Yin Yoga: a Gentle, Full-Body, One-Hour Practice

Yin Yoga: a Gentle, Full-Body, One-Hour Practice


Hello, thank you for tuning in. We will begin our Yin Yoga session by finding a comfortable seat in Sukhasana or Easy Pose with a tall, straight spine and legs crossed. Elevating the hips onto a blanket, block,
or bolster can help to relieve any discomfort you may feel in the knees. If sitting cross-legged does not work for
you then you can also sit in Japanese Seiza with your hips on your heels. If you’re already feeling especially relaxed,
starting reclined on your back with a straight spine is also a great option; one hand on
the heart, one hand on the belly, with bent knees resting towards each other in the center. For the first few minutes with relatively
little physical sensation, we can begin to deepen our connection with the breath. Closing your eyes is appropriate for most
of this practice, as in Yin Yoga we will be directing our focus from the outside towards
the inside. You may very slightly constrict your throat;
feeling a faint vibration at the back of the throat and creating a quiet, smooth ocean
breeze sound. Now we effort to become more curious, interested, attracted and enamored with the quality of our breath. Make each breath smooth, slow, deep, and complete. You may even add a slight pause in-between
each breath, taking a second or two to notice the feeling of both completely full then completely
empty lungs. Use the breath to build a bridge between your
mind and body. In a few moments, we will begin to move. Take your time and move slowly. Notice all of the sensations happening inside of your body and mind as we transition between postures. For our first posture, Butterfly, make
your way to a seated position if you’re not already there. Bring the soles of the feet together in front
of you. Heels close to tailbone will provide more
sensation, but heels can also be farther in front of you so that you feel a forward tilt
of the pelvis and upper body. If you feel you are leaning and falling backward,
elevating the hips onto a prop can also help you you to naturally lean forward, as well as relieve
knee or sciatica discomfort. Use props for any part of your body that is
suspended in the air. Here you may start by bringing support underneath
the outsides of the legs. In Yin Yoga, the goal is to relax the muscles
and be still. This is much easier when supported from underneath, and ultimately this may help you to go deeper into the postures. For these first few postures, we will be
rounding the spine forward. If you are feeling plenty of sensation and
want to focus on the lower body, then you can stay with a straight spine. Otherwise, once your lower body is situated,
tuck the chin to the chest and begin to round forward one vertebra at a time. It is nice to add some length to the spine,
using some muscle effort to lift and lengthen from your lower back in the beginning. But again, ultimately using minimal strength,
fully relaxing and softening into the posture. Gently reach the arms forward, the palms can
be up or down. Eventually, the elbows may be in front of
the shins, the forehead approaching the ankles. Keep the shoulders soft and heavy, the elbows generously bent and the forearms approaching the floor. Lastly, you may like a prop underneath your
forehead. Picture the symbol for Yin and Yang, within
the dark field of Yin there is the small dot of Yang and vice versa. Much of Western Yoga is focused on energetic Yang engagement from the inside out. Here we approach these postures the opposite
way we may be used to; still pursuing the edge, the satisfying stretching sensations,
but by relaxing and softening into the postures with minimal effort. Find a satisfying expression, “a “Goldilocks”
position (not too much, not too little), but just the right amount of sensation that you
can then hold the posture in relative stillness for the prescribed time. Staying with the breath, if you do feel the
urge to move in or out of the posture, try to take a few more breaths before you make
a movement. Pause a moment, reassess, and move consciously from there letting your breath guide your movements In addition to the physical benefits here
we are training the mind to be less reactive, more connected, and more present. Be still, and return to your breath over and
over again. Slowly, one vertebra at a time, bring your
upper body upright, Feel the space you’ve created in the back of your torso by rounding
forward. The transitions can be the most enjoyable
part of this practice so take your time to fully experience them. Use your hands outside of your knees to draw
your legs back towards the center. Now we will make our way up to a standing
position; feet hip-width apart, you may deeply bend your knees at first and we will again
round-up one vertebra at a time. Chin up last. Shoulders back and down. A few breaths here in Tadasana or Mountain
Pose, and then we will make our way back down again into a forward-fold called Dangling. Chin to the chest, round the spine, bend the
knees as much as like to bring your hands to the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, use blocks or
phone books to rest your hands on. Bend the knees enough to bring your stomach
on or in-between your thighs. Keep stomach on thighs while you begin to
roll more weight forward. Use the big-toe mounds to press the floor
away and lift your hips to the ceiling. Hips over heels, almost rolling forward as
you straighten the legs more to find the stretch. All of the effort is in the lower body, the
upper body is fully relaxed. You can reach your hands behind you to find more length in the spine. Chin to the chest, length in the back of the
neck. A few more breaths here in stillness. Now we will make our way down into a squat
position. The toes may face out, they should point in
the same direction as the knees. With wider feet, you will go deeper into the
hips. With feet closer, maybe touching, you will
feel more around the ankles. You can sit on a prop for support. If your heels lift off of the floor you should widen the feet or place heels on a folded blanket. Again we will round forward. Palms up or down, shoulders and elbows relaxed
