Sore muscles, injuries, over-extension of the body…if you’re an athlete then you’re no stranger to these. From running track to weight lifting, chances are you’ve experienced some type of injury or strain throughout your life. Injuries may be inevitable at one point or another, but what if I told you there is a practice even the most trained of athletes could adopt to prolong and minimize injury?
Enter Yin Yoga. A gentle, yet challenging, yoga practice that allows you to drop into your own body, listen, and be present with anything and everything that comes up, both physically and mentally. Yin is a seated, grounding practice, within which poses are held for 3-5 minutes in order to bring mobility to the joints and ligaments. By practicing this style of yoga, athletes are able to work deeper into the muscles to transform the way the body moves.
In most classes you see in Western yoga, students are working with their yang muscles, or power muscles, which can be similar to an athlete’s normal routine. When practicing yin yoga, students are asked to relax into postures, taking on a more passive approach to working through deep connective tissue and fascia in the body. Fascia, oh, juicy fascia, connects every part of our body together and by caring for your fascia, you are maximizing athletic performance and muscle flexibility.
Yin Yoga offers athletes a chance to find stillness in the mind and body. Given that poses are being held much longer than a yang-style yoga class, a student will notice everything under the sun come up in their mind and body. From sensation in the hips to thoughts about past experiences, yin allows these physical and mental emotions to rise and be released through the power of passive movement. When intimately working with the body by breaking through connective tissue, students will find themselves breaking through old emotional patterns and coming out of class stronger. Not only in the body, but in the mind as well.
Yin can be practiced at home or in a formal class setting, although it is recommended to start in a class where a teacher can hold space for your body and all that arises. If practicing at home, use these five postures to start transforming your body and athletic performance:
1) Reclining Twist
Also known as Supine Twist, this posture is incredibly restorative for the back muscles, spine, and abdominal muscles. It’s important to note that both shoulders should be firmly against the ground so you are twisting from your mid-spine rather than your lower back.
Square, or fire log, is a juicy seated pose targeted at deeply opening and stretching your outer hips. With shins stacked upon each other, you can deepen the stretch by folding forward. If you are unable to stack the shins, a yoga block is helpful for easing your way into this hip opener.
Saddle pose is an excellent stretch for getting into the hip space as well as the quadriceps. By deepening into the furthest expression of this pose, you are opening your sacrum-lumbar arch which is beneficial for athletes and those that do a lot of standing or walking.
4) Toe Squat
Toe squat can be an intense stretch for those that are on their feet often, but the results are outstanding. When practicing toe squat, you are opening your feet, strengthening the muscles, and stretching all six lines of the lower body meridians.
5) Melting Heart
After a long day of weight training or working out, this posture will stretch and relieve tightness in the shoulders while strengthening the spine. This mild backbend also works to bring more flexibility to the upper and mid-back.
Work these yin movements into your daily routine and enjoy the boost to your body and mind.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ava Pendl, a freelance writer and digital marketing guru based out of San Diego. She’s passionate about self-health, yoga, and beauty. As an avid yogi beginning the journey as a Registered Yoga Teacher, she spends her time in between downward dog blogging for her local yoga studio, designing websites and social media campaigns, and managing her own blog.
Ava currently spends the majority of her free time planning her move to South America where she’ll be traveling, blogging, and yoga-ing around the continent. Follow her journey on Facebook.