Category:

Yin Yoga

Yin Is The New Black

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In this post, I’m going to discuss Yin Yoga in a broad sense like an overview for those who are new to Yin Yoga. If you’re looking for Yin Yoga practice guidelines you can check out this post.

Yin Yoga has been quietly gaining popularity over the last decade or so, but there still seems to be some confusion as to what Yin Yoga actually is.

Because ‘Yin is in’ many Yoga teachers have now jumped on the Yin Yoga bandwagon without actually studying Yin Yoga or Taoism (the philosophical roots of Yin). This has created confusion as to what Yin Yoga actually is despite the increasing number of people practising Yin.

So what is Yin Yoga exactly and how is it different from other styles of Yoga that you may have practiced? Why would someone choose to practice Yin Yoga?

Before we explore Yin Yoga, I feel like it’s important to clarify that there is nothing that is 100% Yin or 100% Yang. Within the Yin Yang symbol itself, there is a white dot of Yang within the black Yin portion and a little black dot in the Yang or white portion of the symbol.

Yin and Yang are always in a state of flux and interdependent on each other. For simplicity sake, I will be presenting these as a list of opposites for comparison but please know that this is not 100% philosophically sound Yin and Yang are spectrums not fixed.

Other than Yin and maybe Restorative Yoga, most of the Yoga practiced in North America is more Yang in nature, some more so than others (Yang being a spectrum not a fixed point), but they do share some common characteristics.

Yang Yoga

Yang styles of Yoga tend to strengthen and stretch muscles. Often times there is a focus on structure, alignment and the aesthetics of a pose. In Yang Yoga, you’re likely to increase the heat, blood flow and circulation in the body due to movement and its repetitive nature.

 

 Yin Yoga

In Yin Yoga, we spend our time deeply investigating our inner landscape. One of  Yin Yogas’ super powers is the effect on the fascia of the body (fascia is the tissue that envelops, separates or binds together muscles and structures of the body).

Yin poses are more free form and there is an emphasis on function. In Yin, we are more concerned with feeling sensation in the intended areas as opposed to what the pose looks like.

We steer clear of our edge and instead work in 60-70% of our full range of motion.

Because the meridians (energy pathways) of our body are believed to be at the level of fascia, Yin Yoga accesses the Qi (energy/ life force) of our body in a deeper way than a Yang Yoga practice.

The energetic goal of a Yin Practice is also different than other styles of Yoga. In Yang Yoga styles the focus is moving energy up and out, the eventual goal to transcend the body.

Taoist Yoga is a nature-based tradition. We try to stay embodied, to cultivate energy in the meridians of the body and the Dantian or gate of life with the goal being to increase longevity.

Because the energetic intentions of Yin and Yang practices are different so are the breath techniques used. In Yang Forms of Yoga breath, techniques like Ujaii (breath with sound) and Kabalibati (breath of fire) are used to move energy upwards.

In Yin, however, we want to cultivate the energy in the belly and lower body area so diaphragmatic (belly) breathing is a foundation, in addition to circulating the breath in the meridians (energy pathways) of the body.

So there you have it, Yin Yoga 101. Yin Yoga is a Taoist form of Yoga which directs the Qi of the body through meridians of the body and cultivates the energy of the body for improved health the longevity.

Yin Yoga is still a quiet meditative form of Yoga which can be deeply restorative to the nervous system. So what I recommend for you is next time you’re heading to the Yoga studio, give Yin Yoga a try and experience this Yin magic for yourself.

Yin Yoga – Sleeping Swan Pose

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Sleeping swan pose is a variation of swan pose only folded over the front leg. Folding over the front leg will increase the sensation in the hip, butt, IT band area and is a pretty sweet hip opener.

sleeping swan pose

If your front knee doesn’t like this pose, sometimes moving the knee towards the mid-line of the body can take the pressure off. If it still hurts you’ll want to skip this pose and choose a different hip opener like shoelace pose.

If it’s the knee of the back leg that is the issue, a small rolled up towel or a blanket under the thigh of the back leg will often do the trick or curling the back toes under to take pressure off the knee cap.

Once you’re able to settle into this pose it is quite soothing for the nervous system so is a great pose to do before bed. Feel free to have blankets and pillows near by for comfort.

 

Sleeping Swan

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how to, including how to use props and modify sleeping swan.

