The Practice of Yin Yoga
The practice of Yin Yoga addresses the more yin parts of the body. These are the parts of ourselves that lie closest to our core, specifically bones and connective tissue above the knees and below the navel. Unlike the muscles, which are the more yang parts of our bodies and which like movement and repetition, the connective tissue needs to be worked in a yin way. Yin practice is done with an attitude of quiet acceptance. The postures are all practiced on the floor and each is held for a long period, usually three to five minutes. By putting ourselves in safe and controlled positions, we can let the muscles around the areas that we’re working relax, allowing the connective tissue to be gently and safely maintained.
Because yin doesn’t exist without yang, yin practice also affects the yang tissues of the body, stretching and strengthening the muscles. However, because of the way Yin Yoga is practiced its primary effect is on the more yin tissue. Yin Yoga is not a replacement for more yang forms of yoga or exercise, but a compliment, helping to bring balance in our lives.
For me, the practice of Yin Yoga is important for three reasons:
1. It encourages the increased flow of qi or prana in the six meridians of the body that pass through the area of the hips.
2. It helps to maintain the health of the connective tissue.
3. It helps balance the yin and yang aspects of ourselves.
Guidelines for a Yin Yoga Practice
Assume the suggested or chosen posture and allow yourself to go to a bearable but challenging edge. You will probably feel some intensity of sensation and that’s fine as long as it feels safe to you and your breathing remains free and smooth. It is most important to be able to ultimately be at ease in the posture--allow the muscles to relax without striving to get deeper in the pose, accepting where you are in your body at that moment.
Allowing your muscles to relax and feeling them melt around your bones, stay still and hold the pose for the determined time. For most people five minutes works well. If you fall deeper into the posture as you hold it, that’s fine, but it’s important to be sure that you’re not striving to get deeper in the pose. Let any layers of holding drop away as you relax. Keep checking in with your breath; if you notice that you’re not able to breathe comfortably, you may be trying too hard. Just back off a little until you can breathe in a relaxed way while still maintaining a feeling of some intensity to the areas that the pose is targeting for you. In Yin Yoga, as in any physical activity, it’s important to honor your body--if ever a pose feels injurious be sure to back off or come out of the pose. Only you can know for certain the type of practice that is best for your body.
The Meridian Theory
In Taoist theory the human body is alive because of the mysterious life energy called qi (chi). In hatha yoga this force is known as prana. Qi fl ows throughout the body, bringing health and vitality to every cell.
Starting on all fours, spread your knees as wide as you comfortably can and sink back on to your heels. You can keep your arms at your sides or stretch them over your head.
Use cushions or bolsters under your head and arms and/or under your chest, belly, or pelvis to reduce any strain on your inner thighs. To warm up your knees and quadriceps, try holding Child’s Pose for several minutes before assuming Frog.
If you’re not supported in some way, this posture may be stressful for the sacroiliac (S.I.) joint.
Frog is a good stretch for your groin and back. It’s also a nice counterpose to Seal and Saddle. Because it’s a forward bend, Frog relaxes the whole body.
Frog stimulates four of the six meridians that pass through the hips: Liver, Kidney, Spleen, and Urinary Bladder. By freeing up the energy in these meridians it works to stabilize the emotions, calming fear, grief, worry, indecisiveness, and anger and fostering wisdom, gentleness, faithfulness, motivation, creativity, and kindness.
Frog has the strongest effect on the first three chakras: Muladhara, located at the base of the spine; Svadhisthana, located at the sacrum and genitals; and Manipura, located at the solar plexus. Promoting a healthy flow of energy to these chakras helps to dispel fear, guilt, and shame while affirming one’s right to be, feel, and act. When the first three chakras are healthy we feel grounded and secure, are comfortable with our sexuality, have the capacity to feel pleasure and pain, and have confidence and good self-esteem.