Yoga is all about balance. As a result, relaxation and recovery are held in high regard.
That’s where Yin Yoga comes in!
Yin Yoga is a gentle, slow-paced practice that takes the importance of stillness and calm to the next level.
Whether you want something to counterbalance your Hatha lessons or to simply accompany your daily routine, Yin Yoga is a great practice for beginners.
- It’s slow-paced. Joining a yoga class can be very overwhelming for a new person. Not only is it a physical challenge, but it’s also a lot of new information to process and absorb. Yin Yoga is a great place to start because it is a much slower class compared to the other styles. It means you won’t have to play catch-up for the majority of the session. Even better, your body won’t be aching the next day!
- It makes space for meditation. As a novice, it can be difficult to keep up with the meditation practice while you’re simultaneously trying to perform physical asanas. Yin Yoga allows the practitioner to hold the poses for a while. In the meantime, you can focus on your breathing and inner thoughts. It’s a great combination of physical and emotional work!
- It encourages the use of props. Arguably, you could add props to almost any type of yoga practice. However, in Yin yoga, it is both expected and encouraged. Yin Yoga teachers will usually tell you how you can use props and give you time to modify your poses.
- It’s a challenge on an entirely different level. Beginners with high levels of physical fitness are often reluctant to try Yin Yoga because they think it will not be challenging enough. On the contrary, Yin provides a great challenge, just not in the way you would expect. It’s a practice that forces you to slow down and embrace the stillness. It teaches you to respect your body’s limits and explore your mind. For many people, this journey of self-discovery is much more challenging than arm balances and inversions.
Before immersing yourself in this wonderful practice, knowing what to expect from a Yin Yoga practice is important.
Typical Yin Yoga Sequence
Yin is a calming, passive practice. Therefore, all the poses included in a Yin Yoga sequence are grounded in some way. A Yin session consists of reclined (supine), seated, kneeling, and prone poses. In some cases, a pose may be adapted to a more passive variation, e.g., a block is added under the seat in Garland Pose (Malasana) to create grounding contact.
A Yin Yoga class is usually between 60 and 90 minutes long. This allows the practitioners to get the most out of each pose. Like the rest of the asanas in a Yin sequence, the duration of Savasana at the end is also extended.
Cool Muscles, Warm Clothes
A good rule of thumb is to avoid strenuous activity before or after a Yin class. Traditionally, Yin is practiced with muscles in a cool, neutral state. The room where the practice takes place should also be on the cooler side. To keep yourself comfortable, you could opt for warmer clothes like full-length leggings, long-sleeved shirts, and wool socks.
Forget diamonds and dogs! In Yin, your best friends are props.
Don’t be shy to use as many different props as you need. It’s about enabling your body to relax and settle into each pose. The longer you practice, the more ways you will learn to incorporate yoga props into your routine.
As well as using props specifically manufactured for yoga practice (e.g., blocks, bolsters, straps), you can use ordinary household items such as blankets, cushions, or an eye mask to block the light.
Each pose in a Yin practice is held for an extended period of time. While seasoned practitioners might hold a pose for 3-5 minutes, it takes some time for the body to get used to this practice. Therefore, it’s best to start with 60-90 second holds for each asana. Over time, you can build up your ability to stay still without straining any muscles and increase the length of the hold.
Finding Your Edge
The understanding and respectful approach to your limits set Yin Yoga apart from the rest. When you enter the pose, you should strive for a sweet spot where you can feel some resistance without any negative sensation. Poses are performed using passive effort. It’s all about using gravity to your advantage while remaining patient. This protects your muscle tissue, ligaments, and nerves.
Avoid forcing yourself into a pose. Instead, resolve to be still and have patience. The more you learn to control your breath and to “give in,” the deeper your poses will become.
If you want to try Yin for the first time, this simple, beginner-friendly Yin Yoga practice is a great place to start. Grab your yoga mat and any props you have on hand, and let’s get started!
Aim for holding each pose for 60-90 seconds. If necessary, exit the pose early. Remember, if the pose is asymmetrical, you should aim to perform it for the same amount of time on each side.