 

Here’s to happy, healthy hips.

ox nyk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yin Yoga – Swan Pose

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Swan pose is great as a back bend on its own, and a great pose to lead into Sleeping Swan Pose (more on that in a future post). Of the Yin Yoga poses Swan is a bit more on the Yang side so the hold time isn’t as long. In general 1-3 min is good, but of course if you are an experienced ‘Yinnie’ you’re welcome to hold for longer.

Swan pose is a great backbend and also awesome at opening up the hip, butt and IT band area of the front leg, even in its upright position. It’s also a sweet little stretch for the hip flexor of the back leg.

If your front knee doesn’t like this pose, sometimes moving the knee towards the mid-line of the body can take the pressure off. If it still hurts you’ll want to skip this pose and choose a different hip opener like shoelace pose.

If it’s the knee of the back leg that is the issue, a small rolled up towel or a blanket under the thigh of the back leg will often do the trick or curling the back toes under to take pressure off the knee cap.

 

Yin Yoga Swan Pose

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how-to for Swan pose, including variations and modifications.

 

 

Happy Practicing

ox nyk

Yin Yoga – Shoelace Pose

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Shoelace pose is a great way to get into the muscles and fascia in hips, butt and IT band, which can feel cursed in our culture because of all of the sitting in chairs we do.

Because the muscles and  fascia in the hips are so dense they really benefit from the long hold in Yin Yoga. The hips and the butt being chronically tight can be one of the causes of mis-alignments of the spine and can lead to back pain.

Yin Yoga Shoelace pose

If you sit at a desk all day then doing this pose daily would not be to often! Practicing this pose regularly can keep you from becoming a tight ass 😉

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete ‘how-to’ of shoelace pose including options for those of you with knee issues.

 

Happy Practicing

ox

nyk

Yin Yoga – Caterpillar Pose

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Caterpillar Pose is a great pose to open up the tight muscles and fascia of the whole back of your body including the legs and back. So depending on your intended area, you can use props to change up this pose to be more legs, more back or even a bit of both if that’s what is needed.

caterpillar pose

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how-to for Caterpillar pose including modifications and how to use props to customize your pose to suit your needs. If you have bulging disks you’ll want to keep your spine long and back flat in this pose instead of rounding your spine.

Happy Practicing!

nyk

Yoga Music- New Earth Records Review

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One of the questions I get asked a lot by my Yoga students is where do I get my Yoga Music from. It would be impossible to do a blog post about ALL my Yoga music (cause I have a shit ton of it). But I can highlight some of my favorites.

I love New Earth Records and I would say 80% of my Yoga music is from New Earth Records. They have a big variety from up-tempo and a bit dance-y to super atmospheric and spa-like, so whether you are doing a Yang (flow) practice or a Yin practice they likely have something for you to  help you get your ‘Yoga groove on’.

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If  you’re new to buying Yoga music, starting with some of New Earth’s compilations is a great way to sample a few artists all at once.

I have these compilations:

  • Grace
  • Prana Yoga
  • Shambala
  • Spa Lounge
  • Spirit Lounge

 

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The first Yoga CD I ever bought was by Chinmaya Dunster and I have bought several more since then. Chinmaya Dunster’s work is on the more lively side and great for Yang (flow) Yoga.

Chinmaya Dunster Cd’s  I have:

  • Yoga: On Sacred Ground
  • Yoga Lounge
  • Sacred Temples of India
  • Feng Shui
  • Fragrance of the East

That’s what I have so far but really I want all his CD’s.

The second  favorite artist is Deuter. I find some of this music too Flute-based (not my favorite instrument) so I always listen before I buy. I would say his music is better for Yin Yoga as it tends to be more atmospheric.

The Deuter CD’s I have are:

  • East Of The Full Moon
  • Eternity
  • Flowers of Silence
  • Koyasan
  • Tibet: Nada Himalaya 2

I have a few Terry Oldfield and again I try before I buy with him as well because he also tends to be flute-based. Again I would say Terry Oldfield’s work is more Yin than Yang but there are some exceptions.

Terry Oldfield CD’s I have are:

  • Yoga Harmony
  • Journey Into Space
  • Sacred Touch
  • Reiki Flow

I have 2 CD’s by Osho and I would say it is a bit softer but could be used for either Yin or Yang Yoga depending on your preference.

