If your usual yoga class is high-powered or even heated vinyasa, you may want to add a bit of yin yoga to your routine for a change of pace.
Unlike the others, yin is all about slowing down, breathing deep and holding poses for three to five minutes or longer.
Yin yoga is passive yoga, focusing on flexible poses in full ranges of motion. So basically, lots of deep stretchy asanas while sitting or lying down.
It’s slower and more meditative, incorporating deep inhales and exhales while holding the pose. And because you’re holding poses for longer periods, yin yoga helps you stretch and lengthen those rarely used tissues.
And tight connective tissue leads to aches and stiffness. Your fascia needs at least 120 seconds of sustained stretching to affect the elasticity, so yin practice may be just the answer. Lengthening the fascia can ease that stiffness and lead to better flexibility.
This type of yoga is based on ancient philosophies and principles that qi (energy) pathways run throughout your body. Stretching and holding these deep poses help to restore the healthy flow of qi.
And by breathing into each pose, you introduce more oxygen into your body and muscles, increasing blood flow and circulation.
Studies show yin class also lowers stress and anxiety as well as reducing the risk of depression. Plus, yin activates your parasympathetic nervous system, calming your body and slowing your heart rate.
While in each pose, push yourself into what instructors call a “comfortable discomfort.” However, never stretch to the point of pain.
Most poses are seated or reclining because these require your muscles to be relaxed, like butterfly pose, seated forward fold or frog pose. Your instructor may also include the supported fish pose, dragonfly, saddle, caterpillar and legs-up-the-wall poses and of course, savasana (corpse pose). Some instructors include a guided meditation.
Because the key is to hold each pose for two to five minutes — even up to 20 minutes — this can feel like forever at first. Breathe deep from your diaphragm and try to make each exhale twice as long as your inhale.
This gives you something to focus on instead of thinking about how long you’ve been holding that crazy pose.
You may find that you’re tight and can’t hold poses too long at first. Work a block or folded blanket into the right spot and you can release a little deeper into the stretch. Yin yoga’s restorative approach also is beneficial for those with lower back pain or chronic conditions like arthritis, sciatica or osteoporosis.
Even though yin yoga isn’t your typical sweaty, intense power yoga, that doesn’t make it any less of a workout. It might be just what you need to jumpstart a new year of mental and physical care.