Yin is one of my favourite yoga styles to practise, as many of you reading our blog will know! It is a perfect approach to yoga when everything going on around you simply gets too much and you need some quiet time to re-connect, re-balance and re-energise.
In this article I will look at how you too can practise Yin at home. I’ll look at how to set up your yoga space, including highlighting the equipment that you need and share ideas on what you can use from home without spending lots of money. I’ll then cover some of the key elements of how to practise Yin yoga safely before sharing two great Yin asanas for you to do.
Setting up your yoga space
One of the great things about Yin is that you do not need much space, basically a place to lay your mat is sufficient and to be honest, for a Yin practice you do not even need a mat!
- Choose and create a space
If you have a small spare room, great. If not, choose a quiet place in your home, ideally where you can close the door, make a space (clear out or move any furniture to one side) and lay down your mat. You do need to find a flat floor (no lumps or bumps beneath it). For those people fortunate to have a spare room, consider what you would like to be in the room and on the walls. Wherever you choose, candles and incense are nice to have around and consider the lighting you need. For Yin, I like to practise with my eyes shut, so a low level of lighting works well.
- Yoga mat
If you have a yoga mat, great. If not, you can practice Yin on a carpeted floor, or find a nice rug. Having some softness beneath your body is a nice way to practise.
- Blocks and bolsters
In Yin, I tend to use props, like blocks and bolsters, only when I need to be careful due to injury. If you need additional support, and don’t have access to blocks, then hard-back books (like cookery books or yoga texts) are a great option. For bolsters, large cushions from your sofa can be used.
Blankets are ideal to have around. You can use them to provide additional support, instead of blocks for sitting on and instead of bolsters (you will need quite a few blankets to do this). They are also perfect for savasana, at the end, to keep you warm and provide some lovely softness.
- Eye mask
For some of the reclining Yin positions, an eye mask can be used. If you don’t have one then use a small folded hand-towel instead. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil for extra relaxation.
- Make it quiet
Switch off your phone! If there is noise around in the house, I find playing some soft background music helps me to focus on my yoga more, as the other noises fade away into the background. Pick music that does not have a strong beat or lyrics to complement your Yin practice.
Tips on how to practise Yin yoga at home
The following tips are useful when thinking about how to practise Yin yoga at home.
- Move slowly into, between and out of asanas; I like the mantra – gentle in, gentle out. Yin yoga works with our connective tissues, like fascia, ligaments and joints, rather than with muscles, so it is important to move slowly, to take care and prevent injury.
- Find a comfy edge. The sensation you are looking for feels almost like a gentle tugging. As we are working with our connective tissues, it will feel different to normal muscular exercise. It is a subtle sensation, so stay quiet and ease in slowly. The edge is in between the place where you do not feel anything when you are in one position, and pain.
- Resolve to hold the position – if you are new to Yin then consider holding for 2-3 minutes. For those people who have been practising longer, then 5 minutes is a good length of time to work up to.
- Small tweaks and adjustments are okay. It can take the body some seconds to realise that it is okay to relax, so if after 30 seconds you feel like you have more space, then make a small adjustment, to allow yourself to go deeper. However, aim to stay still as much as possible.
- If you experience pain, this is a sign from your body to move out of the position, or at least to make an adjustment. Do not force your body into any position that causes pain.
- Stay present. Use the breath and body sensations to stay present in your body. Allow thoughts to float away.
- Breathe evenly and completely. Inhale and exhale through the nose. I like to practise with balanced, even breathing. Inhale for the count of 4 and exhale for the count of 4. Feel the breath fill your whole body, allowing your tummy to rise and fall naturally. If you are more practised, you might choose to inhale / exhale to the count of 6.
Ten-minute home Yin practice
One mental hurdle that sometimes stops me from practising yoga is trying to find 60 or 90 minutes to “do it properly”. However, finding 10 minutes out of your day is usually achievable and can bring immediate benefits to your health and wellbeing. Below is a ten-minute Yin practice that you can do at home.
One minute: Focused breathing meditation
You can do this seated or lying down on your back. Take your awareness to your nose and to your breath. Notice the breath coming in and out of the nostrils. You can choose whether to follow your natural breath, or practise the even breathing I described above. This helps you to become present into your yoga practice.