and heavy. Forehead and forearms approaching the floor. Lastly a prop under the forehead; maybe some
books with a pillow on top? Find your edge, find your stillness, return
to your breath. Besides the quality of the breath, there are
many other tools we can use to help anchor our awareness here in the present. Perhaps my favorite is to simply count the
length of each breath: 6 seconds to inhale, a 1-2 second pause, 6 second exhale, and a
1-2 second pause. Additionally, you can count the number of
breaths you take in each posture, slowing down to take as few as as possible without
too much effort or strain. The use of a mantra can be very helpful as
well. It can be as simple as using each inhale to
think “in with the good” and each exhale “out with the bad”. A more traditional Sanskrit mantra is “So
ham” which means “I am that”. You can inhale thinking “soooo”, and exhale
thinking “haaaaam”, or perhaps reversing the order if it feels more relaxing the other way around. You can start to bring your upper body back
up, and we will transition to a Straddle pose by sitting down on the floor with the legs
wide apart. This might look like the splits if you have
the flexibility. Again elevating the hips here can help to
relieve sciatica or knee discomfort, and help you to feel a forward tilt of the pelvis and
torso. A micro bend in the knees is great if you
feel any discomfort there. You may have a folded blanket under the knees
as well. Be sure the feet and toes are relaxed and
soft. If it feels ok, continue to round the spine
forward here. Chin to chest, shoulders soft, elbows bent,
palms up or down. Again you can lift from the lower back and lengthen
the spine. Rest the forehead on something; a stack of
books is great as the height is readily adjusted. Eventually, with the upper body flat on the
floor between the legs, you can reach the arms out past the shoulders and rest alternate ears on the floor. Once you are situated, find stillness and
return to your breath. You will eventually become distracted from
your breath by thoughts coming and going, stories from the past and worries about the
future. Buddhists call this the “Monkey Mind”. Mindfulness Meditation is not the absence
of these thoughts. Rather it is becoming an observer of the thoughts; acknowledging and appreciating them without judgement, learning something about yourself simply by observing without attachment. Finally, letting the thought leave your awareness as easily as it entered, returning to your breath in the present moment, and seeing what happens next. That’s it. With less and less attachment or desire for
a particular outcome, it can actually be pretty fun! Also with more and more practice, it becomes easier and yields greater results. As with any learning curve, it’s usually hardest at the beginning, so don’t be discouraged if you find it very difficult at first. Bring your hands back under your shoulders to help your upper body back upright. Slowly bring your legs back to the center. Now we will move into a Supported Child’s
Pose by sitting the hips on the heels with feet close and the knees wide apart. Bring a lot of props like pillows and blankets underneath your head and upper body so can very comfortably rest forwards. We will begin with one ear down, chin slightly away from the shoulder to achieve a passive stretch in the neck, and the will then switch
to the other ear halfway through. You can bend the elbows and hopefully give your props a nice hug. This posture is meant to be very restful,
you don’t need to find very much sensation but take the opportunity to deepen the connection to your breath Halfway through, you may switch to your opposite ear. Hands under the shoulders, press your upper
body back upright. Move the props out of the way and we will move towards a minute of counterposes by sitting on the floor with knees bent, the feet a little
wide, and make some windshield-wiper motions with the knees moving one way and then the other; a few times each, right and left. You can add some stretch in the shoulders
and a twist in the spine by looking over the opposite shoulder as well. Then we will open the frontside of the body
by pressing up into a reverse tabletop. Ankles under the knees, hands under shoulders, fingers facing forwards the same direction as the toes. Lift your hips up to the ceiling. Lift your chin and let your gaze go behind
you. Press the floor away and continue to lift your hips higher. This should feel pretty good so take your
time and enjoy it. As you are ready, make your way down to your
back. For our next posture, a side-bend called Banana,
keep your hips rooted down the center of your mat and walk your feet over to the right. You may cross one ankle over the other, either
one is ok. Keeping hips in the center, walk your shoulders
towards the right side as well. Arms can be straight overhead and you can
gently pull the left wrist with the right thumb and index finger. Or elbows can be bent and you can pull on
the left elbow with the right hand. Make sure to keep the left hip and left shoulder
relaxed flat to the floor. You can breathe more into the left side of
the lungs and feel the left ribcage expand with each inhale. As your body opens, continue to pursue your edge of comfort. Be sure to keep returning to your breath,
and waiting to see what your mind has in store for you! To transition to the other side walk your
feet and shoulders back into the center, and then over the left side. Cross the other ankle on top, gently pull
on the right arm with the left hand, at the wrist or the bent elbow. Relax the right hip and right shoulder down. Breathe into the right rib cage, and be still. Know that your body is not perfectly symmetrical, so these postures may not look or feel the same from one side to the other. This is totally okay, we can benefit from
the postures by moving more towards balance, but mostly just by learning about ourselves
without attachment or judgment. Slowly bring feet and shoulders back to the
center. Draw your knees to your chest, hold onto your
shins, and give yourself a back massage by rolling up and down, left and right, all over
