Inspired by traditional practices of monks in India and China, modern Yin yoga arrived in the late 70’s. The monks held Yin-style poses for long periods of time to physically condition themselves for sitting meditation. Nowadays, Yin yoga is great for the prolonged sitting of the American desk worker.
Yin yoga works on the connective tissues (tendons, fascia, and ligaments) of the body, making it a great yin to the yang of running.
In contrast to vinyasa yoga where you flow from pose to pose with your breath, in Yin yoga you settle into a pose for 3-6 minutes. The class is slow-paced, sometimes with only a handful of poses. The poses are floor-based with gravity aiding you, focusing on the hips, inner thighs, lower spine, and pelvis. No Warrior One or other standing poses, here.
Yin yoga encourages you to cultivate an inner quietness to match the practice. It gives you an opportunity to create an hour-long pause in your busy life, embracing stillness.
Learning Yin Yoga
I’ll be honest. It took me awhile to get used to Yin yoga. My first instructor was very traditional and would model the poses and stillness in the front of the room. I often convinced myself that she had fallen asleep and wondered how long it would take for the class to catch on.
Other instructors provided more guidance during class, and that helped me to understand Yin yoga a bit more. Holding poses for the long is a challenge, but I’m learning to let go and be still for just those few minutes in my day.
I love how Yin yoga opens my hips and relaxes my hamstrings. Yin yoga means dedicated time that I am working on connective fascia and requesting that it release. Even going once a week, I can feel a difference in my running life.
Benefits of Yin Yoga for Runners
- Fascia release – the connective tissue surrounding our muscles
- Improved flexibility – over time, you will be able to relax deeper into the poses
- Improved joint mobility – create more mobility in your joints as you work on the tight tissue surrounding them
- Calmness – practicing calmness in your body and your mind
5 Juicy Yin Poses
These photos are for illustrative purposes only, not to show you correct alignment or “good” yoga. I’m a runner, not a yogi.
All of these poses have different levels of depth. Your yoga instructor can help you adjust to find the right depth for that day. As you practice, you will learn that each day is different, for new yogis and pro yogis alike.
1. Reclining bound angle pose (hip opener)
This hip opener stretches knee, groin, and thigh. Click here for more information on this pose.
2. Square pose
A trickier hip opener, when leaning forward also decompresses lower back. Click here for more information on this pose.
3. Lizard or Dragon
Hip and groin opener, stretches hip flexor and quad. Many variations available. Click here for more information on this pose.
4. Sleeping Swan or Half Pigeon
My favorite yin pose. This pose is great for the IT band. Rotates front hip, stretches quad and hip flexor. If sitting upright, back bend is available. Click here for more information on this pose.
Strengthens arches of foot. Stretches knee, thigh, and ankle. Click here for more information on this pose.
Yin Yoga Class Video
- 7 Things to Know Before Your First Yin Yoga Class
- The Anxious Person’s Guide to Trying Yoga, Maybe
- Restorative Yoga Basics
- Why Yoga?
- How to Balance Running and Yoga
- My interview with 3 runners trying out yoga
- Lynne McSweeney on Runners and Yin Yoga
- Ekhart Yoga’s Yin yoga description page – describes origin and history, benefits of regular practice, and main principles
- Yoga Journal’s Solar-Powered Yin – provides a Yin yoga sequence to do in a sunny place, or while imagining you’re in a sunny place
- MindBodyGreen’s Yin Yoga 101 – describes the typical benefits of yin yoga and touches on the reader’s journey using Yin yoga in her recovery from eating disorders, addiction, and depression.