Yin Yoga Asanas


By Paul Grilley  |  

Dragon Pose
(Yin Variation of Runner’s Lunge)

Begin on all fours. Step your left foot up between your palms and ease your right knee back until
you feel a stretch at the front of the thigh and groin. Lift your torso upright and rest your
hands on your left knee for balance. Allow your right thigh to descend toward the floor,
stimulating the stomach and spleen meridians at the front of the thigh. You may also feel this
pose in the groin of the left leg, stimulating the kidney and liver meridians. You can experiment
with challenging the ankle and Achilles tendon by bending the front leg more deeply. Once you’ve
found a position you want to explore, remain still for 1-5 minutes. Repeat on the other side.

Seal Pose
(Yin Variation of Bhujangasana)

Lie face down with your hands on the floor in front of and to the sides of your shoulders, fingers
pointing out at about a 45 degree angle. Every body is different, so you’ll need to experiment to
find the best hand placement, the distance you prefer between your legs, and the amount you
engage or release the spinal muscles. In Seal, unlike traditional Bhujangasana, it’s fine to
support your weight on your arms and release your spine. You can also let your shoulders move
up and forward unless your neck feels pinched; this pose focuses on arching the lower spine. Hold
for at least a minute, working up to 5 minutes. Seal Pose stretches the front of the abdomen,
gently stimulating the Manipura Chakra, the plexus of the meridians that control digestion.

Saddle Pose
(Yin Variation of Supta Virasana)

Sit on your feet with your knees spread comfortably apart (more than hip-width but not so far
you stretch the inner groins). Lower your torso back toward the floor, supporting yourself on your
elbows, your head, or if you’re quite flexible, the backs of your shoulders.
If you feel too much strain in the lower back or if you want to focus more on stretching the feet
and legs, sit between your feet instead of on them. You can increase the stretch by extending
the arms overhead. Hold for at least a minute, eventually working up to 5 minutes or even more.
To come out, lean or roll to the right and release the left leg; then lean or roll to the left
and release the right leg. Saddle Pose stretches the feet, ankles, knees, thighs, sacrum, and
lumbar spine. It also stimulates the digestive meridians of the legs—the stomach, spleen, and
gall bladder meridians.

Square Pose
(Yin Variation of Sukhasana)

Sit cross-legged with your left shin on the floor, roughly parallel to your torso, and your right
shin on top of the left, the right outer ankle resting on top of the left thigh near the knee.
Try not to let the foot sickle, straining the outer ankle. This pose stretches the connective
tissue of the outer thighs and buttocks, stimulating the kidney, liver, and gall bladder
meridians. If possible, bend forward to provide a stretch for the lower spine. As with all yin
poses, start out conservatively, taking a position you can gradually deepen for 3-5 minutes,
rather than starting with a more aggressive pose you’ll need to back out of.


Forward Bend
(Yin Variation of Paschimottanasana)

Sit with both legs stretched straight out in front of you about hip-width apart or narrower.
Drop your chin toward your chest to stretch the muscles and ligaments at the base of the skull;
then lean forward and try to grasp your ankles or feet. Allow your thigh bones to move toward
the floor but keep your thighs relaxed. Let your knees bend and your legs roll out slightly as
long as you feel the stretch moving up along the legs, hips, and spine, all the way to the
skull. Hold the pose for 3-5 minutes or even longer. Forward Bend provides a strong stimulus
for the bladder meridian.

Snail Pose
(Yin Variation of Halasana)

Lie on your back, lift your legs to 90 degrees, and then extend your feet back behind your head,
rolling up onto your upper spine. If you’re fairly stiff, it may take you several months to bring
your feet to the floor. There are many possible ways to position your legs, back, and arms, but
be careful in your experimentation. The less bulky connective tissues of the neck can be
strained more easily than the thicker tissues in the thoracic spine. In each practice session,
find the position you want to explore and settle in for 1-3 minutes.

Cross-legged Reclining Spinal Twist
(Yin Variation of Jathara Parivartanasana)

Lie on you back and draw both legs halfway up toward your chest, knees bent. Cross the right leg
over the left and then draw both legs to the left and toward the floor. The effects of the twist
will vary depending on how high up you draw your knees, so you should experiment with different
positions. The arms should be stretched out along the floor at shoulder height, although you
can also use the left hand to gently draw the knees toward the floor or increase the rotation
of the rib cage to the right. Twist along the whole length of the spine, bringing the right
shoulder toward the floor. Hold the pose for 1-2 minutes and then release and repeat on the
other side.

Paul Grilley taught yoga for 13 years in Los Angeles, CA and now lives in Ashland, OR. He has studied Yin Yoga in Japan with Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama.

To read Paul Grilley’s article about Yin Yoga, click here