13 Yin Yoga Poses For An Open Heart
I love yin yoga for the complimentary effects to the more yang lifestyle and yoga practices we do. Ideally we have both energies in our life: yin is the more feminine, receptive, lunar quality and yang refers to the more active, striving, masculine energy. From a physical point of view there are aspects of the body that are more yin – the connective tissue, and aspects that are more yang, –the muscles.
Connective tissue takes on many different forms within the body. It is the tissue that holds the bones together, the muscles to the bones, and the internal organs in place. It is the web that forms and connects all aspects of the human body. The connective tissue has its own intelligence and memory. It is listening and remembering our every thought and experience. Some people say that our nadis/meridians, the channels in which our energy flows through the body, are located inside this tissue. As we grow older it shrinks, dries up and becomes tight, so we have to find ways to keep it juicy.
Yin yoga is a meditative practice of reconnection and surrender.
When events occur in our lives that are beyond normal human experience, we often see no choice but to disconnect. We disconnect from society, from our family, from our body, and from our own heart. No place seems safe. Yin yoga is a way to begin to reconnect. First we reconnect with our body. Accepting ourselves as we are is the first step. Allowing ourselves to be in the posture just as we are is a way of acknowledging our body and its wisdom. By taking the time to sit down quietly and listen to our body, we can connect. In the quiet of the yin yoga postures we can create a space for the body to feel safe.
I created the following yin yoga sequence to open your heart and shoulders. The meridians that we mainly work with are for the heart, lung and small intestines. Each pose is explained in more detail below its picture. Please note that these are suggestions, we all have different bodies, so if at any time you feel a numbness, tingling or sharp pain, please come slowly out of the pose, back off or move on to the next. Please use as many props as needed to get yourself into a place of comfort, trust and stillness, so your nervous system can relax and benefit greatly.
Props: please have a blanket, pillows and maybe blocks to rest on. I use the app called Insight Timer with the beautiful sound of Tibetan gongs.
You can listen to my yin yoga playlists on Spotify to enhance your mood. Enjoy the practice and please feel free to leave your feedback!
1. OPENING MEDITATION 5 Min – start in a comfortable seat, maybe using a blanket or pillow to elevate your hips. Close your eyes and connect to your breath, become aware how it flows through your body, try not to change anything about it. Just observe and listen. Then move your awareness to your heart and feel into the space, is it open and receptive or does it feel tight? use your breath to create more space here and see if you can even feel its heartbeat.
2. RECLINED BUTTERFLY 5 Min – use 2 blocks or a few pillows to elevate your chest and rest your head. Bring the soles of your feet together and let the knees fall out to the side. Use props here if it feels uncomfortable under your thighs or keep your legs straight. This pose is wonderful to open the upper body, but also your hips. close your eyes and lie here breathing all the way up into your chest, into your belly and down into your pelvis as well into the back of your heart. Feel where space is most needed.
3. CAT/COW 2-3 Min – use cat/cow to neutralize between the postures, you can use it also between any of the following ones. On your inhale arch your back and on the exhale round the back. Move slowly and feel free to even circle your hips if your body calls for it. A beautiful way to warm up the spine.
4. CHILDS POSE WITH BLOCKS 4 Min. – sit back and rest on your heels in childs pose. Use 1 or 2 blocks in front of you to rest your arms and then let your head rest on the floor, so your arms will be elevated and you feel a nice stretch in your shoulders. Breathe and surrender.
5. ANAHATASANA 3 Min – This pose is called the melting heart as it gently stretches your chest and benefits your heart and lung meridians. Come onto all fours and then walk your hands slightly forward. Keep your hips slightly in front of your knees as you begin to lower your chest towards the floor. Breathe deeply into the stretch. Remember to back off if you feel any stress in your shoulders or tingling sensations. When you release the pose come into a regular childs pose with the arms next to you and take a few deep breaths for a rebound effect.
