Teaching Yin Yoga Classes

teaching yin yoga classesBy Kathryn Boland

If you are teaching Yin Yoga classes, have you found yourself teaching the same poses over and over? Do you need more content for when you occasionally sub Yin classes, it not being your norm? Yin Yoga is a form with mostly floor-based poses that are held for a longer period than poses are held in other forms. Students should feel supported and comfortable, with the help of props and proper alignment. Yet these classes can generate muscular heat through this sustained stretching. “Yin” refers to that opposite of “yang”, with which we are culturally familiar – referring to ease, reduced speed, and the “softer” side of things (whereas “yang” qualities involve action, increased speed, and a hardening through greater engagement).

 

On the other hand, Yin Yoga can bring its own kind of intensity through the sensation that arises in muscles when they are stretched for a sustained period. Yin Yoga practice can therein become a lesson in noticing how one might react to intensity, and instead learning to respond (which may involve coming out of the pose, especially in the presence of pain – which is never an outcome to let continue). Here are three poses to try, with suggestions for helping students to breathe more easily and respond to intense sensation in the best ways for them. You’ll need – a mat, a blanket, four blocks, and a bolster.

 

Dragon Pose  (Vinyasa/Hatha “Lizard Pose”)

From Tabletop Pose, have students lengthen the right leg back and then bring that knee into the chest. Then instruct them to place the foot in between the thumbs, and then wiggle it to the right outer edge of the mat – with that, taking the right arm inside of the right leg. If the back knee feels sensitive, they can place a folded blanket under it.

Guide students to place a bolster underneath the hands, running horizontally (parallel to the top of the mat), one end to the instep of the right foot. If they desire more sensation, they can lower the forearms – either interlacing fingers or placing one or two blocks under each forearm.

Instruct them to breathe deeply here, with an Ujjayi breath if desired. That breath has a meditative potential of centering the mind on its audible rhythm. Ask them to notice where tension resides, and if they might be able to keep breathing it out.

Mid-pose, let them know that if the sensation is too much, they can support themselves with additional props (and offer support to help them do so), or come out of the pose to take something more restful. Yet also remind them that they can instead choose to stay with the sensation (so long as it’s not pain), and notice how they interact with it. Cue them out of the pose after two to four minutes, and then lead them into the other side.

 

Wide Half Split

Cue students to come back to Tabletop Pose (the reverse of the way in, by heel-toeing the front foot to center and kicking the leg back, then bending the knee and lowering it to under the same hip). Then guide them to set up Lizard Pose again on the other side – likely the right, if all instruction here was followed.

Then cue students to shift the hips back to where the left hip is over the left knee, the right leg still long. They can drag or shift the bolster back with them, either placing hands or forearms (if they desire more sensation) down. Remind them to stay connected with breath (maybe audible Ujjayi), beginning to breathout any sensed tension.

They can either stay with the sensation and notice how they do so, or decide to come out to a more restful pose if the sensation legitimately feels like too much. After two to four minutes, students can come out of the pose and switch to the other side – shifting forward to Lizard Pose, tip-toeing the foot to center, kicking it back, dropping the knee to center to return to Tabletop. Then guide students to take the other side, through the instructions above.

 

Supported Puppy Pose (Anahatasana)

Instruct students to come back to Tabletop Pose, per the instructions above. Shift the bolster to vertical (perpendicular to the top of the mat), and slide one end to touch the knees. Lower the chest to the bolster, and hug around the other end of the bolster. Take one cheek to it.

Cue students to feel a slight pulling in of the abdominals to support the spine, but the extent of which is manageable over consecutive minutes in the pose. Where else can they soften? Can they come back to the breath? After one or two minutes, switch to the other cheek on the bolster. After another one or two minutes, guide students to come out of the pose and notice how they feel.

Teaching yin yoga classes is definitely a different atmosphere from most other styles.  The pace is much slower and most students tend to know exactly what they are looking for. The number of poses covered within a class will be much less in comparison to most styles. That said, most of your students will enjoy a leisurely pace that addresses their specific needs.

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