Four Yin Poses to Rest and Rejuvenate.
There are many types of yoga, and one way to distinguish between styles is Yin and Yang. Typical western yoga classes such as hatha, vinyasa, power etc, are in the “Yang” style – strong and powerful, heat-building, largely focused on standing postures with dynamic movement.
Yin yoga is largely practiced seated or laying down, and involves long holds targeting the connective tissues in the body. At first glance, Yin yoga may look “easy”, but don’t let the reclined positions fool you. You are aiming for a deep stretch, and holding poses for up to 20 minutes, which can really challenge the body and the mind!
Here we will break down 4 of my favourite Yin postures targeting the legs, hips and spine. As you come into each pose, you should find the “deepest” place you can handle, and then back off about 15% – you’re going to be here for a little while. Deep pulling sensations are okay, sharp pain is not! Don’t forget to breathe.
1: Yogi Squat (malasana)
I cannot tout the benefits of this pose enough! A key pose to keep the hips, ankles and knees healthy, especially as you age, there is a level here for everyone (*disclaimer: be cautious if you have a knee or low back injury).
To begin, bring the feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and turn the toes out slightly. Bring your hands together at the heart and press the palms into each other broadening across the collarbones. Bend into your knees and sink your hips low.
Tuck your elbows inside of your knees, gently press the elbows into the knees to deepen the stretch through the groin.
Try to spend a minute here, working up to 3-5 minutes. Depending on your body, your shape may vary. Remember to keep
- If your heels lift, tuck a folded blanket underneath them for support,
- If you have trouble getting your hips low enough and your legs are firing, try either widening your feet, or tucking a block or a stack of books under your hips, coming into a ‘seated squat’.
2: Wide Forward Fold (upavistha konasana)
This is a pose I love to hate. If you do a significant amount of biking or running, or are just a little on the tight side, you will know what I mean.
To begin, spread the legs as wide as is comfortable, flexing the toes to the sky to protect the knees. If this is already feeling intense, prop your hips up on a blanket or a pillow.
Ground down through the tailbone and reach out through the crown of the head, straightening the spine, maybe bringing your hands behind you to gently press into the ground to help sit tall.
Breathe here, or to move deeper walk the hands between the legs, hinging at the hips. Keep the spine long using the core for support, avoiding any rounding through the back. Try to spend 3-5 minutes here.
3: Deer Pose / Thread-The-Needle
A gentle alternative to the yogi’s staple for the hips ‘pigeon pose’, deer pose is great for those who have tight hips, especially struggling with external rotation.
To begin, from your wide forward fold, bring the thighs together so they form a 90 deg angle on the floor.
Bend the right knee in at 90 deg, and the left knee behind you at 90 deg. The feet remain flexed. See the image below. Keep using the hands to prop the torso up, or begin to relax the torso over your right leg.
Aim for 3-5+ minutes here before switching sides.
If any of this bothers the knees, an even more gentle alternative is thread-the-needle pose.
Beginning on your back, bend your right knee and place the right foot on the floor.
Lift the left foot and cross the left ankle just below the right knee, keeping the ankle flexed.
Stay here or lift the right foot, reaching the hands around the back of the right thigh to pull the legs towards the chest to deepen.
The ultimate! An amazing pose to stretch out the side body, from the armpit to the core to the IT band, this is a stretch we all need more of.
Begin laying on your back with legs extended and arms by your sides. Imagine your hips pinned to your mat as you begin to shift your ankles and shoulders to the left, making a “C” shape. Keep the hips grounded, and press the shoulders into your mat.
You may keep the arms by the sides, or extend them over head as long as you don’t feel a tingling sensation. Breathe deeply into your right side. You can deepen the stretch by crossing your right ankle over your left and clasping your right wrist with your left hand, gently pulling into an even deeper “c”. Spend 2-5 minutes here, then switch sides.
So there we have it folks. Yet another great Yoga class specially created for you by our yoga guru, Brogan Kiss. Remember, maintaining a strong core is crucial to enjoying your hiking and biking adventures now and into your senior years.
See you outside!