So many people nowadays are dealing with anxiety and are looking for types of yoga that may helps them. A beautiful practice that could help melt away tension is Yin yoga.
Yin yoga is a calming and grounding type of yoga that not only helps calm body and mind, but it also helps release built-up tension. This is the main reason Yin yoga is a wonderful yoga practice for anyone dealing with anxiety issues and is looking for a yoga sequence to help find some relaxation.
Yoga is a practice that originated in India an estimated 5,000 years ago for the past 100 years it is now widely practiced in the West. From the ever-growing number of yoga studios opening up across the globe you may notice that the popularity of yoga is in part due to its ability to attract hundreds of thousands of people searching for ways to help deal with anxiety.
Yoga classes can be tailored to peoples’ needs and desires and Yin yoga is a grounding and soft type of yoga. If you have never tried it, you may notice that it helps bring a more calm and relaxed body and mind.
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Read on to see the Yin yoga sequence used in an academic study and was actually found to help reduce anxiety.
Yoga-tip: Yoga accessories can really make your yoga practice that much easier, whether you practice yoga in a studio or at home. If you are interested in getting the best yoga essentials, check out my article: Your Ultimate Guide To Home Yoga Essentials & Accessories
Firstly, let’s have a look at the definition of anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
According to Healthline:
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. The first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause most people to feel fearful and nervous.
Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental health problems found in the United States.
If you are suffering from anxiety, you are not alone. Indeed, according to the ADAA, anxiety affects 40 million adults in the US. When left untreated, stress and anxiety have been found to be contributors to many chronic diseases and to decreased quality of life.
Why Yin yoga for anxiety?
Yin yoga is a gentle type of yoga. Yin yoga classes are slow-paced and we stay in each pose from 2 to 5 minutes. This type of yoga is designed to help stretch out the connective tissue and is perfect for anyone looking for a yoga practice that helps stretch out any built-up tension.
The prolonged stretches used in Yin yoga will leave you feeling completely relaxed and calm.
Yin yoga can help decrease anxiety
There have been several studies examining the effect of yin yoga on anxiety. One study examined the effect of yin yoga on stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which are responsible for cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are responsible for the majority of premature deaths worldwide.
105 participants took part in this study and were split into three groups. One group practiced Yin yoga for 5 weeks. The second group practiced Yin yoga and mindfulness, while the third group was put in a waiting list and did not practice yoga.
As expected, Group 2 who practiced Yin yoga and mindfulness showed the best results of all the groups.
Yin yoga is very calming
If you have ever been to a Yin yoga class you may have noticed how different it is to a more dynamic yoga class. There are perhaps a handful of poses practiced and each is held for 2-5 minutes.
The general atmosphere of the class is calm, slow, and gentle. The perfect opportunity to find some calmness even if your daily life is stressful and fast-paced.
A beautiful Yin yoga practice for anxiety
This particular Yin yoga practice was used in a study which found that Yin yoga in combination with Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Mindfulness exercises were found to help reduce anxiety.
Let’s first look at the Yin yoga sequence that was used in the study.
Child’s pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a very gentle and calming yoga pose and is wonderful for those who are dealing with stress and anxiety.
By placing your forehead on the mat you trigger a calming and grounding effect on the brain. And so if your anxiety means troubled thoughts are at play on your mind, this pose my help quieten the noise.
Due to the way the hips and positioned, it helps to stretch out the hips, thighs, and chest. And so, as an added bonus, this pose is also great for people with lower back pain, as it helps to stretch out compression in the lower spine. This compression could result from sitting at a desk all day long, or even from standing.
The cat-cow pose is very commonly done at the start of Hatha classes to warm up the spine and calm the mind. If you have never done this pose, here are a few instructions.
- Come to tabletop position, with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
- For the cow tilt, inhale and expand the belly to the floor and lift your gaze.
- For the cat stretch, exhale and bring the belly button to the spine, press your shoulder blades to the ceiling and bring your chin towards your chest (as seen in the photo above).
