Yin is a powerful practice that can teach us to slow it all down. If you’re surfing every day, your muscles get tired, sore, and energy levels fall. Yin is the perfect counter balance practice for surfers. It requires no effort or strain, simply utilizing gravity to do the work for you. It is a way to connect the breath whilst applying gentle pressure on the tendons, fascia, and ligaments, increasing circulation in the joints and flexibility. Your muscles are not under any forced stress nor is there intention to reach any particular goal. It is simply about breathing and letting go of tension. Along with finding deep releases, it can also be a very meditative practice.
Try these poses for a deep release in the shoulders, perfect for the paddling muscles and avoiding injury. These poses are also designed to open up the heart area, a place we like to protect by tensing up our neck, shoulders, and chest. You may find that you feel vulnerable in a few poses. That is completely normal when releasing the tensions we have built up in our bodies. Traditionally, we hold poses for 1-3 minutes, but try to listen to your body and know when to come out of each pose. Breath deeply, find a meditative state, and use as many props as possible to get comfortable. You can use cushions, blocks, blankets or bolsters.
1. Melted Heart Pose/ Puppy Pose
Come to a table top position and place two blocks just in front of the palms. Walk the arms in front of you, melting the chest towards the floor whilst keeping your hips high and above the knees. Place forearms on the block and bring arms together in prayer above the head. Stay for 2 to 3 minutes and then rest in child’s pose.
2. Cow Face Pose
Come to sit and stack right knee on top of left knee, feet pointing to the back of your mat. If stacking knees is uncomfortable, stay crossed legged. Inhale the left arm up to the sky, bend at the elbow and draw the palm down your spine. Take the right arm behind you and try to interlock fingers creating a bind. Keep the spine and neck long and use your head to gently draw the top shoulder open. If you can’t create a bind, use a strap in the palms behind your back. Stay for 1 to 2 minutes, then move to the other shoulder.
3. Shoulder Roll Over
Come onto your belly and extend your right arm out to the side in line with the shoulder, palm facing down. Push into the opposite hand and begin to roll open to the side of the extended arm. Bend the top knee and step the foot behind you. If you feel good, take the left arm behind the back. Relax your neck so head comes to the floor, or rests on a block or blanket. Make sure you can breathe freely. Stay for 1-3 minutes, and gently roll back onto your front to rest, then move to the other shoulder.
4. Supported Fish
Use two blocks or a bolster. Place the blocks/bolster under the mid back, on the thoracic spine, just where the ribs start. Place the second block under the head. Come to lay on your back resting on the blocks. Allow the arms and legs to relax and head to be supported, neck long. Stay for 2- 3 minutes, breathing freely and relaxing deeply.
Come up to sit, move the block long ways between the shoulders and rest back down on the blocks. Relax the arms and legs, breathe freely and relax deeply. Stay for 2 – 3 minutes. Slowly roll to the side, remove the blocks and squeeze knees into the chest to release the spine.
Come to lay flat on the back, if your lower back feels sensitive, keep the knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor. Relax the whole body. Allow the fingers and toes to naturally curl over. Allow the weight of the head to fall deep into the earth and jaw to fall open relaxed. Allow the eyes to soften, then close the eyes. Focus on the breath and feel the whole body sink into the earth, relaxing, finding stillness. Stay for as long as you would like.
Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the author’s yoga retreats, Wild & Free Adventures on Instagram @wildandfreeadventures and @alan_stokes and @phillylewis