How to do Yin Yoga

Life is better when you find a balance. 

Stress needs relaxation. Solitude needs connection. A salad needs a cupcake. When you find this kind of balance in your day, it just feels right. 

The same can be said for your yoga practice. When people think of yoga, what usually comes to mind are sun salutations, shaky arms, constant flows and an invigorating workout. In other words, people think of yang styles of yoga, like Vinyasa or Power yoga. You push yourself, get sweaty, build muscle and use fast-paced movement. But what about the balance of yang yoga?

If yang yoga is a sprint workout, then Yin Yoga is a long, slow walk. One supports your performance of the other but both are different and equally beneficial.

Yin Yoga calls for a slower, deeper, gentler and more patient understanding of what yoga can look like. There is a careful dedication to each pose, allowing for an intimate mind-body connection. This approachable yoga style has several surprising benefits, from increased energy to enhanced physical performance to improved mental health.

Find out how incorporating a regular Yin Yoga practice will elevate your life and help you find your daily balance! 

Here is a breakdown of my thought process in a Yin Yoga pose:

Minute 1: I am stiff, and this is kind of uncomfortable. 

Minute 2: I am less stiff, and it feels a bit easier to hold. Let’s focus on breathing through the rest of the discomfort. 

Minute 3: Wow, I am much deeper into this pose than I was 2 minutes ago! 

Minute 4: I am definitely getting in the zone. 

Minute 5+: *The sweet, sweet silence of total inner-peace*

Every moment is necessary to get the full benefits of Yin Yoga poses. And while your mind goes through this acceptance process, your body is reaping the benefits.

How to do Yin Yoga

Whether you’re in a studio or your living room, having a good grasp of common Yin Yoga poses and habits will help you mentally and physically prepare for your practice.

What to do before you start Yin Yoga

Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothing. Anything with clasps, zippers or metal digging into you may distract you from your practice. A nice thing about Yin Yoga is that you can confidently wear loose clothing – no need to worry about flashing the rest of the class during a downward dog pose.Choose an environment that doesn’t have any stressors. Luckily, practicing at a studio means the instructor creates a calm environment for you. If you’re at your home, leave your phone in another room, choose a quiet place and ask anyone that lives with you to not disturb you during your practice. 

Start practicing a calm mindset for a few minutes before entering your practice. If you go straight from “work mode” into your practice, you will probably have a hard time with that transition. Using a few minutes to gently let go of the day’s problems and enter a Yin Yoga mindset will help you get the most out of your practice.

How you feel during a Yin Yoga practice

A core aspect of Yin Yoga is finding discomfort, breathing into it, and ultimately growing from it, both physically and emotionally.

We as humans spend a lot of time avoiding, reframing, or lying to ourselves about how we really feel. Yin Yoga promotes the opposite – identifying our emotions and releasing the negative emotions we’ve been avoiding. You may feel incredibly cathartic after releasing pent-up anger, anxiety, sadness or frustration. Some people find this an unpleasant process, and some people love it. But it is an incredibly beneficial exercise for all.

Physically, spending extended amounts of time in Yin Yoga poses can feel anywhere from pretty uncomfortable (hello, hamstrings) to downright delicious. Both are completely normal! A pose that is comfortable to one person will be challenging to another. Understanding and respecting your limitations will define the success of your Yin Yoga experience. 

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The most common Yin Yoga poses

Compared to the body-shaking, balance-heavy, muscle-building poses of yang styles of yoga, Yin Yoga poses will seem straightforward. Most Yin Yoga poses are performed sitting or laying down to account for the amount of time you’ll be in the position. 

Butterfly Pose:

Sit with the soles of your feet facing each other, open your hips, hold your ankles, and bow over your feet as far as comfortable. 

Half Dragonfly Pose:

In your butterfly position, shift to one hip and stretch one leg out wide. Slowly round your spine and bow your head over the knee of your outstretched leg. Repeat on the other side.

Swan Pose:

Start on your hands and knees. Place your right knee between your hands. Depending on flexibility levels, you may want to have your foot out to the side or tucked in closer to your groin.  If it feels comfortable, center your weight and stretch your back leg out further. To deepen the stretch, you may want to shift to your elbows or even place your forehead to the ground.

Where to do Yin Yoga

Whether you’re trying to find a balance in your profession, personal life, or fitness journey, exploring the vast benefits of Yin Yoga will help you keep life’s scale in perfect harmony. 

Want to find the best Yin Yoga classes in your area? ClassPass will help you explore all of your options without needing to commit to a membership!

Amanda Rouse is a freelance writer and content strategist living in San Clemente, California. When she’s not actively dodging writer’s block, she’s probably trail running, doing a crossword puzzle, or falling off of waves (She soon hopes to call this “surfing.”). Follow her and send her funny reels on Instagram.
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