Once you’re established in a yoga pose, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing.
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged seat. Lengthen your spine into an effortless upright position. Rest your hands on your knees. Bring your mental focus to your hips, allowing them to soften and relax. Use this time to ground yourself and tune into your practice. Try to keep your thoughts neutral and free of judgment.
Add props: if staying upright is an issue, elevate your seat with a block, cushion, or folded blanket.
Butterfly/Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Keeping your back long, uncross your shins and ankles. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall away from each other. Feel free to experiment with the distance between your heels and your groin. Grab hold of your feet or ankles. On an exhale, move your upper body towards the floor, steadily sinking into a forward bend. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed.
Add props: if your hips feel tense, add a block or a rolled-up blanket underneath each knee. This will also stop your hips from rotating too far, especially if you’re hypermobile. If necessary, you can rest your forehead on a block or a cushion positioned on top of your feet or ankles.
Shoelace/Half Cow Face Pose (Ardha Gomukhasana)
Carefully roll up from your Butterfly Pose and let go of your feet. Extend your legs forward. Cross your right leg over the left, shifting the right foot towards the left hip. Once established, we can start leaning forward into a fold. Rest your palms flat on the ground next to your extended leg. Lower your head towards your shin. Watch out for unpleasant sensations in your hip, knee, and lower back. To switch over to the other side, carefully lift your upper body and change the leg position.
Add props: you’re welcome to add a block or cushion to rest your head on.
Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
From a seated position, roll onto your belly. You can gently wiggle your hips to help them settle on the floor. Plant your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and align your forearms parallel to each other. Spread your fingers but keep your hands relaxed. Lift your head gently and enjoy the backbend. Keep your belly soft to accommodate slow, full breaths. Avoid sinking into your shoulders.
Add props: if you find the floor too harsh on your elbows, add an extra yoga mat or a folded blanket to cushion the impact on your joints.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
From Sphinx Pose, gently press into your hands and push your elbows off the ground. Open your heart and keep focusing on your breaths. If this pose is too challenging for you, you can shorten the duration or skip it altogether.
Add props: to help you take some of the weight off your hands and shoulders, add a block or a rolled-up blanket under your ribs. You can also use a yoga towel to stop your hands from slipping forward.
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
To help release tension from your back after a backbend, roll over onto a supine position. Pull your knees towards your chest. Make space between your knees as you move them toward the corresponding armpits. Lift your feet and flex your ankles so that the soles of your feet face the sky. Reaching your arms on the inside of your shins, grab hold of your feet or big toes.
Modifications: You are welcome to hold onto your knees instead of your feet if the latter is uncomfortable. Just focus on flattening your back against the floor and opening your hips.
Add props: you can use a yoga strap (or straps) if you struggle to reach your feet. Just loop them around your midsole. Avoid tensing your arms as you hold the strap, grasping it just enough to keep it in place.
Belly Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)
After the Happy Baby Pose, release your feet to the floor but keep your knees bent. Bring your ankles and knees together. Open your arms into a wide T-shape position. Breathe in to focus and engage your core. Exhale to drop your knees to the left and your head to the right. Release your core. Keep both shoulders glued to the floor and enjoy the broadening sensation in the chest and collarbones. You can move your knees closer to your chest if desired. Engage your core again to exit and switch to the other side.
Add props: if your knees don’t fall all the way to the floor, add a block or a folded blanket to create some grounding contact and allow you to relax.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Finish your practice with the crown jewel of every yoga session: Savasana. Extend your arms and legs on your yoga mat. Make sure your spine is in a comfortable position. Release tension from your face, shoulders, hips, and limbs. Hold Savasana for at least 10 minutes, preferably longer. Try to keep your mind present and aware while your body recovers.
Add props: a great way to make your spine more comfortable is to add a bolster under your knees. You can also keep yourself warm with a blanket and use an eye mask to stop the light from reaching your eyes.
Ready to step it up a bit? Check out:
Both Yin Yang yoga and Vin Yin yoga combine a faster and more dynamic style with the slower and more calming effects of yin yoga. We even have a Yin Yang Yoga Sequence for Beginners to help ease the transition!