Dina Amsterdam suggests you try to do at least one of these poses each day—and squeeze in the whole yin practice when you have time. She put it together with you in mind—über-busy, stressed, anxious, or tired and/or tight from training. Sound about right?
Amsterdam recommends trying to breathe peacefully throughout the practice; relaxing your face and belly; feeling the achy sensations in your joints as they loosen; but backing away from anything that is sharp, painful, or disrupts your capacity to breathe with a sense of ease. Find any comfortable position for your arms and keep them there until it becomes uncomfortable. However, avoid fidgeting to distract your uncomfortable mind. Do use props (block, blanket, or bolster) or adjust your body to back out of a pose to an edge that's more appropriate. "You only want to go as far into a pose and stay there as long as you can without struggle or strain," Amsterdam says. "Approach discomfort with care."
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Releases muscle tension
Lie on your back. Bring your right knee toward your chest and then pull it over to the left side into a twist. Extend your right arm out to the right, changing sides after five long slow deep breaths.
Opens spine and hips
Lying on your back, hug your knees in to your chest. Relax, letting your lower back widen into the earth. Stay here for five breaths.
Opens spine and hips
Lying on your back, bring your knees toward your chest. Take hold of your feet with your hands, bringing them directly above your knees while releasing your lower back toward the floor passively. Hold your feet with your palms on the soles and fingers pointing toward your heels. Breathe, staying for 3 minutes.
Opens hips, thighs
Come onto your hands and knees. Then bring your right knee forward and to the right of the right hip with your leg bent 90 degrees, while you bring your right foot in front of your left hip. Make sure your hips are square to the front of the mat. Slide your left leg back straight behind your left hip. Extend your spine and chest up and then come forward onto your elbows. If you want to go deeper, lengthen your arms forward on the floor and let your forehead come down. Breathe with the sensations in the right hip and buttock. Stay for 3 minutes before changing sides.
Releases tension around spine, rests the heart
Bring your knees and ankles together and release forward into child's pose. Allow your head to relax onto the floor. Breathe deeply for five full breaths.
Opens feet, knees and thighs, reestablishes curve of lower back
Sitting on your feet with your big toes together and your knees a little wider than your hips, allow your legs to relax and slowly walk your hands back behind you. As you release down, you can support yourself on a bolster by placing it under the upper back or along the length of your spine. If the bolster feels too low, try propping it up with a block or simply resting back on your hands or elbows instead. If your ankles are inflexible place a folded blanket (or two) under the shins with the ankles hanging over the edge. Once you find your position allow your body to let go and open your awareness to the sensations. Stay here for 3 minutes. When coming out of the pose engage your abdominal muscles and use your arms and hands to support your body as it lifts back up to sitting.
Relaxes the mind; opens legs and spine
Sit up on a folded blanket. Straighten your legs out in front of you. Lengthen your spine up and then extend forward, draping your spine down and allowing your back to round. Support your forehead with a bolster, either under or over your knees. Enjoy a few soft breaths and then turn your awareness toward the sensations in your body. Stay here for 3 minutes.
If you're ready to end your practice, skip ahead to knees-to-chest pose (apanasana) for the finishing poses.
Opens groin, ankles, hip flexors
Sit up on a folded blanket. Widen your legs 90 degrees or more apart and let them to relax. Lengthen your spine up and then fold forward, extending from your low back through your chest. Drape your spine down and position your prop(s) so that your forehead can sink easily into the support. Stay here for 3 minutes.Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
Opens lower spine and groin
Sit with the soles of your feet touching, knees wide. Place your feet at least a foot in front of your pelvis. Lengthen your spine up and then extend forward, draping your torso down into a forward fold. Rest your head on a bolster or whatever the prop(s) are appropriate to make you feel very relaxed here. Breathe peacefully a few times and then soften into the achy sensations in your outer hips and inner thighs. Stay here for 3 minutes.
Reestablishes natural curve to lower spine
Come all the way down onto your belly. Lifting your chest up, rest on your elbows, placing them directly under your shoulders. You can do this pose with or without a bolster as feels appropriate for you. If you choose the bolster, place it horizontally across the mat, underneath your elbows. Relax your shoulders. Bring your awareness to your belly and allow it to fall towards the earth. Let your body soften into the pose. Take a few deep breaths and then rest your awareness on the achy sensations in your lower back. Stay for 3 minutes.
If you're feeling mentally overextended, continue from here with the following poses. If your exhaustion is more physical, skip ahead to saddle pose. If you need both, by all means practice straight through!
Opens groins, releases tension around spine, rests heart
From child's pose, lift your torso and bring your knees as far apart as feels appropriate for you (just enough to feel a slightly uncomfortable stretch in the inner thighs and groin). If you'd like, bring a bolster between your legs for support under your torso. Then relax into the pose. Take five easy full breaths and then simply rest with an awareness of the sensations in your body for 3 minutes.
Releases tension around spine, rests heartÃ¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
Start on all fours, bringing your big toes together and taking your knees a bit wider than your hips. Sit back on your heels and relax your forehead down onto the floor. Rest your arms where they feel most comfortable. Breathe with ease, inhaling as much breath as feels pleasurable and allowing each exhale to fall out of the body completely. Imagine that your exhales empty out of the forehead and flow into the earth. Stay here for five breaths.
NOTE: Don't be confused by some of the unfamiliar yin names of poses that may look and seem very familiar to you. The two names simply help Taoists yogis differentiate between the passive and active versions of similar shapes.Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
PROPS: Have a blanket and a bolster (or large, firm pillow) handy.
Quiets the mind, releases muscle tensionÃ¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
Place a bolster or rolled up blanket under your knees. Begin by releasing all expression from your face and relaxing the inner corners of your eyes. Allow your belly to soften. Take five slow easy breaths, inhaling through your nose, and exhaling out your mouth. Continue to soften your body.
Try these tips from Amsterdam to reign in your brain—and help yourself stick it out for 3 minutes in these poses.
1. Think nice. Amsterdam usually encourages her students to imagine that they're inhaling sunlight and directing it with their awareness toward the discomfort. "When we feel discomfort, there can be that experience of aversion," Amsterdam explains. "There's a rigidity that can come on a subtle level when we don't like what we're feeling, so by bringing a sense of benevolent energy or unconditional friendliness—which is a Buddhist term, maitri—and welcoming that discomfort helps to counteract that instinctive aversion." Don't believe her? Get into sleeping swan (aka pigeon pose) and try it.
2. Find a mantra. It can be anything simple. For example, with every inhale, think to yourself "I am relaxing." And with every exhale, think, "I am releasing." Amsterdam says that mantras steady the mind, stop obsessive negative thinking, and bring the attention to the breath.
Quiets the mind, releases muscle tension
Relax on your back in a comfortable neutral position. You can choose to lie flat, place a bolster under your knees (great for relieving lower back discomfort), or put a bolster under your spine to invite your chest to open. Rest your arms, palms facing up about 6 inches away from your sides body. Stay here for at least 5 minutes.