You may associate “yoga” with the grueling, hot classes that leave your sweat stains highlighting areas you don’t necessarily want the whole world to see… With all the wonderful mental benefits you hear that yoga gives, you can’t seem to stick to it. Perhaps you find that the practice is either too physical or too slow, where you lose your patience with it. If you are looking for something both gentle but active at the same time, then Yin Yoga is perfect for you.
What Is Yin Yoga?
Founded in the 1970s by martial artist and yogi, Paulie Zink, Yin Yoga is meant to actively stretch out tired muscles and tense joints in a gentle way. In contrast to the yoga types you may have tried or heard of, such as Hatha or Ashtanga, this practice has very few poses.
Yin contrasts the yang by being a less rigid sequence, comprised of seated or lying poses that are held for three to five minutes each, though you can hold them for less time if you are just starting out.
Holding the pose longer helps the muscles and connective tissues strengthen and lengthen, which creates elasticity in the body. Our organs also benefit from Yin, as the poses internally massage them to help them in motion for optimal function. With the mind and body interconnected, this practice gives the perfect balance of physical and mental benefits.
Why You Need To Do Yin Yoga?
The stillness of this practice promotes both muscle and mental recovery amidst the workouts we do and stressful life we live. Our mind is given time to process its thoughts by allowing them to ebb and flow before immediately acting on them.
Furthermore, with the hours hunching over our devices, our lower backs and hips are particularly strained. Unsurprisingly, stiffness and pain build up in our spine with the poor posture we adapt to the computer, TV, phone, etc.
However, more unknown is that the stress and tension in our lives also build up in our hips. Yin yoga is a great tool to gently target these pressure points by loosening up the joints and muscles in these areas.
Don’t be fooled to believe that this practice is any easier than exercise that is higher in physical intensity. Yin yoga (AKA “the yoga of surrender”), forces you to sit with your mental and physical discomfort while you melt into the pose.
If you incorporate this practice into your weekly routine, you may finally feel the benefits that all the “yogis” talk about.
Here is a guided yin sequence you can easily do at home for your lower back and hips. It will challenge your patience, but give the perfect release to the tensions you may have in your body. All you need is a quiet spot and a mat – which you can find here: https://mbzen.com/product/yoga-mat-non-slip-foldable/.
A comfortable yoga mat is needed for Yin as poses are held for longer.
Yin Yoga Sequence to Stretch the Hips and Lower Back
1. Child’s Pose
Start out with working on the breath, as it will lead the mind to a calmer place. From a table top position, sink your hips back to your ankles and shift the knees wider than the hips. Walk your hands forward to lengthen the spine, but keep the shoulders relaxed. Start to breathe deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth, and feel how the lungs and ribcage expand.
To help you relax you can place a cushion or yoga bolster underneath your stomach. Your breath will start to slow the mind, open the chest, ease the hips, and let you take the weight off the lower back. Challenge yourself while you are here, and work your breath towards a deep inhale of up to eight seconds before letting it out for another eight. Stay in this pose for at least five minutes before starting the sequence.
Always remember to breathe consciously while you hold Child’s pose.
2. Dragons Pose
From Childs pose, come back to table top to help the transition. Make sure you do this and the next pose (Twisted Dragon) on the right side before repeating on the other leg. Take the right foot between the hands and shift the knee back slightly to create more space; feel free to use a cushion/bolster under your knee. Try to keep the right heel and knee aligned as you sink the hips down and forward. You will feel an intense stretch in the upper left thigh area, known as the psoas muscle.
Start to walk the hands inside the right foot, and perhaps you take the forearms to the floor to go deeper. You can let the right toe and knee cheat to the right slightly if it helps open the hip more.
This pose is great for stretching the hips, and takes time to ease into, because of the tension stored there. The hips are essential to open up, as it is also where our emotional tension is stored. The stress and thoughts that you leave unattended is the sensation you feel here when you let the stretch take its course.
The sacral chakra, one of our energy systems, is in this area, and can be responsible for anxious or depressed feelings if it is blocked. You can learn more about the effects of blocked chakras in our blog.
Stay in this variation for at least two minutes before moving on to the next step.
This pose helps you to stretches the back leg’s hip flexors and quadriceps.
