Great expectations

I re-read my post about What is Yin Yoga? and realized that it’s too abstract to be very useful to someone who hasn’t practiced yin yoga before and wonders what a class would be like. Here’s a more concrete overview of my approach to a yin yoga class and what to expect.

Of course, I’m only speaking for myself and my own experiences with yin yoga. Every teacher and every student will be different and here are lots of ways to practice any form of yoga!

Intent

Yin yoga classes are meditative in nature and typically involve students holding poses for several minutes with shorter recovery or rebound poses to break up the long holds. The focus is mostly from the knees to upper back as the lower body and spine tend to stiffen more and are better suited (e.g. less flexible) to longer holds.

My goal with a yin yoga class is to help students settle into postures and quiet their minds. I focus a lot on breathing and encourage students to use their breath to target areas of tension and exhale it away. “We’re here for three more breaths” is how I signal the coming end of most holds and it’s probably the most over-used phrase in my teaching┬árepertoire!

I want students to identify where they feel the stretch in a posture most and then attempt to relax those muscles and any muscles not needed to hold a pose. No posture should be painful (it’s very hard to relax when you’re in pain!) and I encourage using as many props (blankets, bolsters, blocks, etc.) as desired to get comfortable.

Class sequence

Laura sitting in easy pose on the Great Wall in ChinaI start my yin yoga classes with a short meditation and gentle movement exercises to warm up the neck and spine. This often involves sitting in easy pose (although it’s often not that easy!), pictured at right.

The class then moves into longer holds (generally two to five minutes, sometimes more) broken up by shorter recovery postures, which allow students to feel the impact of the holds, and more active poses to get blood and energy flowing.

I’ve outlined some typical yin yoga poses I use in my classes in another post.

I like to conclude my yin yoga classes with at least 10 minutes of relaxation, re-awakening, and closing meditation. I usually do a guided relaxation (also called yoga nidra), where I lead students through relaxing each part of their bodies.

And then it’s time to emerge from the yoga studio and go back into the real world!

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