
Releasing Physical And Emotional Tension
The main purpose of yin yoga is to allow the body time to release muscles it may be clenching. The long poses also allow for emotional release as well. When students discover their physical tension, they start to notice their emotional tension, too.
How To Practice Yin Yoga
Yin yoga starts with seated breathing. Take a seat in a lotus position (or half-lotus if that’s more comfortable). Rest your hands, palms up, on your knees.
Start By Breathing
For the first few minutes, students should only focus on their breathing. Keeping the spine straight is the only requirement. Otherwise, it’s about entering a relaxed space and focusing the mind on your breathing.
As you move into poses, our best yin yoga tips are not to push your body too far at the start and ease into it. Yin yoga students should never stretch to the point of pain. Move forward into each pose until you start to feel resistance, then stop.
Child’s Pose Or Melting Heart
First, get into a tabletop position. Take a few moments to move your spine from side to side and feel where you may be holding tension in your back. Then, press your body back so that your chest comes to rest near the floor in a melting heart or child’s pose.
Hold that pose for three to five minutes. Feel a stretch throughout your arms and into your shoulders. Your upper and lower back should start to relax as you sink lower into the pose.
From there, you can move into a variety of other poses, from caterpillar pose to reclining twist pose. Caterpillar pose invites you to sit up and extend your legs straight out in front of you.
Slowly and gently, lean forward at the hips until you feel resistance in the back of your legs. Your knees may bend slightly. Linger here for a few minutes without rounding or hyperextending your spine.
Then, advance into the butterfly pose. Bring the bottoms of your feet together and pull them in toward you. Your knees should be out to the side, creating a diamond shape.
From there, lean forward as you did in the caterpillar pose. You’ll feel a stretch through your inner thighs and into your hips. Stay there for three to five minutes.
Yin Yoga Benefits
Try this training technique for yourself, moving slowly from pose to pose. Always focus on your breathing and on relaxing your muscles. Soon, you’ll be reaping these mental and physical benefits of yin yoga.
Relaxation is one of the most oft-cited benefits of practicing yin yoga. Because yin is less strenuous and fast-paced, it allows its students to relax into every pose.
You’re going to spend much of your practice simply breathing into the tight areas of your body. With 3-5 minutes spent in each hold, you encourage your muscles to adapt to the postures and lengthen.
So try yin yoga if you’re feeling a lot of tension in your back or shoulders. Often, sitting in the same position day in and day out can contribute to muscle tension. Sometimes, we clench muscles in our neck and jaw out of stress, too.
A side-effect of all that muscle relaxation is reduced stress. You may show up to your mat with a whole list of things you’d rather be, or need to be, doing. But once you’re in your first pose, yin yoga encourages you to focus on the moment.
In fact, deep breathing is linked to lower stress levels. When you breathe deeply and fully during yoga, you’re mimicking the way you breathe when you sleep. This tells your body you’re in a calm state.
Balances The Body
As you’re holding stretches for long periods of time, your muscles become more limber. Yin yoga has been known to improve flexibility. Each time you come to the mat, you’ll be able to stretch a little bit further into each pose.
It’s also a great option for students who want to improve circulation and joint mobility. Deep breathing and slow movement allow more oxygen to get to the muscles. This can help improve blood flow.
And as your muscles loosen, they put less stress on connective joints. You may find that your yin yoga practice helps that crick in your knee or the tenderness in your elbow.
Try Yin Yoga
Use this yin yoga guide to get you started in practicing one of the most relaxing forms of yoga. If you’re new to yoga in general, yin is a great introduction. It offers you a way to get your feet wet without having to dive into the deep end.
If you want a way to reduce your stress and improve the way your body moves, try yin yoga. And for more on the benefits of specific types of exercise, visit our Health section.