4 Best Yin Yoga Poses for Stress Relief, from a Yoga Expert

With 57% of people feeling stressed on a daily basis and 69% stressed about the feeling of ‘lack of time’ around the holidays, it’s no wonder why Yin Yoga has become so popular (and has over 7.8 billion views on TikTok)!

Yin yoga is rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy and deeply connected to the idea of balancing yin and yang. The poses in a yin yoga practice work to use tension and compression to target different meridians (or channels of energy in the body) to help keep them open and balanced for optimal health. And while this certainly contributes to physical health, it also has a profound effect on emotional health.

Yin yoga seeks to bring the body back to a greater state of harmony by giving us the chance to slow down and move into the deeper layers of tension and tightness that are often held. Poses are passively held for 5-7 minutes or more, with the intention of targeting the fascia and other connective tissues of the body – they may even evoke tears! The body is meant to fully release into the shapes and work with gravity to slowly move deeper and deeper into each posture. Through connection to the breath, pent up emotions can be released, leaving more room and space for new experiences and emotions to move freely. 

Heart Bench

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How to do it:

  1. Place one block on the medium height longways facing the top of your mat and the other block on the tall height about 4 inches behind it.
  2. Lay back on the blocks so the bottom block sits right between your shoulder blades with the bottom edge of the block meeting the bottom edge of the shoulders. The top block comes under your head at the base of the skull so your chin tilts slightly towards your chest.
  3. Extend your legs out long.

Why it’s great: Opening the heart space right at the start of practice helps to melt away the physical tension we often carry in the upper back and shoulders throughout the day. This pose also allows the breath to move freely through the abdomen which allows for increased oxygenation of the blood which refreshes the mind. Plus, the tall block helps to gently tuck the chin ever-so-slightly towards the chest which signals the brain to move towards relaxation.

Insider tip: If this bothers your low back, bend your knees and take your feet as wide as your mat. Let your knees knock in towards the center so the weight of your legs support each other.

Square Pose

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How to do it:

  1. Start with both feet out in front of you and your knees bent.
  2. Cross your right ankle over your left knee to create a figure four shape.
  3. Slide your left foot across your mat to the right side so your shins stack and your ankles and knees are lined up. Space between your top knee and bottom ankle is totally fine, but if your bottom knee doesn’t reach the floor, slide a blanket underneath to protect it.
  4. Switch legs and repeat

Why it’s great: Stress can often lead to built up tightness in the hips and this pose gets right to stretching and releasing the tension that gets stored in this area of the body. While it can be intense, this pose is super effective at creating the connection to breath to create a sense of ease for the body and the mind. Plus, the forward fold element of the pose helps to shift out of the sympathetic nervous system– fight for flight– and towards the parasympathetic nervous system– rest and restore.

Insider tip: If the stacking of the shins feels like way too much, you can stay in the figure four shape and breathe here. This will still open up the hip and target the same areas of the body.

Dragonfly Pose

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How to do it:

  1. Turn to face the long side of your mat.
  2. Open your legs out wide and then relax muscle engagement in the legs.
  3. Fold your upper body forward from the hips and relax your head down.
  4. Allow your body to move with gravity and release further and further into the pose.

Why it’s great: While the hamstrings and backs of the legs often get the most attention here, this pose actually opens up the whole back body, which helps to provide relief even in those hard-to-reach areas of the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Forward folds are calming for the nervous system and help the mind drop into deep relaxation.

Insider tip: I personally love this pose with some type of prop support under my head– usually a block with a blanket on top. The gentle pressure of the prop right at the third-eye point helps to create extra grounding and relieve stress.

Reclined Butterfly Pose with Heart Opener 

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How to do it:

  1. Lay a bolster long ways on your mat with a blanket towards the top of the bolster as a pillow for your head.
  2. Sit with your feet on the floor in front of you, knees bent, and low back right at the bottom edge of the bolster and lay back so your upper body is fully supported by the bolster.
  3. Bring the soles of your feet to touch and open your knees out wide to the sides. Your hands can rest gently beside you, or you can even place on on your heart and one on your belly and breathe into your hands.

Why it’s great: Practicing this yin posture at the end of the sequence is a nice way to squeeze in a few final minutes of openness. This shape opens the chest, pelvis, inner thighs, and hips all at once– which feels like a giant exhale for the entire body. Plus, it’s very easy to focus on your breathing in this position.

Insider tip: If this feels like too deep of a backbend, you can use blocks in the same heart bench setup from the first pose and place the bolster over the blocks. This will still create all of the chest opening, but with less intensity in the low back.

If you’re interested in learning more, YogaRenew offers an Online Yin Yoga Teacher Training course or you can try at-home classes at YogaRenew Online ($19.99/month).

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