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Yoga

What’s the Difference Between Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga?

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Yin Yoga vs. Restorative Yoga: Same, Same, But Different?

As a teacher who specializes in teaching Yin Yoga, I am often shocked by class descriptions labeled as Yin / Restorative. If you are a teacher or studio owner who has never taken any specialized training in either Yin or Restorative Yoga, I can see how the two could be confused as interchangeable.

The two styles can look similar from the outside, but from the inside, they are very different practices. They have different intentions and they feel very different physically, mentally, and even energetically. Both are beautiful practices; I love and practice them both, but labeling them as the same does a disservice to both.

So, what are the common elements shared in Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga, and what are the differences?

Same, same

Let’s start with what the two may have in common:

Stillness. Once we have taken the shape, we move toward stillness. Occasionally there are some small gentle movements in a restorative pose at the start, but normally it quickly settles into stillness.

Longer holds. Both styles of Yoga have longer hold times than a more active class. In a Yin class, the holds average 3 to 5 minutes at a time. In Restorative Yoga, hold times can vary, ranging anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the pose, teacher, and the practitioner.

Quiet. Both classes tend to have less talking from the teacher than a more active class. Both Yin and Restorative classes are likely to be quieter and contain longer spaces between cueing from the teacher (although often almost complete silence in Restorative Yoga).

Same, same, but . . .

Use of props. Restorative Yoga leans heavily on props. It’s not uncommon to have more than one bolster, a few blankets, bricks and blocks, chairs, eye pillows and more. Some Yin teachers (like myself) may use props in their classes to make the poses more accessible (or even possible) for a wide range of students. However, props are not needed for a Yin practice—in fact, I have been to Yin classes where there are no available props at all.

Restorative Yoga

“Restorative Yoga is the use of props to support the body in positions of comfort and ease to facilitate relaxation and health. Restorative Yoga is about opening, not about stretching. A few of the poses might create a slight stretch, but stretching is not the intention at all.”

– Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., PT.

Different!

From the outside, Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga can look similar, but from the inside, they couldn’t feel more different.

In Yin Yoga, we definitely want to feel a noticeable sensation in our body! It could be stretch, compression, or even the energetic sensations of the Qi. But one thing is for sure: in Yin Yoga, you want to feel notable sensations in your body. Because of the intention to feel sensations through the duration of the pose, Yin can often be quietly challenging—mentally and emotionally.

Yin Yoga Seal Pose

The after-effect or resonance of a Yin pose is hard to miss and is unique to Yin. Yin practice focuses on deep fascia, large bands of connective tissue, meridians (via the sinew channels) and Qi. In our Yin practice, we can affect the energy pathways of our body in a very noticeable way, which is different than the energetic effects of Restorative Yoga.

There you have it: Yin yoga versus Restorative Yoga. These practices can sometimes look the same from the outside, but they do not feel the same on the inside. They don’t have the same intentions and often not even the same clientele. So, how about we stop hybridizing these two beautiful styles of Yoga and give each their due as complete on their own?

Tight Neck? Yoga To The Rescue!

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Whether it be in a public Yoga class or in my private Therapeutic Yoga practice, the neck is a much-requested area of the body to release.

This delightfully simple neck stretch is easy to do as part of your Yoga practice or anytime throughout the day. It can also be done at your desk if you need a little stretch break.

 

It’s important when you are practicing this pose that you do so gently, stop right when you feel a little stretch and pause there. Often I notice students are a bit pushy when it comes to this stretch and less is more here, we don’t want to be sore the next day. This is especially important for those of you with a neck injury or chronic issue, be gentle with yourself.

Practicing this regularly instead of waiting until you are in pain strong is key.

In the video below I’ll walk you through this step by step.

If you know someone with neck tension please share this post with them.

