6 Beginners’ Yin Yoga Poses to Target Chronic Pain
Yoga is a slow and gentle style of movement exercise involving staying in supported poses (asanas) for a few minutes through to longer periods depending on type. Yoga can be practiced on mats, standing, sitting or lying on the floor and great for calming the nervous system.
Yin Yoga is a gentle type of Yoga which stretches and releases tension in the underlying fascia – deep connective tissue – that holds our muscles, bones and organs in place. By holding the stretch for longer than usual, the connective tissue is stimulated instead of just the muscles. And the body responds by making this connective tissue slightly longer and stronger.
Yin Yoga poses for Chronic Pain
Connective tissue is especially important to people with chronic pain. It sends the message – from our brain or nervous system – to tell the muscles to contract, often causing or increasing pain. In yin yoga, we combine stretching with slow breathing, with the end goal of encouraging the muscles to slowly relax instead of contract.
Is Yin Yoga uncomfortable?
It’s normal to feel slight discomfort as you ease into the postures – but you should ensure your breath is easy and you feel no burning pain. These yoga poses for chronic pain don’t need any specialist equipment, although you may find a pillow useful. They are best performed as a sequence, lasting around 20 minutes.
1. Modified Child’s Pose
What does the modified child’s pose do? This classic posture stretches the muscles around the spine, while relieving back and neck tension. Kneel on the floor.
Bring your big toes together to touch one another. Place your knees as wide apart as you’d like.
How is the modified child’s yoga pose for chronic pain different? Instead of bringing the upper body forwards – like in a traditional child’s pose – bring it down towards the right
You could place a pillow underneath your forehead or chest. After 5 minutes, lift the upper body up, move your pillow to the left and drop into the pose on this side.
Contraindications: If you have knee issues, place a pillow between your legs
2. Half Dragonfly
Benefits of the Half Dragonfly position The half dragonfly releases tension in the shoulders and upper body with this yin position. It can also reduce the pain associated with frozen shoulder.
How to get into the Half Dragonfly position
Lie on your left side, with your left arm straight out in front of you. Roll slowly onto your front, so your chest is resting on your left arm. Rest your forehead on the floor or prop it up with a pillow – whichever feels most comfortable. Reach your right arm up, so it’s next to your head. Press your right palm towards the ground.
Ensure your legs are relaxed and a comfortable distance apart. Hold for 3 minutes, before repeating on your left side.
Roll back onto your side and carefully sit up. Contraindications: It’s best to elevate your hips with a pillow, if you suffer from sciatica.
Relieve tightness of the lower back and hip flexors with this forward fold.
How to get into butterfly position
From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together and then slide them away from you.
Allow your back to round, while you fold forward. Rest your hands on your feet. Your head should hang down towards your heels.
Hold for 5 minutes. Slowly ease your head back up into its usual position.
Butterfly Contraindications: Avoid dropping your head, if you’ve recently suffered whiplash. Elevate your hips by sitting on a pillow, if you have sciatica.
4. Reclined Butterfly
This soothing pose gently stretches the inner thighs, hips and knees. Lie down onto a pillow, ensuring it’s positioned under your rib cage.
Bring the soles of your feet together. Place the feet as close to your body as comfortable, with your knees open wide.
Ensure the top of your head, hips and sides of your feet are lying against the floor.
Additional stretch for Reclined Butterfly: For an extra stretch in the shoulders and chest, rest your hands on your stomach or hold opposite elbows above the head. Hold for 5 minutes. Release your legs, roll carefully onto your side and slowly sit up.
Contraindications of Reclining Butterfly: If you have a groin or knee injury, perform this pose with pillows under the outer thighs.
5. Reclined Spinal Twist
The why and how of the reclined spinal twist
Twisting postures can be a relaxing way to release tension around the spine, while helping to restore its natural range of motion. Lie on your back. Draw both knees into your chest.
Open your arms to the side, so they’re at a right angle to your body.
Drop your knees to the right.
Hold for 3 minutes, before repeating on your left side.
Reclined Spinal Twist for sciatica: Direct the knees lower or higher to impact on where in the spine the stretch is felt. For sciatica pain relief, bring the bent knee towards the chest.
Contraindications: People with shoulder issues may find it more comfortable to bend their arms.
What is Shavasana
Shavasana rests the body and mind. It should be the final pose in any yin yoga sequence. Lie on your back and place your arms to the side with your palms facing upwards.
Breath and Shavasana:
Pay attention to your breath. Slowly scan your body, noting how each body part feels. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Slowly roll onto your side and push yourself up as it’s important to be measured when you are practising yoga poses for chronic pain.
Expert Bio: Rebecca Tidy is a qualified yoga instructor. She originally learned yoga to help reduce her own chronic pain, caused by cancer treatment. Now, she loves helping others reduce their discomfort, while increasing mobility.. It’s always wise to chat to a doctor before beginning any exercise programme, especially if you have any serious health issues or may be pregnant.