Four minutes: Dragon
Two minutes on the left side, two minutes on the right side.
From a tabletop position (on your hands and knees), step your left foot forward and place it flat on the floor, with your left knee directly above the left foot (make sure the knee is not in front of the foot). The right knee is still on the mat, so gently move the right knee backwards a little, keeping the top of the right foot resting on the floor – this looks like a lunge position (as shown in the photo). For more knee support I recommend placing a folded blanket beneath your right knee. Place your hands flat on the floor, either side of your left foot. If you cannot reach, use blocks (or books). To increase the stretch, slide the right leg and knee further away. I recommend keeping your gaze forward, so that you do not place extra stress on your neck.
After two minutes, you can sink back into a resting child’s pose for 30 seconds or swap sides. Take the right foot forward, placing the foot flat, keeping the knee directly over the foot. Slide the left leg and knee away, until you can feel the gentle tugging. After two minutes, gently come out of the position and rest for 30 seconds in child’s pose.
Three minutes: Sphinx
Lie down on the floor, on your tummy. Push up onto your elbows. Bring your elbows to beneath your shoulders, or a few centimetres forward. Have your lower fore arms flat on the floor. You can either bring the palms of your hands together (like in a prayer position) or cross your arms, whichever feels right for you. Take your feet just slightly wider than hip width apart, allowing the top of your foot to rest on the floor. Keep your gaze forward, so that you do not drop your chin (this helps to look after your neck).
If you experience any pain or twinges in your lower back, pop a blanket beneath your hips and make sure your feet are wider apart. If it is still uncomfortable, take your elbows further forward (away from your body), and you can also pop a blanket beneath your chest for added support.
To go deeper, place a folded blanket, low block (or book) beneath your elbows, to raise you up slightly.
Stay in this position for three minutes. Focus on relaxing your muscles all the way from your toes, through the legs and bottom and up through your back.
After three minutes, gently lower yourself down to flat on your tummy for 30 seconds, then come back into a child’s pose for 30 seconds.
One minute: natural breathing in savasana
Make yourself comfortable, lying down on your back, allow your feet to fall out and hands to rest on the ground either side of your body (like the main photo). Direct your attention to your breath. Rest for 2 minutes, breathing in and out naturally, no need to control your breathing. At the same time be aware of how your body feels, the sensations and become aware of the feeling of relaxation. To come out of savasana, bring your knees towards your chest, give them a gentle hug, then roll onto your right side. Gently and slowly bring yourself to a seated position. When you feel ready, go about your day.
If you have enjoyed these asanas, more instructions on two other Yin asanas (wide knee child’s pose and dragonfly) are described in our earlier article: Yin yoga asanas for your detox.
We do strongly recommend taking a class with a trained yoga teacher first before practising at home, so that you have the opportunity to ask questions, to see these asanas first hand, and for the teacher to provide guidance and any corrections needed.
Online webinar and retreat experiences at home
Bring the retreat experience into your own home, in one of our online classes, workshops, meditations and packages. Read more on our online retreats page here.
More Yin yoga articles
If you are interested in reading more about Yin yoga at La Crisalida, you might also be interested to read these articles that we have published over the years on our health and wellbeing blog:
- Our article What is Yin yoga, is a great introduction to this wonderful slow style of yoga.
- Understand how Yin yoga can be used to influence and improve the health of your liver, and soothe anger. I share the signs and symptoms that could indicate a liver chi imbalance (following the approach used in Chinese medicine), which can be focused on in your Yin practise.
- You might also enjoy reading: Find your quiet time in yoga. Although it is not specific to Yin, it looks at how to practise yoga quietly.
If you want more tools to help your Yin practice at home, you might like to purchase a book or DVD – in my recent review, I recommend Sarah Powers’ Insight Yoga as a great home practice.
La Crisalida yoga retreats
La Crisalida Retreats offer year-round yoga retreats, in which you can practise Yin, Hatha and other styles of yoga in our welcoming retreat centre on the Costa Blanca. Come and find your inner peace in person. Read more about our yoga retreats here.
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).