Yin yoga is growing in popularity and for good reason! It’s accessible to beginners, it’s great for your body, and it will leave you feeling as though you’ve treated yourself to a spa day.
Although it’s one of the “newer” styles of yoga, its roots are connected to traditional Chinese medicine, a 2000-year-old system.
If you love slower forms of yoga, are looking for something to balance your HIIT workouts, or just want to find a way into the world of yoga, yin is for you!
In this article, you'll find everything you need to know about Yin Yoga as a beginner and we'll show you a routine of 7 basic yin yoga poses you can get started with today!
Download the exercises in PDF
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga is a practice that incorporates knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine. Poses are held for long periods - anywhere between 3-15 minutes - to target the deep connective tissue in your body known as fascia.
The practice is passive, meaning that your body will be resting in poses. But don’t mistake this for thinking that yin yoga is a comfortable practice! For many, it can be fairly uncomfortable. After all, yin yoga is all about stretching and improving your flexibility. If you have tight muscles, you’ll benefit greatly from yin yoga - but that’s not to say that you’ll find it easy.
Yin yoga is all about finding the “sweet spot”. As we move into a pose, we aim to find the place where we feel discomfort but no pain. For some, this can feel as pleasant as it does uncomfortable!
The practice is a wonderful chance to get to know your body, your limits, and where you need to spend more time nurturing yourself.
What is Yin Yoga like?
Yin yoga is a floor-based practice, meaning that you won’t practice any standing asanas during a class. There are, however, some exceptions. Whilst yin yoga is intended as a practice to be done when your muscles are cold, some teachers might choose to guide you through a series of standing postures to help you warm up a little before starting. You’ll also be likely to practice standing postures if you attend a ‘yin yang’ yoga class.
Who is Yin Yoga for?
One of the best things about yin yoga is that it’s suitable for all. Whether you’re a beginner or consider yourself to be an advanced yogi, yin yoga is an accessible class that will benefit all bodies and abilities.
Because classes are slow-paced, you’ll be able to keep up as well as get personalized adjustments and advice from your teacher. Each pose is described in great detail so that you can move into position according to your physical limits and needs on any given day.
A basic Yin Yoga routine
Here you have a simple Yin Yoga routine for beginners so that you can try this wonderful practice out for yourself. Under the full video of the sequence there is an explanation of each pose, including any variations.
What you'll need
The full Yin Yoga sequence
The 7 Yin Yoga poses explained
1. Butterfly | 3-5 minutes
From a comfortable seated position, sit with your back straight and chest open. Bring the soles of your feet to touch.
Bring your hands underneath your feet to cradle them, and as you exhale, bring your chest down towards your feet. Maintain a straight spine to begin with. Once you’ve moved down as far as is comfortable, you can round the spine to bring the forehead closer to the feet - avoid this if you have any discomfort in the lower back.
Add a small pillow or folded blanket underneath the glutes to bring the pelvis to a more neutral position.
2. Caterpillar | 3-5 minutes
Put a small pillow or folded blanket beneath your glutes and bring your legs straight in front of you. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, bring your belly towards your thighs.
Avoid trying to move too “deep” into this pose before you’re ready. You should feel a pull in the center of your hamstrings but not near the glutes or behind the knees.
If you have no pain in the lower back, you can gently round the spine and bring your forehead towards your knees.
- Bring a bolster, blanket, or rolled-up yoga mat beneath the knees to decrease the intensity of the hamstring stretch.
- Build a “tower” between your knees using yoga blocks as a place to rest your forehead. This will allow your body to relax into the pose.
- Bring a block, pillow, or blanket under your forehead for more comfort.
- Bring your knees out to either edge of the mat but keep your big toes touching and reach your arms in front of you.
- Bring a bolster or pillow under the knees.
To increase the stretch:
- Push your right knee away using the rotation of your hip.
- Interlace your fingers underneath the hamstring of your right leg and gently pull your leg towards you.
- Interlace your fingers around the shin of your right leg and gently pull your leg towards you. You can also push your elbow into your knee from here to increase the stretch even more.
- Remove the blocks and bring your hands down to the ground.
- Come onto the outside edge of your right foot so that your knee moves away from your shoulder.
- Bring your right hand to rest on your knee as you gently push it further away from your body. You can also turn your torso towards the right.
- Windmill your left arm behind you as you bend the left knee to bring your foot away from the ground. Catch your foot with your hand and sink your hips towards the mat.
Yin yoga is a fun and beneficial practice that anyone can do. With so much time for variations, you can really get to know your body on a whole new level whilst practicing.
Have you ever tried yin yoga? We would love to know!
Keira is a mother, certified yoga teacher (250h vinyasa +30h yin yoga), yin yogaand writer from the UK, now living in France with her partner and 3 year old daughter. She loves sharing yoga as a way to connect with your body and relax.
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