Happy practicing,

nyk

Back Pain Yoga-Baby Cobra Pose

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As a Yoga Therapist, I work a lot with folks who suffer from Back Pain. Because of our more sedentary lifestyle, and with all the desk work we do, our back muscles can become weakened and this can lead to injury.

There are a couple simple prone backbends we can add to our regular routine that can make a big difference to the strength of our back muscles, improve our posture and hopefully prevent back injuries.

I have found both in my own back health and in my Yoga Therapy sessions with clients that Baby Cobra Pose is really effective at strengthening the muscles of the back.

Although this pose can feel quite challenging when you are new to it, be patient with yourself it will get easier with time. When practicing this pose it’s important that you only work within a range of motion that won’t leave you sore the next day.

In the video below I’ll walk you through Baby Cobra Pose step by step.

If you know someone who suffers from back pain please share this post with them.

Here’s To A Strong Back

nyk

Shoulders Tight? – Sundial Pose

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In my former life (before I became a Yoga Therapist) I was a Hair color specialist. Because of this, I had my arms lifted on and off all day, so to say I know something about tight shoulders might be an understatement.

I have made a habit of collecting poses and tricks that relieve tight shoulders. Sundial Pose is one of those. It can be surprisingly effective for such a gentle pose.

 

That being said you should always work within your pain-free range of motion, we don’t want to hear any snap, crackle, pop when practicing this so if your circles are smaller than mine that’s fine.

Also if you are dealing with a recent shoulder injury please check with your healthcare practitioner before doing this.

Ok grab some Yoga Blocks or folded blankets and let’s get to it!

If you know someone who could benefit from this post please share it.

Here’s To Happy Shoulders!

nyk

Sciatica? Get Relief!

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Sciatica is a bit tricky and can be persistent. In all my years of teaching Back Pain Yoga, I have found more than anything else Sciatica often used as a blanket-term which students cover a range of symptoms they may have. So if you think you may have Sciatica please see a health professional to get a proper diagnosis.

Sciatica causes pain which travels down the leg from the lower back. This pain could go down the back, outside or front of the leg. The onset of Sciatica can be often sudden (more often) or gradual. Most often symptoms are only on one side of the body. However, sometimes Sciatica can result in pain on both sides and lower back pain can also be present. Weakness or numbness could run along the nerve pathway into various parts of the affected leg and foot.

The other challenge I have as a Yoga Therapist working with clients one on one is that the Sciatica nerve doesn’t run in exactly the same place in all bodies. So the same Yoga pose that can provide relief for one person may not for another. So there really is no one size fits all here.

Also, there are many causes of Sciatica; spinal disc herniation, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis and piriformis syndrome to name a few. So it really is a case by case basis. If you do this pose and it aggravates your Sciatica then skip it. I’ll have more poses for Sciatica in future blog posts.

In the video below you’ll notice that my knees come to the floor easily in this pose. This is due to my bone structure as opposed to flexibility so your knees may or may not ever rest on the floor in this pose and it’s not important that they do to receive the benefits.

If your knees are up a fair bit lift your bum up higher by sitting on some blankets or Yoga props like a bolster that will allow you to sit tall with less strain. You can also use Yoga bricks or books under your knees to ease into this pose.

In the video below I’ll walk you through Butterfly pose step by step.

If you know someone who suffers from Sciatica please forward this blog post to them.

Happy practicing,

nyk

Tight Hip Flexors? Lunges To The Rescue!

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I’m not gonna lie, very few people like stretching their hip flexors and yet it’s also commonly requested in my classes. This is likely because of our increased time spent sitting in chairs.

Spending hours a day sitting in chairs can cause of time a whole host of problems not, the least of which can be Back Pain. For more on sitting and its problems and some solutions, you can read more here.

It’s not just sitting that tightens up the hip flexors, a lot of our sports and pastimes (like biking, running and hiking) can also have an effect.

So taking a few minutes a day to do a lunge on each side can be an effective way to keep our mobility and support back health.

