Yin yoga increases flexibility by lengthening rarely used connective tissues, making it an excellent complement to the more active Yang yoga practice.
Yin yoga is a relativity new branch focusing on passive poses held for an extended period of time, anywhere from 3 to 10 mins. While Yang yoga poses target the muscles through short, dynamic stretches, Yin targets the fascia and connective tissues.
Although each style is effective on its own, together they make a formidable combination to increase flexibility and improve joint and tissue health.
Importance of Flexibility
Flexibility has many prominent benefits including improved physical fitness, better posture, reduced pain, and greater emotional wellbeing.
Improved Physical Performance
When muscles are well-stretched, their range of motion increases – leading to better overall physical performance, whether it’s kicking a soccer ball or reaching the top of a cupboard.
Greater flexibility also means better posture. As your core strength develops, your spinal column also gets better aligned, and you can sit or stand tall more easily.
Fewer Injuries & Less Pain
Flexibility exercises develop muscle strength, allowing you to better withstand physical exertion. This means improved balance and less chance of falling or getting injured. As your muscles open up and become less tense, you are less likely to experience cramps and soreness or aches and pains.
Emotional Wellbeing & Mental Clarity
Increased flexibility has been shown to boost serotonin levels – a hormone that increases one’s sense of happiness and helps stabilize overall mood. As your muscles open up, blood flow to your brain increases, leading to greater mental equanimity and clearer reasoning.
Unlike the Yang style of yoga which focuses on developing muscular strength, Yin yoga targets the deeper connective tissues such as the fascia, tendons, and ligaments that connect muscle and bone. Working on these body tissues allows them to soften and expand, greatly increasing your flexibility and improving the overall range of motion.
Yin Yoga Poses for Flexibility
1. Melting Heart Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
This stimulating asana, or yoga pose, stretches the hips and hamstrings thus providing a deep stretch to the entire spine. It also opens up the arms and shoulders while stimulating the urinary bladder, stomach, and spleen.
If the arms are extended during this pose, the lung and heart meridians are also stimulated, helping to increase your breathing capacity.
2. Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
This therapeutic asana strengthens the back muscles by opening up the tight areas around the spine. It tones and firms the glutes, helping to support the pelvis and hips, while stimulating the abdominal organs.
3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This soothing asana helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while promoting flexibility in the spine. By lightly compressing the abdominal organs, it helps to improve digestive health.
Additionally it’s a gentle way to ease lower back pain, improve blood circulation and reduce tension in the chest and hamstrings.
4. Caterpillar Pose (Paschimottanasana)
This asana stretches the spine and hamstring while stimulating the kidney and adrenal glands. It also gently massages the digestive organs through breath and compression and stimulates the urinary bladder meridians along the spine. It is highly recommended for balancing chi flow and preparing the body for meditation.
5. Dragon Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
This low lunge pose is a great antidote to a long sedentary day. It increases hip mobility, stretches the hip flexors and quadriceps, and can help ease sciatica. It also stimulates the liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, and gallbladder meridians.
6. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
This heart-stretching backward bend helps calm the mind while strengthening your core. It can improve your posture by strengthening and straightening out your back. Additionally opening up the pelvic area, it can reduce menstrual pain in the abdomen and ovaries.
7. Dangling Pose (Baddha Hasta Uttanasana)
This is a gentle forward bend after deep backbends such as the Camel pose. This pose stretches the spine, loosens the hamstrings, and warms up the quadriceps. It also massages the digestion organs through gentle compression and stimulates the urinary bladder.
8. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Perhaps the best-known asana, this mild inversion stretches the hamstrings and calves, while strengthening the arms, shoulders, and legs. It also increases blood flow to the brain, improving overall mental clarity. With regular practice, this classic pose can also reduce chronic pain.
9. Swan Pose (Hamsasana)
This seated pose is wonderful for strengthening the ankles and increasing toe and hip mobility. It is ideal for opening up the hip flexors and psoas and also stimulates the spleen, kidney, liver, gallbladder, urinary bladder, and stomach.
10. Butterfly Pose (Titliasana/Baddha Konasana)
This seated pose is ideal for opening up tight hips caused by a sedentary lifestyle. It can help relieve back pain by strengthening the lower back muscles, without placing undue strain on the hamstrings. It also alleviates tension in the neck and head, helping reduce the frequency of headaches and improving the functioning of the ovaries by increasing blood circulation to the reproductive system.
Sequences for Flexibility
This soothing and grounding 60-minute sequence is intended to stretch your back, hips, hamstrings, and quadricep muscles while building flexibility in your smaller ligaments and tendons. It is designed to help calm the mind and nervous system and give you ample time to go inward.
60-Min Yin Yoga Sequence for Flexibility
- 3 to 5 minutes Melting Heart Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes Sphinx Pose
- 5 to 7 minutes Child’s Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes Caterpillar Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes Dragon Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes Camel Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes Dangling Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes Downward Facing Dog
- 3 to 5 minutes Swan Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes Butterfly Pose
- 3 to 5 minutes of Sitting Meditation
Yin yoga is not only ideal for increasing flexibility but also effective in loosening up tight joints, improving your range of motions, and easing aches and pains. Regular practice can also improve your posture, support athletic recovery, and increase your breathing efficiency.
This rather slow-paced, passive style of yoga doesn’t only increase your physical flexibility but by encouraging mindful awareness, also helps you to be flexible in your thinking and overall outlook on life.
To provide deeper insights we’ve created a special Online Course on Yin Yoga which can be instrumental in helping you widen your knowledge about this soothing yoga style.