You may think yoga poses only improve flexibility in the superficial muscles, such as the hamstrings and lats, but the asanas reach much deeper. Specific poses can stimulate internal organs to improve their function and encourage more balanced energy in your body.
Your spleen and kidneys, are two of the most important organs in your body. They play a role in a healthy immune system and are essential in filtering waste from your red blood cells. While active, flowing classes may include poses that stimulate these organs, you often get the most benefit from long-held poses in a Yin practice.
About Yin Yoga
Yin focuses on the largest joints of the body, particularly the hips and back. The poses are usually low to the ground and use gravity, rather than muscular strength, to target the connective tissues and lines of energy around the organs. You hold poses for lengthy amounts of time — between 1 and 10 minutes.
Yin yoga uses some of the same concepts of Chinese medicine, specifically, the idea of energetic lines, or meridians. When these channels are blocked, your energy is clogged and you're subject to physical and mental health issues.
Read More: Difference Between Yin Yoga and Hatha Yoga
Dragon is the Yin yoga name for Runner's Lunge pose. Yin yoga uses poses you might find in a more energetic class, but differentiates them with distinct names to convey that they have a different intention.
Instead of using your thigh and hip muscles to stay strong in this lunge, sink into it. When you let gravity pull your thigh and torso muscles toward the floor, you stimulate the spleen meridians (as well as the stomach meridians) that exist at the front of the thigh. The activation of the groin in this pose targets your kidney meridian.
How To: Get into all fours and bring your right foot between your hands so you're in a lunge. Lean forward into the right knee as you sink the right thigh and left hip toward the floor. Your hands or fists stay connected to the mat to support your torso. Hold for 1 to 5 minutes.
Saddle pose is the Yin version of Reclined Hero's pose. You'll feel an intense stretch of your quadriceps at the fronts of your thighs as you lean back into the posture. Only the most flexible of yogis can lie all the way down, but don't worry — you can lie back onto a bolster or support your buttocks with a block if the pose is too intense on your knees. By stretching your thighs, you stimulate the digestive meridians, especially the kidneys.
How To: Get into all fours and sit back on your heels, so you're actually seated on your shins. Your knees should be spread comfortably apart. If this is too intense on your knees, place a yoga block under your buttocks. Lean backward until you feel an intense stretch in the fronts of your thighs and hip flexors. The full pose has you lie all the way back so that your head and back touch the floor; many people don't have this flexibility and choose to lie back on a bolster propped up with blocks. Release into the posture for several minutes.
Square pose looks similar to Easy pose or full Pigeon. It provides a notable stretch to your outer hips and thighs. These areas are connected to the kidney meridians.
How To: Sit in a cross legged position on the floor. Bring your right shin parallel to the front edge of the mat and stack your left shin on top of it so your left ankle rests on top of your right knee. Your shins may not lie flat and your left knee may bend quite notably toward the ceiling. If the pose is too uncomfortable, sit in a more relaxed cross-legged style. Breathe here for 1 to 5 minutes.
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