It’s important to back away slightly from the strongest sensation you can bare here going to your maximum is not necessary for this pose to be effective in fact the opposite is true. Only come forward to a degree that you feel sensation but can perhaps still smile.

Also not shown in the video please feel free to use blocks under your hands to give you more space in the pose which will be more comfortable for many of us (myself included). You can also walk the front leg out to the side a little and bring your hands inside the front leg (my fave way to practice).

In the video below I’ll walk you through basic lunges.

If you know someone with tight hips please, share this post with them.

Here’s to happy hips,

nyk

Tight Shoulders Try This

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Do you have tight shoulders? I hear ya, I’m also in the tight shoulder club. This particular shoulder stretch has been one of the most effective for me.

 

You will need some sort of strap for this pose. If you don’t have a Yoga strap you can just use a belt or an old necktie, anything to extend your reach as long as it’s not stretchy.

Since we all have different bone proportions in our shoulder joints we will each need a different width on the strap for our grip, so experiment with the width that for you feels like a stretch without being extreme.

Always make sure as you practice this you are only moving within your pain-free range of motion. You should feel better and more open after this and not worse.

And of course, if you are recovering from a shoulder injury you should always check with your health-care practitioner before attempting this.

In the video below I’ll walk you through this step by step.

 

Here’s To An Open Heart and Happy Shoulders!

nyk

Back Pain Yoga- Cat pose

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Cat pose is a simple movement that is a great way to nurture our spine, increase blood flow, circulation and release back tension and Back Pain. Sometimes the simplest poses can be the most therapeutic.

I love to do this first thing in the morning to gently wake up my spine, or before bed.  You can even do it at work if you are sore from sitting.

 

If your wrists are an issue for you, this can still be practiced by putting your forearms on a bolster. I also like to put a folded blanket under my knees if your knees are sensitive you can try that.

Sometimes this pose is also called cat/cow, cat/dog or spinal waves.

Either way, this pose by any other name still feels as sweet.

In the video below I’ll walk you through the how-to of Cat Pose.

If you know someone with a tight back forward this post to them

Happy practicing meow, purr purr.

Nyk

Tight Hips – Deer Pose To The Rescue

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Deer pose, or Mrigiasana, can be practiced with a focus on stretching the hips or as a twist. This post is about using Deer pose as a release for tight hips, you can see how to use Deer pose as a twist here.

This particular hip opener can be practiced with a short (Yang) or long (Yin) hold depending on your needs. Although I demonstrate this pose briefly in the video, you could spend anywhere from 1-5 min in the pose on each side.

Depending on your particular bone structure, one or both knees could be unhappy so if you feel discomfort in either knee, try sitting up on more height. If that doesn’t take care of the discomfort then don’t do this pose and find a different Yoga asana to release your hips. You either have the bone structure to practice this safely or not. Don’t suffer through it hoping that ‘someday’ when your hips open your knees won’t suffer in this pose. Instead just listen to your body and choose another pose.

This particular hip pose is pretty unique in that you get to explore both internal (back leg) and external (front leg) rotation of the hip joint in one Asana.

In the video below I’ll walk you through the ‘how to’ of using Deer pose as a hip opener.

You could hold each side for 1 min in a more Yang practice or for up to 5 min in a Yin practice.

Here’s to Happy Hips

ox nyk

Back Pain – Twist it Out

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If you have Back Pain or tension twists can be a powerful tool to help release tight muscles in your back.  The twist we are going to explore in this post is pretty deep so if you are currently in acute pain you may want to skip this one and practice twisted reclined deer pose instead which you can find here.

 

 

However, if you are not in acute pain, have been practicing Yoga for a while and need a deeper twist this one may fit the bill.

Have some Yoga blocks and/or bolsters on hand for this one (or blankets and books work in a pinch too) to bring the floor up to you or fill space between your knees. Because this is a deep twist many of us will need the support of props.

 

Happy Twistin’

ox nyk