The Osho CD’s I have are:

  • Garden Of The Beloved
  • Ten Thousand Buddha’s

Rasa makes beautiful music. Kim Waters has a beautiful voice. I tend to use if for Yang since I prefer more sound-scape-y type music for my Yin.

Rasa CD’s I have are:

  • Saffron Blue
  • Shelter

So there you have a small peek into my Yoga Music collection.

Visit New Earth Records website to listen to samples and click though to either by Cd’s or MP3’s either through iTunes or Google.

Happy Listening

ox

nyk

Yin Yoga – Butterfly Pose

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Butterfly pose can be done a couple of ways depending on your intention. The first way is to stretch the tissues of the back (like in a forward bend) and the second way is to target the muscles of the inner thigh.

So depending on your intention, you can customize your Butterfly pose. In this post I’ll include how to do Butterfly pose both ways.

Butterfly pose variation 1:

Yin Yoga Butterfly Pose 1

This variation is great for rounding the back and stretching the back of the body and can be more accessible for those of us in the ‘Tight Hamstring Club’  than some other forward bends.

However if you have bulging disks you should try to keep your back long and flat as you come forward instead of rounding your spine. You could also do this pose lying on your back in the same shape holding your ankles or shins.

How to do Butterfly pose

Butterfly pose variation 2:

Yin Yoga Butterfly Pose 2

This variation is great for stretching the inner thigh. If your knees are up quite high in this version, because of tight hip flexor muscles (you can thank chairs for that), you can put more padding under your bum but don’t lose heart if your pose doesn’t look like mine.

Happy Practicing!

nyk

Yin Yoga – Dragon Pose

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The majority of my students have super tight hip flexors. Most of the time this is because of the hours spent sitting in chairs. Dragon Pose is one of the most effective ways to release these chronically tight muscles. The hip flexors are the muscles that attach the front of your hips to your thighs. If you’re not sure where these muscles are don’t worry you’ll become well aware of them when you come into this pose 😉

Dragon Pose Purple Back GroundPicMonkey Collage

Dragon pose is often the ‘least loved’ of all the Yin Yoga poses but if you work at a desk it’s one of the most important for you. Practicing Dragon pose every day would not be too often.

Because this pose is so challenging you need to have some extra mindfulness about keeping your mind focused on the intended area and your breath. Don’t let the monkey mind start jumping all over and judging your experience and telling stories about your experience. Just try to stay with the sensation and breath into it.

In the video below I’ll walk you through the whole buffet of Dragon pose options including the rarely chosen ‘Screaming Dragon’  variation.

How to do Dragon pose

Peace, Love and Happy Hips!

nyk

Yin Yoga – Seal Pose

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In my first Yin Yoga Back Bend post Yin Yoga-Sphinx Pose I go into a lot more detail about why back bends are so important for the health of our spine, especially for western bodies, since we tend to spend way to much time sitting in chairs. If you haven’t read that post check it out before exploring the noticeably deeper back bend of Seal Pose.

Seal pose 2

I would recommend practicing lower back bends like Sphinx and it’s variations and getting comfortable with those before trying Seal pose. For those of you who are ready to take it a bit higher, deepening the curve in the lower back allow me to introduce Seal Pose.

How To Do Seal Pose

Happy Practicing!

Namaste

Nyk

Yin Yoga -Sphinx Pose

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Back bends are so important to the health and longevity of our spine. We start to lose our lumbar (lower back) curve naturally as we age and this is even more likely to happen in those who sit at a desk all day. When we lose the that lower back curve it can cause all kinds of back issues and eventually even the stooped over posture or hunch back of which we often see in elderly people.

Sphinx 2

This can be prevented if we pay some attention to maintaining this curve on a regular basis. The Yin Yoga Pose known as Sphinx pose is a great pose to start with and if you sit at a desk for hours at a time, you can practice it everyday.

Sometimes when people are new to back bends there can be some fear around feeling sensation in the lower back, especially if we have had a back injury in the past. But gentle, mindful compression is actually good for our spine and helps us keep our discs stay spongy and young.

However, you want to be sure what you’re feeling is gentle, mindful compression which will feel like a dull ache. We do not want any sharp or stabbing sensations. If that happens, please do not do this pose and seek medical attention.

In the video below, I’ll walk you through how to practice Sphinx pose including props, variations and modifications.

How to do Sphinx pose

Enjoy!

nyk