YIN YOGA FOR WINTER

A yoga practice to slow down and restore.

Around the time of the winter solstice, and throughout winter, we may all face some feelings of lethargy, feelings of losing our motivation for our yoga practice or any other activities that we usually really love and enjoy.  We may even lose our zest for life a little.  This is nature’s way of telling us to slow down, to go inwards, to change routines, to sleep a little more, to push a little less.  Winter is the time to quiet, to rest, and to repair.  Look at nature, she does.  So it makes sense to alter our lifestyle to be more in harmony with the seasons (see blog post http://theartofbalance.com.au/the-season-of-winter-your-kidney-health/).  We adjust our yoga practice to reflect a more inward approach (see blog post http://theartofbalance.com.au/your-5-go-to-yoga-poses-for-winter/).  We use our yin yoga practice to rest and restore.

In the introspection and tranquillity of yin yoga poses healing happens.  We allow ourselves to simply be and feel.  This is our opportunity to let go, to undo the doing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine winter is said to be the ‘Kidney’ time of the year.  It is the kidneys’ job to transport & balance bodily fluids throughout the body.  They filter approx 3.7litres of blood per hour.  The kidneys open into the bladder, which is also involved in fluid transportation & storage. They are also known to house our essential life energy, or jing. The energetic qualities are willpower & wisdom, and the emotion is fear.

Any yin poses to stimulate the circulation around the whole back line of the body, particularly the spine, as well as low back, and the side waist around the kidneys and the inner thighs and legs, will be beneficial in the season of winter. Here are a few of my suggested yin yoga poses to keep our bodies subtle and our minds calm during this season.

Caution:  Always feel into the poses.  If there are pre-existing injuries, particularly disc ailments, check with your physician first.  Pain is not tolerated, strong discomfort is. Any pose can be held from 3 to 5 minutes or longer if time and comfort permit.

Start:            Sit comfortably, close down your eyes and become aware of your breath.  Thank yourself for having made the effort to come to the mat to foster your health & wellbeing.  Set an intention for your practice if you wish.  Either chant om, practice meditation, come into your pranayama of choice, or move into the first yin yoga pose.

Butterfly Pose.

Benefits:  Stimulates the inner thighs, groin, adductors, and whole spine. Stretches & stimulates lower back (and whole spine) and hip joints and fascia.  Stimulates kidney, urinary bladder, and liver and gallbladder meridians. Very introspective and calming.

How to: From a seated position, perhaps with a blanket underneath your buttocks, allow your soles of your feet come together and your spine and whole upper body to naturally round forward. Head can hang or you can support with fists, blocks or bolster.

Modification: Play with bringing the feet further in towards or away from your buttocks.  Notice how it feels.  There’s no right or wrong. Simply notice. Support upper body & knees with props, like blocks or bolsters.

Breath: The breath is even & smooth.  Perhaps allow the breath to flow up and down your spine.

Sphinx Pose.

Benefits:  A backbend. Compression and stimulation of the lumbar spine and sacro-lumbar area. Tones and stimulates the whole spine.  Stretches & stimulates the front of the torso. Stimulates kidney & urinary bladder, as well as stomach & spleen meridians.  It also stimulates kidneys and adrenals.  Very restoring & awakening.

How to: From your belly bring your forearms onto the floor with your elbows underneath your shoulders. If this is already producing enough sensation in your lower back area you may want to slide your elbows further forward.

Modification: Play with coming up higher onto the palms of the hands, lifting the upper body higher off the floor (this then is called seal pose).  You can prop yourself up with bolsters and/or blankets.  Move your cervical spine, let the head come forward and allow it to move back to stimulate your throat and with that your thyroid.  Notice how it feels.  There’s no right or wrong. Simply notice and modify accordingly.

Breath: The breath is even & smooth.  Perhaps allow the breath to flow up and down your spine, as well as up and down the front of your torso.

Dragonfly Pose (Straddle).

Benefits:  Opens and stimulates hips, inner thighs, groin, and back of legs.  Stimulates inner knees.  Stimulates kidney, urinary bladder, liver and spleen meridians.  Often more energizing then calming.

How to: From a seated position, perhaps with a blanket underneath your buttocks, allow your legs to move out to the side.  Now allow your whole upper to bend forward from the hips, spine stays straight preferably.

Modification: You can support your elbows on a block to keep the spine long. Support your head if needed.  Over time, you are welcome to round your spine.  Bend your knees if too much sensation on the backs of your thighs or inner knees.  Notice how it feels.  There’s no right or wrong.  Simply notice and modify as you need to on any given day.  You can also do half Dragonfly pose, with one leg bent at the knee and that sole of the foot towards the opposite inner thigh.

Breath: The breath is even & smooth.  Perhaps allow the breath to flow up and down your spine, or/and along the inner legs.  Experiment.

Come into a gentle reclining twist (see blog ‘your-5-go-to-yoga-poses-for-winter’) or a cat/cow movement.  Anything that feels good, and then finish with Relaxation Pose.

Savasana – Relaxation Pose.

Lying on your back with a bolster or a rolled up blanket underneath your knees to take the pressure of your lower back.  Place an eye pillow on your eyes, your forehead or your throat.  Make sure you are warm and comfortable.  Let the practice be absorbed, let yourself rest.  Let yourself feel the energy flow in your body.

Rebound: 

Between each pose allow yourself to lie back with legs straight or bent to absorb the sensations, the shifts, and the energetic movements of the pose just done.  Over time you will notice how your body feels energy flow.  Keep the breath soft and smooth and simply notice what is.  Check in so that you are not overstretching.

I hope you found this article beneficial.  Here is a link to an article I wrote about what Is Yin Yoga (http://theartofbalance.com.au/what-is-yin-yoga/).  If you want to practice yin yoga with me, you have three options: our Monday 930am yin/yang yoga class includes 30 minutes of yin yoga.  Our Wednesday morning 11am yin yoga class gives you 75 minutes of yin yoga only, and then there is our Friday night Masterclass of Relaxation once a month from 6-8pm with an hour of yin yoga and 1hr of crystal bowl sound meditation.   See you on the mat.

Enjoy your practice and have a healthy and restorative winter season.