There are many ways to boost your energy levels. Some reach for coffee in the morning, some want to wake up the body with a vigorous exercise that gets the blood pumping.
Another way to boost yourself is to take your focus to the more subtle energy flowing deep within us. The Chinese would call this energy chi, and the pathways of the energy the meridians. Yogic tradition calls the energy prana, and the pathways are the nadis.
When we want to boost this energy, we actually need to slow down.
The energy flows where the attention goes.
If the vital energy flow of prana is blocked, we can have illnesses and imbalance in our body. Not only that, if we have limited movement in our body for a long period of time, we lose the full range of motion in our joints. This can leave us stiff and feeling older, and it brings stagnating energy into the body.
Fortunately, the remedy is close at hand. Yin yoga targets the connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, and fascia) in the body, and focuses on opening and unblocking the energy meridians running through the different internal organs. In addition to this, Yin yoga also strengthens and lengthens the joints, giving us increased mobility.
Have only 15 minutes to spare?
Although a Yin yoga sequence means longer holds and a slower pace, it doesn't mean that in 15 minutes you cannot do some good to your body.
Yin yoga affects the connective tissue around the joints, and for this, we need the muscles to be relaxed and cool. When the muscles are warm, they will absorb most of the tension of the stretch. And remember, when coming into a pose, let your body lead the way. Find your own edge and allow your body to slowly open up.
1. Butterfly Pose
Butterfly Pose stretches the lower back without tight hamstrings getting in the way. Place the soles of your feet together and bring the feet further away from the hips. Rotate the hips forward, rounding the back, and bring your head towards your feet.
If you have issues with sciatica, elevate the hips by sitting on a block. You can also place blocks under the knees for support. With any lower back disorders, avoid rounding the back.
Stay in the pose for 3 minutes, and then slowly come up by walking the hands closer to the hips. Straighten the legs and lean back on your hands for a mild counterpose.
2. Dragon Pose
Dragon Pose provides a deep hip opening that also stretches the back leg's quadriceps and hip flexors. Start from Table Top, and step one knee between the hands, placing the knee above the heel. Your hands can be on the floor or on your leg.
To relieve pressure on the back knee, you can place a pillow under the knee or a bolster under the shin so the knee comes off the floor.
Hold the pose for 2 minutes on each side. Come out slowly by bringing the hands on the floor, moving the back knee forward, and coming back to Table Top. Another alternative is to stretch to Downward Dog.
3. Sphinx Pose
Sphinx Pose tones the spine and stimulates the sacral-lumbar arch. This is a great pose if you do a lot of sitting during the day.
Lay on your stomach, feet hip width apart, and bring the elbows under the shoulders. If the pressure on the sacral-lumbar arch feels too strong, bring your elbows forward to lessen the curve. If you want a deeper bend, elevate the elbows onto a block.
Avoid this pose if you are pregnant or if you have a tight sacrum.
Hold the pose for 3 minutes and come out by lowering your upper body completely on the floor. Stay for at least 3 to 4 breaths. Once you feel ready, come to a Child's pose for 2 to 3 breaths.
4. Dragonfly Pose
Dragonfly opens the hips, groin, and the back of the thighs. As you come into the pose, keep the weight forward on the sitting bones, elevating the hips with a block if needed. If the hamstrings feel too tight, you can bend the knees and place a block or a bolster under the knees.
With any lower back disorders, keep the back straight. With any injury on the knees, keep the legs a bit closer together and tighten the quadriceps in order to engage the kneecaps.
Stay in the pose for 3 minutes and slowly come up by walking your hands back towards the hips. Bring the legs together and lean back to release.
Lay back on your mat and enjoy few deep breaths in Savasana.
Taking care of the body inside out.
If you want to boost your internal energy levels, incorporate some Yin into your day. With the long holds of Yin yoga, we can stimulate the flow of the vital energy and care for the body and mind in a quieter, subtler way.
Image Credit: Arno Enzerink / Yogini: Kaisa Kapanen