6. SUBSCAPULAR RELEASE 4 Min – Place a block on your mat and roll the end of the mat over it for some padding. Come onto your left side and place your side at the trigger point below your armpit (see photo) onto the edge of the block. You will feel a slight sensation here when you hit the right point. This is the meridian for the heart and lung and as you rest your head in your hand, begin to surrender and breathe into the sensation. After 4 Min neutralise with Cat/cow and repeat on the right side for 4 Min as well.
7. SPHINX POSE 4 Min – lie on your belly and come up onto your elbows. Rest your elbows under your shoulders or if that is too much a little bit in front. Relax your face and look ahead of you, not down, so there is no tension on the neck. Relax your legs and buttocks, you want to feel a mild compression in your back, if it’s too intense please back off a bit and lower down more.
8. SPIDERMAN 4 Min – come to rest on your belly. Fold your hands and rest on your left cheek. Bend your right knee and bring it in line with your hip, then bring your ankle in line with your knee (see photo). One of my favourite relaxing poses, feel your groin releasing and enjoy this sweet surrender pose.
Repeat on the other side AFTER next round of sphinx/seal pose.
9. SEAL 3 Min – from Spiderman come back into Sphinx pose and either stay for another round here, or if you feel you could go into a deeper back compression straighten your arms into seal pose. Hands are slightly wider than shoulder distance and turned out. Walk them as far or close as needed. Relax your face, legs and buttocks. Come out of the pose, rest on your belly for a moment and then repeat Spiderman with your left leg lifted and resting on your right cheek.
10. DOWNWARD FACING DOG 2 Min – from your hands and knees lift slowly your hips and stretch into downward dog. feet hip distance and heels slightly turned out, spread your fingers wide and alternate between bending both knees to stretch out your legs and neutralise your body. Knees can stay slightly bend and your belly reaches to your thighs to give your a great stretch in your back as well. Press firmly into your knuckles and fingertips.
11. KNEES TO CHEST 3 Min – come to lie on your back and hug your knees to your chest. Roll on your back to release any tension from your back and lift your forehead to your knees to release the shoulders and neck. Stay as long as feels good to neutralise and give little sparks to your spine, the biggest energy channel in your body, as you roll around. Inhale deeply, exhale through the open mouth.
12. TWISTED ROOTS 3 Min each side – with bend knees stretch your left arm to the side and let your knees fall over to the right side. maybe place a block or pillow under knees if it strains your back. Turn your head over to the left and close your eyes. Breathe deeply into the twist and your lower back/kidneys. After 3 Min bring knees back to the middle, roll a bit back and forth to neutralise and then let knees drop to the left and open your right arm to the right. Turn your head to the right.
13. SAVASANA 5 Min – rest on your back, maybe use pillows or a bolster under your knees to support your back. Arms resting with palms facing up and eyes are closed. Take a big inhale and exhale through the mouth. Let your body rest and absorb the practice. After 5 min or more slowly deepen your breath and hug the knees to your chest, roll onto your left (yin) side and stay for a few breath, then find your way back into a seated position. Keep your eyes close and notice anything that may have changed in your body. Notice a sense of peace and calm or any other sensations in your body. Give thanks to yourself for taking time to practice and connect with your body. Namaste!
Liked the practice? You can download another free yin sequence for open hips here:
FREE Yin Yoga Sequence
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I also offer many great yoga videos as well in my shop and on youtube, please feel free to check them out!
If you are excited to experience yin yoga in person, please check out my upcoming yoga retreats in Ibiza & Italy. We will practice dynamic vinyasa in the morning and Yin Yoga in the evenings with live music on the Hang Instrument.
I look forward to connecting with you!
UPDATE: Do you love this sequence and would like to receive more practices? CULTIVATING INTUITION is my 5 week online mentorship program which will run again next January, it includes also 5 beautiful Yin Yoga Sequences as well as 5 beautifully filmed Vinyasa Flow Videos. You can sign up now to get notified when enrolment starts.