yin yoga supported forward fold

Want to slow down? Try Yin Yoga

Do you practice yoga? If so, do you like sweating through a power yoga class or relaxing into a slow stretch class?

After taking a 40-hour Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Paul Grilley in 2012, I started incorporating supported yin postures in the vinyasa yoga classes I taught. The students loved the support and deep stretch at the end of an otherwise intense practice. It was a time to slow down and just breathe.

I love taking yin classes for their deep stretch and their ability to balance out muscle groups that might be too tight from overuse. For me, this is typically my hip flexors and chest muscles from sitting at a computer all day.

Even if you are devoted to power yoga or generally prefer to avoid yoga altogether, you can benefit from slowing down in yin yoga postures on a regular basis. Yin prevents injury by stretching connective tissues like tendons, ligaments and fascia. Connective tissues don’t usually get the release they need when holding stretches for 30 seconds or flowing through postures. Using pillows and blankets for support allows you to hold most yin poses for the 3-5 minutes needed for maximum benefit.

“The” shoulder stretch

yin yoga shoulder stretchFor years my left shoulder was always injured and tight. Nothing helped, not physical therapy, not rest, not strength training. Of course, I was also waiting tables and injuring it over and over again. I forgot what it was like to have a pain-free shoulder with a full range of motion. When I started practicing yin yoga, I was able to decrease pain and move again. I could lift things over my head without a second thought. I was a new woman!

Yin Yoga Helps You Slow Down

I didn’t begin practicing yin yoga to decrease shoulder pain. I decided to try it to slow down. I was in grad school and studying consumed my life. I needed a release, a place where I could relax and do nothing. So I tried Yin. My sleep improved and I was more focused. Only then did I slowly begin to realize that my shoulder was feeling better too.

How To Yin

Though yin yoga focuses on opening the hips, my first teacher taught postures for shoulders too. I still practice my favorite shoulder posture nearly every day. And I use props, which means lots of pillows, blocks and blankets so I can feel cozy and relaxed in each pose. Truth be told, pillows and blankets from around your house work just as well as fancy studio bolsters. If you feel supported and can relax into a pose, then you are all good.

Of course, please make sure to do what is best for your body and check in with your physician before starting a new exercise program.

Have you tried Yin Yoga? What helps you relax and find center?

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