3. Twisted Dragon
From Dragons pose, start to twist your upper body to the right. Leave the left hand on the mat to support you and take the right hand to the right knee to push it further open. Start to press into the knee to twist the spine and gaze over the right shoulder. This pose further deepens the hip stretch and targets the lower spine with the twist. The rotation in the spine takes pressure off the lower back and allows the internal massage of the organs to begin. Once you have held this variation of Dragon two minutes, return to Childs pose for one minute before doing the left side.
After you feel like you can no longer hold the Twisted Dragon Pose, take three slow breaths and squeeze just a bit more out of your torso.
4. Sphinx Pose
Next, come all the way down to your stomach and place the elbows underneath the shoulders. Press your chest up and look ahead, making sure that you lift yourself just enough to feel a compression in the lower back. If you feel a pinch in the low back, then lower the chest so that you don’t take the back bend too far. If you feel the stretch is not enough, then straighten the elbows to take it further. Hold this pose for three to five minutes, or less if your spine begins to complain. Many people struggle with stiffness in the spine, so it is imperative to take it little by little when doing back bends.
Sphinx pose can help ease lower back pain and stiffness.
5. Butterfly Pose
Come to a seated position, where you take the heels together and in towards you. Only taking the heels in as far as the knees allow, find the sensation of the tailbone on the mat as you open the chest and lengthen the spine. Remember to always relax the shoulders!
For a deeper hip stretch, use the thigh muscles to press the knees towards the floor; to focus on the lower back more, move the heels forward a little and roll the spine down as you take your gaze to the floor.
Butterfly pose ultimately helps decompress the lower back, while opening the hips even further, regardless of the variation you decide. Notice how much more space you have in the hip joints and spine compared to the start of the sequence – notice how good it feels!
This pose stimulates kidneys and ovaries.
6. Reclining Twist
This is an excellent stretch before you finish your practice, mostly because you get to give yourself a hug!
First, lie on your back and bend the knees in so you can wrap your hands around them. While you enjoy the embrace you give yourself, perhaps you rock from side to side to massage the muscles surrounding the lower spine. Rock to the right side to place the bent knees on the floor, as you lay your arms on the floor in a capital T shape. Try to keep both shoulders on the floor to support the back as you twist, and take your gaze to the left. Maybe you even press the knees further down with your right hand to go deeper.
Don’t fear the cracks and sounds that the spine might make here – it is the spaces in the spinal joints saying “thank you!” Hold the right side for two to three minutes before you hug your knees back in and repeat on the left side.
Hold it three to five minutes, making sure your shoulders stay on the floor.
7. Corpse Pose
No yoga practice can end properly without the corpse pose (“savasana”). Challenging for many, this pose really forces you to lie in the pool of your thoughts. Compared to the start of the sequence, however, the voices and thoughts are much less loud and powerful now.
Lie on your back with the feet mat distance apart and the palms facing up. Close your eyes and let your body sink into the mat while you observe any noise in your head and your surroundings. Most importantly, don’t fight this so called “noise,” but let yourself detach from the anxiety that pairs with it. Hold this for at least five minutes… and try not to fall asleep!
Pay attention to the energies flowing. This is an ideal time to develop your ability to feel your energies.
Finally, take your palms together by the heart and bow to your practice as you tell yourself “namaste.” Make it a goal to incorporate this type of sequence into your weekly routine. Swap it with one of your more intense workouts during the week, and feel your body thank you for letting it recover and your mind for letting it reconnect.
Remember to always be safe and listen to your body no matter what exercise you choose to do – for more workout inspiration click this link (https://mbzen.com/isometric-exercises-definition-what-you-need-to-know/).
If Yin is the yoga you choose to do in your life, it is just as valid as the other forms! Ultimately, yoga is the union of your body and mind, and Yin can help with just that. Release your lower back and hips with this sequence and feel some of the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
Namaste literally means “greetings to you.”
Hi, I’m Amanda! I’m a singer/actress as well as a yoga instructor, who is super passionate about holistic wellness. Having suffered mental and physical stresses due to the hectic life of a performer, I have regained strength through practicing yoga, mindfulness, and healthy eating. I am a firm believer in the power of holistic health to navigate this crazy world we live in, and I hope to help and inspire others on their journeys to a healthier, happier self.