A Yin Yoga Sequence



Last week I talked about the effects of yoga on our emotional body. It was timely for me. My weekend turned into an emotional one, as I had to say goodbye to my old dog Buddy. He had been sick for some time but it was still hard and very sad.

I felt so grateful for my yoga practice.

Yoga helps me deal with things. For me, Yin yoga is especially effective in creating space to think and let go. It is like chocolate – sweet and comforting. This inward focused practice was exactly what I needed.

Physically, Yin yoga works on the connective tissue (ligaments and fascia) of the body. Long-held postures focus on the joints where compression restricts the flow of chi (energy) and blood to a particular area. Upon release, it flows back in. Emotions are energy in motion and this practice really gets the energy moving.

Today I would like to share a Yin practice with you. The idea is to deepen into each pose gradually and with as little muscle involvement as possible in order to target the deeper connective tissues. Each pose is held for 3-5 minutes. I use a great little app called Insight Timer to time the hold – love the Tibetan singing bowls and bells!

A few things to keep in mind as you go through the practice:

  1. Go into the pose until you reach your edge – where you feel something. It shouldn’t be excruciating but should make you take notice. Your edge isn’t static – it will change as you hold the pose and you may be able go deeper.
  2. The intention is to keep relatively still while in the pose. Make adjustments mindfully when needed but try to stay still and soft throughout.
  3. 3-5 minutes is long for our busy minds. Focus on your breath to help stay present.
  4. Use supports – bolsters, blocks, and blankets – generously!

Yin Sequence (45 minutes – 1 hour)

(Find an illustrated version here)

I have used the Yin pose names in order to differentiate the practice from a yang style but have included the yang style names, which may be more familiar.

I like to set my timer before I get settled into the pose. You might also have soft music playing.

Seiza (Hero’s pose) – Hold 5 minutes

From a kneeling position, sit back on your heels. You may sit on a bolster or block. Close your eyes. Take a few moments to settle in. Bring your awareness into the room. Bring your awareness to your own body. Target area is the quadriceps.

Butterfly (Cobbler’s pose) – Hold 5 minutes

Sitting on the floor, bring the bottoms of your feet together. Inhale and lengthen the spine. Exhale and fold forward. In this version allow your spine to round, creating traction throughout. Support your forehead with a block.

Shoelace (Cow face legs) – Hold 3 minutes each side

Begin by kneeling on all fours (table top) then place one knee behind the other and sit back between the heels. Sit on a bolster or block if hips are tight. Remain upright or fold forward. Target area is the hip.

Sphinx – Hold 5 minutes

Set your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor parallel to each other. Bring your chest and torso forward to move into a gentle backbend. Target area is the front of the torso.

Arm Pigeon – Hold 3 minutes each side

Have a look at this video for a demo.

  • Start on your stomach with your forehead on your palms
  • Outstretch one arm in a t-position, palm down at shoulder height
  • Turn your head in the opposite direction so that your cheek is on the floor
  • Place the palm of your opposite hand on the floor by your chest. Use this hand to gently roll yourself on to your hip
  • Bring your knees towards your chest and open your chest towards the sky
  • For more intensity, open the top knee

Target area is the shoulder and front of torso.

Lateral Dragonfly (Side seated angle) – Hold 3 minutes each side

From a seated position, bring legs apart (90 degrees or wider). Turn your torso to face one knee. Inhale to extend up, exhale gently and fold forward.  I like using a block to support my forehead.

Dragonfly (Wide angle seated forward bend) – Hold 5 minutes

From a seated position, bring legs apart (90 degrees or wider). Inhale and lengthen the spine, exhale and fold forward. This is particularly delicious with a bolster under your torso to lie on as you fold forward.

Twisted Roots (Reclined twist)  – Hold 5 minutes

Put your feet flat on floor, knees bent.  Let your knees gently fall to one side. Place a support under the knees if you like. You can look in the opposite direction if it is comfortable for your neck. This version is more freeform than its yang counterpart. Allow your legs to be bent or straighter and arms outstretched to the side or higher (cactus arms) depending on what you can comfortably hold. Target area is the spine.

Pentacle (Savasana) – Hold 5 minutes

Relax on your back in pentacle, which is like Savasana but star shaped – legs and arms spread wide. Hold for 5 minutes or longer to integrate the practice.

I hope you love this practice as much as I do. Or at least enjoy the change!

Photo courtesy of Christy Collins, Bernie Clark

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