5 Yin Yoga Poses to Try at Home

Learn how Yin yoga can increase your flexibility and reduce stress

Before signing up for a Yin yoga class, consider starting your practice at home with these five poses.

#1 – Meditation Seat

Sit upright with your legs either crossed in front of you, in half-lotus or in full-lotus position, keeping your back straight and your head and neck aligned with your spine. Place your hands where they feel comfortable — perhaps resting on the knees or at heart center, or perhaps you place your left hand, palm-up, in the palm of your right hand. From there, follow your breath as you relax all of your muscles. Concentrate only on keeping the spine straight, and let everything else go with each deep, cleansing breath. 

#2 – Melting Heart

Starting at the table top position, slide your hands forward and lower your forearms as you drop your chest between your shoulder blades. Your hips should stay stacked on top of the knees, and you can put your elbows on a blanket or bolster if it’s more comfortable.

#3 – Caterpillar Pose

Find a comfortable seat with your legs extended out in front of you. Walk your hands forward until you find your first edge, then round your back and drop your head to relax into the pose.

#4 – Supported Fish

Place a bolster or a block beneath your head and shoulders as you recline backward. Your chest should be open, with your arms spread on either side of you, and your shoulders should be supported. Relax your knees — either bent as in butterfly or straight out in front of you — and breathe into the posture.

#5 – Reclining Twist

Begin on your back and hug your knees to your chest, then slowly drop them to either side of your body. Spread your arms into a “T” position, and turn your head gently in the opposite direction of your knees. Hold this posture for the desired amount of time, then slowly release and move into the other side.

What is Yin Yoga?

Despite its growing popularity in North America, many people are still unfamiliar with the Yin style of yoga. This is not surprising, given that the most popular styles of yoga in the West — Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, etc. — are “Yang” in nature. As its name suggests, Yin yoga is the counterpart to these active styles of yoga, and focuses on the body’s deep connective tissues and fascia as opposed to the superficial tissues Yang yoga targets.

Yin yoga (formerly known as Daoist yoga) is a passive style of yoga, and the majority of the postures are completed in a seated or reclining position. These postures are meant to restore energy to the body, and are held anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. The results of cultivating a Yin yoga practice include being able to sit longer and more comfortably in meditation, as well as increased flexibility and reduced stress.

During a Yin yoga practice, you are encouraged to sink deep into each pose as you send your breath to all corners of your body. The deep stretches associated with Yin yoga allow you to access the connective tissues in the body through the gentle holding of the posture, which improves flexibility and creates more space within the body. As you sink into the poses, tension leaves the body with each restorative breath, quieting the mind and revitalizing the spirit. Taking the time to practice Yin yoga also allows you the opportunity to check-in with yourself mentally, improving mental clarity and reducing anxiety in the process.

Tips for Practicing Yin Yoga

As you practice Yin yoga, it is important to keep the following principles in mind:

  1. Find a comfortable, safe edge. Do not push yourself into pain or strain as you are practicing Yin yoga. Focus instead on gently sinking deeper into the posture with each breath, so that you feel a stretch — but never pain.
  2. Stay still. Once you’ve found your edge, commit to being still in the posture. This helps to prepare you for long periods of meditation by creating a space for you to focus on your breath and clear your mind.
  3. Hold the pose. As previously stated, Yin yoga involves holding the postures for an extended period of time — some yogis hold the poses for up to 20 minutes! As you explore Yin yoga in your personal practice, try to hold the pose for at least 1-2 minutes to start. The more you practice, the longer you’ll be able to relax into the position.
  4. Exit the pose slowly. When it’s time to come out of the pose, be sure to follow the same slow, gentle motions that you used getting into it. Moving out of a pose too quickly or aggressively can be dangerous, so be sure to exit with care.
  5. Use props when necessary. If at any point in your Yin yoga practice you find a need for extra support, consider adding in props such as bolsters, blocks, eye pillows or even a weighted blanket to help you sink deeper in the position. If you do not already have these props at home, you can find them at the Boutique at Asheville Yoga Center.

If you are interested in learning more about Yin yoga, consider reading the Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark or Yin Yoga Principles & Practice by Paul Grilley.

