How can we improve hip health with yin yoga? In contrast to the dynamic standing poses represented by yang yoga, there are many yin poses that are beneficial to the body. These differentiating terms refer to the ancient Chinese concepts of the yin and the yang, or the natural opposing forces in the body and in the world. The yang represents energy, light, and masculinity; the yin represents calm, unyielding, and femininity. The sun represents the yang, while the moon represents the yin, and according to ancient beliefs, the body cannot exist without both the yin and the yang.
The energy depicted by the yang is shown through active standing poses, but yin yoga is more relaxed and slower-paced, and the majority of poses for this type of yoga are laying or sitting poses. This is due to the strain placed on the muscles during standing poses, as it counteracts the relaxed nature of the yin poses. Typically, yin yoga is not practiced alone, but alongside yang poses and sequences. Many patients with hip discomfort or problems find that yin poses benefit them more than yang poses, however, due to the nature of the stretching.
Yin poses are typically held for at least 3 to 5 minutes, though some can last for much longer than that. This longer holding time puts minor strain on the connective tissues surrounding the spine and joints. When the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are stressed in this manner, they will stretch if they are relaxed, allowing for greater flexibility and range of motion. Because these connective tissues cannot stretch if a joint is tense, these poses must be done in a relaxed state and position or they will not be effective. The movement of these tissues and the increased flow of oxygen through them also enhances the blood flow and circulation to various parts of the body.
Though there are many yin poses that promote hip health, there are some that no one should remain unaware of. The butterfly pose is a simple way to stretch the hips and lower back, as well as to open the hips and allow for greater flexibility. Another sitting pose that will benefit hips is the square pose, where the legs are placed parallel to each other and the edge of the yoga mat. The sequence of the dragons offers a variety of poses with one leg stretched or folded forward and the other extended behind the body. The frog (mandukasana), swan, and deer poses (mrigiasana) are also useful poses in enhancing hip health. The majority of yin poses are easy to accomplish and can be completed often to promote hip health, as well as enhance flexibility and circulation.
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