Follow the pace of your breath for as many rounds as you want. Inhale and open, exhale, and stretch. This movement of the vertebrae helps to improve circulation among the discs, which in turn helps relieve stress from the back.
Additionally, you may notice that by synchronizing the movement with the breath, may help calm the mind encouraging the breath to be slow and deep.
Rag Doll (Uttanasana)
Stay for several breaths
Uttanasa is very commonly found in most types of yoga. It has several variations, all of which help to stretch out the lower back and calm the mind.
If you have never done this pose before, here are a few instuctions:
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Bend your knees slightly and fold over.
- If you have lower back pain (such as a herniated disc) always keep your knees bent.
- When in the pose, bend your knees as much as you like.
- Allow your head and neck to relax.
- Allow your fingers to touch the floor (or hold on to either elbow).
This pose really does help lengthen all the muscles along the spine, something that comes a s a welcome stretch after a long day sitting or standing.
By folding forward, this pose helps release stress, calms the mind, and reduces anxiety.
Seated cobblers pose (Baddha Konasana)
This asana is one of my absolute favorites. It can be done seated upright or for a more calming effect, you can fold forward as seen in the photo above. If you have bend practiced this posse, here are some instructions and modifications:
- Sit upright and place the soles of your feet together.
- If you have tight hips, your knees will be rather high above the floor. If this is the case, you could sit on a folded blanket. You can also place yoga blocks under your knees to keep them safe when folding forward.
- Either sit upright holding on to your feet or fold forward.
- If your head if above the floor, then place your forehead on a yoga block to relieve tension in the neck and also to help calm the mind.
This asana is a very effective hip opener. It also helps improve flexibility in the inner thighs and groin. This pose has also used a preparation for meditation, which has also been found to help in the elimination of stress and anxiety.
Seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana)
Seated forward fold is also a classic yoga pose, found in most yoga classes. Here are some instructions and modifications:
- Sit upright with your legs straight ahead.
- If you have tight hamstrings, place a rolled-up blanket under your sit bones and another one under your knees.
- Fold forward and allow your head to drop.
- If you have a herniated disc, keep your knees bent.
- If your head doesn’t touch your legs, then place your forehead on a yoga block to relieve tension in the neck and also to help calm the mind.
- If you want to make it extra easy and calming, place a yoga bolster on your legs and allow your chest and head to rest on the bolster.
Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani)
I love to do this pose at the end of my practice, especially on days when I’m feeling extra stressed or tired.
Simply lie on the floor and place your feet up the wall. If you have flexible hamstrings, you can bring your sit bones to the wall. If your hamstrings are on the tighter side or if you want to make this pose that much more relaxing, then keep a tittle distance between your pelvis and the wall.
To make this pose extra calming and relaxing, try using an eye pillow. They are great as they offer that little extra bit of luxury and relaxation. The weight of eye pillows is just perfect to help calm an active mind and also to help with tense forehead muscles.
This pose helps stimulate the body’s relaxation response as it combines controlled breathing with a mild inversion.
What equipment do I need to practice yin yoga at home?
Yoga mat – You will want a thick mat with extra cushioning so as to protect your joints. A good option is the Maduka Pro mat. One added benefit is that it comes with a lifetime guarantee when sold and also shipped by Amazon.com.
Yoga block – You will want one or two yoga blocks to help you access certain of the yin yoga poses.
Yoga bolster – They are a perfect option for those wanting to practice restorative yoga, or for anyone who wants a softer yoga practice.
Eye pillow – They are great as they offer that little extra bit of luxury and relaxation.
What books would I recommend for Yin yoga?
If you are looking for a book on yin yoga, my recommendation would be The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga available in both paperback and Kindle from Amazon.
What makes this book stand out is that yin yoga is explained, as well as the benefits. Then through very clear photos, 30 yin yoga poses are shown, along with explanations of how to practice each pose and their benefits.
Are there recommended YouTube Yin yoga videos?
If you are looking for a guided yin yoga class, try out this free YouTube video. Get your equipment ready and enjoy!