Once you’ve explored the benefits of Yin yoga on your own, you may consider expanding your practice through a Yin yoga class. Asheville Yoga Center offers a variety of Yin classes as well as combined Flow & Yin to provide a well-rounded yoga practice for our community. Many of our world-renowned instructors specialize in this restorative style of yoga, and can help you to deepen your practice and reap the full benefits of Yin Yoga.

How Yoga Can Improve Your Active Lifestyle

5 ways that practicing yoga can benefit athletes

Athletes and people who lead an active lifestyle are no strangers to muscle tension and soreness — especially if that lifestyle includes kayaking, climbing, biking, or running. While these recreational activities will keep you fit in their own right, supplementing your current hobbies with yoga can yield a wide range of benefits. By practicing yoga, you’re not only reducing your risk of injury by keeping your muscles and joints limber, you can also improve your performance as a runner, paddler, biker, or even weight lifter.

To help you reap the rewards of yoga, we’ve developed a number of yoga workshops at Asheville Yoga Center specifically for those with active interests. A couple of examples include our three-hour Yoga for Paddlers workshop hosted by renowned kayaker Anna Levesque, who instructs on proper alignment and poses to target the muscles used (and underused) in paddle sports. Another is a four-week Yoga for Runners series, where AYC instructor Sierra Hollister uses yoga to restore symmetry and increase flexibility to help runners improve their performance.

We won’t go into a long-winded explanation of ALL the benefits of yoga (spoiler: there are a lot), but here are four of our favorite ways that yoga can help people who love to live an active life.

Increased Flexibility

If you’re an avid runner or athlete, it’s no secret that you can reduce your risk of injury through stretching. But by adding Yin yoga to your weekly routine, you’ll bring mobility and increased flexibility to all of your muscles. Yin yoga involves holding passive floor poses for extended periods of time to reap the maximum benefits of the position. Poses can be held for up to 5 minutes, sometimes longer, and the poses focus on the connective tissues of the body. This provides balance to the muscles underused in your active lifestyle, and supports the health of the muscles you’re activating during your running or paddling.

Improved Recovery Time

In yoga, much emphasis is placed on the breath: as you move through each position, you take long, deep breaths to send oxygen-rich blood flowing to all corners of your body. These breathing techniques can help maintain muscle elasticity and improve the recovery time of your sore or injured muscles. The stretches you receive through yoga practice also expedite recovery time: as you gently stretch your muscles during your yoga practice, you allow them to relax and reduce inflammation where it’s present.

Muscle Gains

Virtually any style of yoga will offer increased strength when practiced regularly, but by adding POWER to your yoga you can really tone your body from head to toes. “Power” yoga is largely inspired by Ashtanga yoga, a style that incorporates synchronized breathing with each movement to produce flowing patterns of motion and energy. Power flows are often considered the “athletic” style of yoga, as the rigorous vinyasa flow stokes an inner fire to burn calories and build strength. By incorporating a weekly power flow yoga class, you’ll more than likely find that your performance in running, kayaking, climbing, or other active hobby improves significantly. Not to mention the value of building up the muscles you don’t use as often.

Reduced Tension

Yoga offers an opportunity to quiet the mind and listen to the body as you gently move through stretches and poses. By engaging with your muscles in a new way — whether it’s through sun salutations or gentle restorative yin yoga — you’ll be able to feel the corners of your body that have been holding tension. The more you practice, the more in-tune with your body you’ll become, and the easier it will be to notice where you hold tension and how to reverse the chronic fatigue and soreness you experience from running, paddling, climbing, etc.

Improved Endurance

Yoga teaches you to better utilize your breath, which in turn allows your body to more effectively use oxygen. This alone is a key component to improved endurance, because the body uses oxygen to produce energy during exercise. By focusing on the breath during active or restorative yoga practice, you are conditioning your lungs and respiratory systems for aerobic sports such as running or paddling. In addition to this, yoga breathing creates space in the body, allowing more space for oxygen-rich blood to flow.

So what are you waiting for? Even if you only have 20 minutes a day to dedicate to your yoga practice, make it happen. If you’re new to yoga and need instruction, Asheville Yoga Center offers a variety of beginner-friendly yoga classes every day.