The moments before falling into bed can have a meaningful effect on the restfulness of your slumber. Yin yoga, a slow gentle practice that is beneficial for the release of connective tissues, is a wonderful starting point when exploring the restorative benefits of yoga.
Liz Lorinksy, an experienced yogi and teacher, joins us to share a brief “before bed” pose from the yin lineage of yoga.
“This practice requires patience and breath. In yin yoga we are targeting connective tissues of the body which are inelastic and lack the water content of muscle tissues which are more elastic and respond quicker to stimulation.”
– Liz Lorinksy
STEP ONE: Create space for your practice.
Consider putting your phone on “do not disturb.” Other methods to mentally make space for your practice can include lighting incense or a candle.
Instead of finding the physical extreme of a pose, this practice is expressed through the amount of time spent in the pose. The connective tissues of the body are released in stillness without active muscular engagement in the posture.
If a yoga mat or bolster is not available to you feel free to improvise. Laying on a bed or carpeted surface and placing folded blankets or a firm pillow under the bent leg accessible modifications for a before bed practice.
STEP TWO: Getting into the pose.
Yin poses are usually practiced for three to five minutes with a slow, even breath. This posture is asymmetrical, so be sure to practice evenly on both sides of the body. Setting a timer with a pleasant notification to remind you to gently transition out of your posture and settle into the second side can be helpful.
Remember, postures in the yin tradition should not feel uncomfortable, labored, or extreme. Be sure to support and prop generously, taking time to set up mindfully and luxuriously before be- ginning your timer. Even if you intend to go to the fullest expression of the pose, start by setting up for the most gentle progression and ease your way into to the deeper variations. The gentle variations of poses have many, if not all, of the same benefits of the full variations of poses. By approaching your practice with ease and compassion for your body, you can allow yourself to go deeper into the pose without undue stress on the body.
You may discover that your body finds the most ease and relaxation in one of the gentler ver- sions. As you spend time in this pose, resist the urge to fidget. Stillness, gravity, time, and lack of muscular engagement are the components that allow for connective tissues to release on their own.
The following are different levels of expression for a supported twist pose, as you will see demonstrated by Liz Lorinsky in the photos below. As you find your personal deepest expression, let your eyes soften their focus, perhaps coming to close. Allow gravity to press your body into the surface beneath you, breathing deeply with a loose jaw.
Gentle: Lay on the mat with the bolster off to one side. Shift your hips away from the bolster, roll onto the side of your body so you are facing your bolster. Rest your head on your own bicep or a pillow if your neck requires more support. Then, lift the leg that is on top onto the bolster. The low thigh and the majority of the shin should be supported.
Moderate: Back lays down onto the mat. The arm that is closest to the leg that is supported on the bolster comes into contact with the leg. The other arm reaches out to the side, releasing into the mat. If a shoulder lifts up, supply more propping either under the lifted leg or shoulder, so as to not strain the body.
Full Expression: Both shoulders remain on the mat with arms reaching out wide to each side.
Maintain your expression of this pose for three minutes on each side.
“There’s a little compression happening in the body, so you have to be aware that your breath won’t be as deep. Whichever side is opening up, the side on top, breathe into that side of the body. Visualize the ribs and lungs expanding with every inhale and the fall and gentle compression on the exhale.” – Liz Lorinsky
STEP THREE: Getting out of the pose.
After your timer rings take a moment to bring awareness back into your body. Give your fingers and toes a little wiggle, inviting sensation and circulation into them, then roll on to your back to dismount from your bolster. Lay in stillness, perhaps hugging your knees to your chest, and move your bolster to the other side of your mat to continue your practice on the other side.
Once you have stretched both sides, perhaps end your practice with a thought of gratitude for your body and all the hard work it does for you throughout your day, and slip into bed with a smile.
featured yogi: Liz Lorinsky / lizlorinsky.com / instagram: @lizyoga
photography by: Krista Bonura / http://kbonuraphotography.com
/ instagram: @kbonu- raphoto
article by: Nancy Cantine / instagram: @devotedwarrior
edited by: Hayley Salmon