the back side of the upper body. When you are ready, roll yourself all the
way up into a seated position, and then to table top with hands under shoulders, the
feet and knees hip-width and parallel. Our next posture is Anahatasana or Melting-Heart Pose, a heart and shoulder-opening backbend. Keeping the hips stacked over the knees with a 90-degree angle bend in the legs, begin to walk your hands forward until you can rest your forehead on the floor with arms straight in front of shoulders. Chin away from the chest, so the tip of the
nose can rest with your forehead on the floor. Eventually, you may even bring the chin forward and stretch the throat. This will bring the backbend further up into
the middle and upper back where we really need it, especially by looking up towards
the ceiling, or with your eyes closed you can look up at the back of your forehead. Allow your heart center to melt down towards the floor between your shoulders. The hands can be shoulder-width or you can bring them wider for more comfort. If your sternum is not on the floor you can
bring support underneath you there. Once you are comfortable, find stillness. Continue to be present, using your favorite
tools to practice mindfulness. Create an ocean breeze sound, count to 6 seconds, or thinking of a mantra to breathe to. Observe the Monkey Mind as thoughts come and go, while you continue to pursue your physical edge within the posture by letting
go of muscle effort. For such a still quiet practice, there is a lot to do. To come back up, place hands under shoulders and press up slowly. We will move into Tadpole by sitting the hips on the heels, with the big toes touching and the knees wide apart. We will continue this work with the upper
body placing hands on the floor about shoulder-width and walking them forward until the forehead, tip of the nose, or eventually the chin is resting on the floor. Then, you can go deeper as you continue to
walk the hands forward and start to slightly lift the hips off the heels. The knees may separate wider as you feel more stretch to the inner thighs. The sternum may get closer to the floor. Again you may bring more support the sternum if you like. Ultimately the hips stay behind the knees,
but you can use the position of the hips and the bend of the knees to control the intensity of the stretch and play your edge. Know that your edge is not some hidden precipice which you stumble on by surprise, promptly dropping off from and hurting yourself. Rather it’s a broad expanse to explore; with
awareness, there are plenty of warning signs to observe before you wander into dangerous territory. Enjoy the process of exploring and learning
about yourself. Consider each posture like a room to clean. Find every light switch and outlet, open the
windows and organize the cupboards. Stay curious about and enamored with your
amazing self. Be still. Place your hands under your shoulders and press
yourself back upright. It may feel nice to sit for a moment with
a straight spine and hips on the heels. As you are ready, make your way to lie down on your back. We will enter a twist by rooting the left
hip onto the center of your mat. Pick up your feet to create a 90-degree bend in the legs at the knees, and then gently drop your knees over to the floor on the left side. You can rest your left hand on the top of
the right knee, or reach it our past the left shoulder. Reach your right hand past your right shoulder,
palms up or down, and relax your right shoulder and right ear down to the floor. Look past your right fingertips. This will bring the twist up the spine and
into the cervical vertebrae. For more sensation in the right hip, you can
straighten the right leg and reach for the right toes with the left fingertips, inside
edge of the right foot resting on the floor. To exit the posture, bend the right knee if
it is straight. Bring everything back into the center. Then root your right hip into the center of
the mat. Lift the feet, knees bent 90-degrees, let
the knees gently fall to the right side. Right hand on the left knee or reaching out
past the right shoulder, palm up or down. Left hand reaching past left shoulder, left
shoulder and left ear relaxing closer towards the floor with each exhale. Slowly return to the center. Finally, it’s time to completely the relax
the body into Shavasana, or “Dead Body Pose”. You can separate your arms and legs as wide as you like, making a big star shape and taking up as much space as possible. It can feel nice to elevate the knees onto a
prop. As you take more and more varieties of yoga
classes you will learn more variations on Shavasana and you can decide which work best
for you. Continue to remain alert, focusing your awareness
on the quality of your breath. Scan your body. Notice any tension or resistance, anywhere
slightly lifting from the floor. With each inhale, direct the breath to that
area of your body and attach it to the tension. With the exhale, allow the tension to leave
the body with the breath, and relax deeper towards the floor. Be sure your jaw is unclenched, your tongue relaxed away from the roof of your mouth, every last part of your body and mind in Shavasana. Let go of any effort with the breath, and
allow your body to fully integrate all of the benefits you have just worked so diligently for. Slowly reintroduce movement into your body by first wiggling your fingers and toes. Use an inhale to reach the arms overhead and get a full-length stretch through your heels and fingertips for a few breaths. Try not to disturb this sense of relaxation
you have cultivated. Slowly bring the knees towards the forehead and roll over the right or left side. Spend a few breaths there, resting your head on your bicep. You can keep the eyes closed as you continue to press yourself up to a seated position. This a great time to continue on with a seated meditation if you are up for it, or after a few more breaths it is now time to move
on and take the practice off the mat and out into the world to see what happens! Thank you so much for allowing me to guide your practice, please feel free contact me with any questions or comments. See you soon. Namaste.