There’s a common misconception that Yin Yoga practices have to be long. In some ways, this makes sense because Yin yoga as a practice is one of stillness, patience and surrender. Devoting long periods of time to it can be transformative, but you can still enjoy the benefits of a Yin yoga practice without letting it take over your day. (Read more in The Practice of Surrender.)
The following 20 minute Yin “reset" sequence is ideal for whenever you need to restore a sense of calm to your life. I do it after a hectic work day to help me to switch into a more mindful and relaxed frame of mind. Hold each asana for three minutes (use a meditation timer if you have one), and move in a way that feels good between poses. (Read more in Restorative Yoga: Relax and Recharge.)
Begin in Seiza
All my Yin yoga practices begin in seiza, a traditional Japanese meditation posture. Come to kneeling and sit back on your heels, allowing the weight of your body to settle down into the earth. Place your palms down on your thighs and close your eyes. Allow your belly to be soft and your breathing to be easy.
Supported Child’s Pose
From seiza, bring your knees mat-width apart. Keeping the big toes together, let your hips sink back and down toward the ground. Then, fold your upper body forward, taking your forehead to the floor. If you discover that either your hips or forehead can't reach the floor, use a yoga block, blankets or cushions to give yourself something to relax into. Reach your arms alongside your ears so that they rest on the floor. You are now in supported child's pose. Soften everything, becoming aware of any sensations of stretching through your spine and back body. When going into the following poses, make your transitions intuitive and mindful. (Read more in How to be More Mindful.)
Sleeping Swan Pose
Sleeping swan is similar to pigeon pose in other styles of yoga. From all fours, bring your right knee to the ground at the back of your right hand. Move your right foot toward your left hand. As you slide your left knee back, release your hips toward the ground. If this is uncomfortable for your right hip or knee, keep your right foot closer to your groin. For extra support, place a folded blanket underneath your right sit bone and fold your body forward, either coming to the ground or onto a bolster. Surrender in this pose for three minutes, then repeat on the opposite side. (Read on in Yin Yoga: There's Power in Surrender.)
Come into sphinx pose by lying face down on your mat. Keep your feet hip-width apart, then lift into a passive, supported backbend by placing your forearms on the ground, elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep the back of your neck long and your shoulders and face relaxed. If this feels too intense, take your elbows wider to lessen the backbend, or come out of the pose sooner.
Lying on your back, bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to release out to either side. Place a cushion or block underneath your thighs so the knees are supported. Open your arms out to a T-Shape, coming into reclined butterfy pose. Focus on the front of your body opening and softening, while your body relaxes into the ground.
End in Savasana
Make any final movements your body needs before coming to lie flat on your back with your feet mat-width apart in savasana. Have your arms beside your body, palms facing up. Close your eyes, giving yourself time to gently observe how you feel after this Yin yoga practice. Relax here for as long as you can. (Learn more in Rejuvenating in Savasana.)
Yin the Day
When you've completed this short Yin sequence, remember to transition back into “real life” gently. Move slowly and mindfully, and try to savor the calm you cultivated through your practice. Notice the difference it makes to the rest of your day. (Read about The Benefits of Yin Yoga.)