How to safely prac­tice Yin Yoga

Yoga Journal - - HOME PRACTICE -

WHEN PEO­PLE HEAR ABOUT STRESS­ING THEIR JOINTS, as we in­ten­tion­ally set out to do in Yin Yoga, con­cerns about over­stretch­ing dense con­nec­tive tis­sues and lig­a­ments crop up. I’ve no­ticed that this fear is of­ten the re­sult of prac­ti­tion­ers con­fus­ing stress with stretch. Stress is force ap­plied to some­thing—in this case, joint tis­sue. Stretch is the sub­se­quent length­en­ing that oc­curs due to the stress placed on that tis­sue. But not all stress causes stretch—and in Yin Yoga, the in­ten­tion is to mod­er­ately stress our joints to pro­mote the health of the tis­sues in and around our joints, not to overly lengthen these tis­sues. In Yin, we’re not seek­ing deep pos­tures or ex­treme ranges of mo­tion. We’re sim­ply bring­ing the body to a tol­er­a­ble edge and gently stress­ing those tis­sues in ser­vice of ac­ti­vat­ing the mech­a­nisms of re­mod­el­ing and re­pair. Of course, as with any yoga style, peo­ple might over­ride the alarm sig­nals of pain and end up with an in­jury. In­ten­tion and aware­ness are the keys to safe prac­tice, no mat­ter what style of yoga. These five prin­ci­ples will help you stay safe.

1 Move with in­ten­tion. When you en­ter a Yin pose, it should be with the in­ten­tion to tar­get a par­tic­u­lar area with a mod­er­ate amount of pos­i­tive stress. When you do this, you will prob­a­bly feel a dull, slightly achy sen­sa­tion. These feel­ings should not be in­tense, but slightly out­side your com­fort zone. (Read: The sen­sa­tion should feel man­age­able, and you should be able to breathe nat­u­rally while hold­ing the pose.) 2 Know your edge. If 10 is strong pain and 0 is the ab­sence of sen­sa­tion, try to stay be­tween a 2 and a 4 on the sen­sa­tion scale. In­ap­pro­pri­ate sen­sa­tions in­clude any­thing char­ac­ter­ized as pain: sharp, burn­ing, or elec­tri­cal sen­sa­tions mean you should back off to a milder edge or exit the pose en­tirely. Also, numb­ness or a tin­gling sen­sa­tion in­di­cates you need to find a dif­fer­ent align­ment or mod­i­fi­ca­tion for the pose.

3 Strate­gi­cally re­lax your mus­cles. Once you get into a Yin Yoga pose, try to re­lax the mus­cles in the area(s) you’re tar­get­ing, which will ac­tu­ally shift the em­pha­sis of the pose from your mus­cles to the dense con­nec­tive tis­sues in and around your mus­cles and joints.

4 Stay rel­a­tively still for rel­a­tively long pe­ri­ods of time. The in­ten­sity of Yin Yoga is gen­er­ated by the amount of time your mus­cles are re­laxed in each pose. To start, hold each pose for two to four min­utes, po­ten­tially build­ing up to 5 min­utes or longer as your body adapts to the prac­tice. Just re­mem­ber: You don’t want the prin­ci­ple of be­ing still to over­ride the other prin­ci­ples of find­ing your edge—and com­ing out of the pose (or mod­i­fy­ing it) if the sen­sa­tions be­come too in­tense. 5 Exit Yin Yoga poses slowly. When any tis­sue is ex­er­cised, it will be im­me­di­ately weak­ened post ex­er­cise. For this rea­son, you’ll likely feel frag­ile and vul­ner­a­ble in the ar­eas you stressed. While this should fade within a few min­utes, it’s im­por­tant to come out of each pose slowly, and give your­self a minute or two to re­cal­i­brate.

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