By Stefanie Arend
I cannot imagine my life without Yin Yoga. It is my personal anchor, and I do it every single day, rain or shine. As an avid year-round practitioner, I can attest that Yin Yoga is especially useful in the summer because it balances the Yang energy which is strongest in the hot season. Yin represents calm, while Yang is dynamism; Yin stands for coolness, Yang for heat. A Yin Yoga practice can cool us down during the hot summer months. Since we tend to be very active during the summer, it can also soothe our busy minds. When running and other more intense forms of exercise seem impossible in the heavy heat, or when my mind is wilting under stress, I turn to Yin Yoga as a gentle practice to help me soak in the season.
Here is a short sequence for you to try when temperatures are high. Stay in the poses as long as you feel comfortable.
Sit on the mat, place the soles of your feet together, and pull the feet towards the pelvis. Let the knees drop gently outwards or, if this stretch is too intense for you, support the outsides of the legs with two blocks. You can also sit on a blanket or a cushion. Relax the back, let your upper body sink forward passively and place your arms where it is comfortable for you.
Come onto all fours and pull your right knee forward to the right wrist. Bend the leg in such a way that your foot points to the left side and you can place the outside of the leg on the floor. For a greater opening of the hips, bring the upper and lower leg into a 90-degree angle. If that feels difficult to you, make the angle smaller accordingly. If this position causes pain in the knees, or if possible lack of balance on either side of the body is uncomfortable, sit higher, perhaps with buttocks and knees on a yoga bolster positioned lengthwise. Your back leg remains long on the floor. Now place your upper body relaxed on the bent leg and rest your head in your hands or on a yoga bolster.
Lie on your stomach, place your forearms on the floor and straighten your upper body. For a gentle version of the Sphinx, which supports you when releasing in this position, you can place a yoga bolster or rolled-up blanket straight across the mat underneath your ribcage. For more of a backbend, prop yourself up on your hands and push up your upper body using your arms to come into Seal. Breathe out deeply and let yourself sink down into the spine as in a hanging bridge. You can leave your legs slightly open to release the lumbar spine.
Place a yoga bolster or rolled-up blanket straight across the mat and lie on it. Place your upper body behind it to bring the pelvis into a raised position. Stretch the legs upwards, and find the point where you can hold it effortlessly. Take your arms back slowly and place them next to your head. During menstruation, you can also assume the position without raising the pelvis. For a more intensive version, let the legs drop back slightly more towards the floor. However, I do not recommend this version if you have issues in your cervical spine.
If you like, you can start or end your practice with this breathing technique which balances the energies of Yin and Yang, https://youtu.be/Tt7rnfQAGgo.
Stefanie Arend is a renowned Yin Yoga instructor, holistic health coach, nutritionist, and energy worker. As the first German author to focus exclusively on Yin Yoga, she is the author of six books, including the classic bestseller, Yin Yoga: The Gentle Path to the Inner Center(2011) and Surya Namaskar: The Sun Salutation(2014), both of which were named Best Yoga Book of the Year in German-speaking countries. Be Healthy with Yin Yoga is her first English language book. For more information about Stefanie or to watch her videos, visit www.yinyoga.de/en/and www.youtube.com/user/Stefanie1a/videos.
Excerpted from Be Healthy with Yin Yoga: The Gentle Way to Free Your Body of Everyday Ailments and Emotional Stress by Stefanie Arend, She Writes Press, August 2019.
Photos by Forster & Martin Fotografie, Munich, Germany