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Yin yoga includes long poses to improve flexibility.
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Yoga students interested in a slow yoga practice that loosens connective tissues around muscles and joints to help improve flexibility and soothe the nervous system may want to try Yin yoga. Yin yoga, the second part of the ancient Chinese symbol yin and yang, promotes moisture in the joints that creates suppleness with poses that are held for a long time -- longer than poses held in yang-style yoga. During long poses, students can meditate and bring awareness to their emotional and psychological states and create a state of serenity.
Long Poses and Blocks Explained
According to Sonia Doubell, a certified yoga teacher, long poses in Yin yoga means holding a posture for longer than other forms of yoga. For the beginner, hold a pose for up to a minute, or 10 slow breaths; those with more experience can hold Yin poses for up to three minutes. The use of blocks helps yoga students hold poses in the correct form for a beneficial length of time or to deepen the angle of the pose for greater benefits.
Quarter Dog Pose
The Quarter Dog pose is a Yin yoga pose for stiff shoulders and a tight upper back. Using a block helps beginners and people with tight shoulders to open the chest and upper body at a less-intense level. Start on your hands and knees on a mat on the floor. Place a block at the upper left corner of the mat for easy access. Lower your chest to the floor as you rest your right elbow on the mat; relax your forearm. Reach your left arm in front of you, resting your left hand on the block. Deepen the pose by lowering your torso toward the floor, placing your forehead on your right arm. Rest your left elbow as close to the floor without pain. Hold for a minute, 10 deep breaths or longer if you can. Switch sides, placing the block at the upper right corner of your mat, and repeat the pose for the same amount of time.
Setting Up Shoelace Pose with Eagle Arms
The Shoelace Pose with Eagle Arms relieves shoulder pain and tension, often the cause of sitting at a desk or computer all day, without breaks and stretching. In this pose a block helps deepen the angle of the posture for greater opening at the shoulder and neck. Sit on your mat, cross your right knee over your left knee, buttocks touching the mat. If you cannot sit flat against your mat, sit on a rolled towel. Bring your calves by your sides, feet splayed with toes pointed. Place a block in front of your knees, using the short or tall end of the block to deepen the pose and help support your upper body. Raise your right elbow in front of you and place it under your raised left elbow. Press your palms together if you can.
Going Deeper in the Pose
Raise your elbows up and away from your chest to adduct the arms and deepen the stretch in the shoulders. Lean forward and place your elbows onto a block for support through the pose. Hold this position for up to a couple of minutes, aiming to slide your arms away from your chest to intensify the stretch. Slowly sit up, arch the back in a slight backbend and repeat on the other side, with the left elbow placed under the raised right elbow.
Tips and Safety
Sit on a rolled-up blanket in Eagle pose if this position is too intense at first. When practicing Yin yoga you should never feel pain. Deepen poses only to the limit of what is tolerable and slightly uncomfortable for benefits, but back out of a pose slowly if you feel sharp, intense pain. Always consult with a health care provider before starting a new exercise program such as Yin yoga.