Originally founded by martial arts champion and Taoist yoga teacher, Paulie Zink, yin yoga is a restorative practice consisting of various seated and supine poses that generally target the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. Yin yoga is characterized by extended holds of postures that typically range from 2-5 minutes to allow the connective tissue to be stressed appropriately. Props such as bolsters, blocks, or blankets are often used in the practice to aid the practitioner in staying more comfortable for the longer duration of a pose and to keep the muscles relaxed. This introduction will help you get to know all the ins and outs of how long to hold yin yoga poses.
How Long to Hold Yin Yoga Poses For
While most yin yoga classes involve 2-5 minute holds, learning to listen to your body will help you find the appropriate length of time for you. As a baseline, beginners may benefit from starting with 1-3 minutes, while advanced practitioners may aim for 5 minutes or more — even up to 10, 20, or 25 minutes! The 3-minute mark, however, might provide some of the primary benefits of yin yoga.
Holding yin yoga poses for 3+ minutes:
As yin teacher Dina Amsterdam explains, “It’s around the 3-minute mark that synovial fluid, our joints’ natural lube, is stimulated and released into the connective tissues being worked, making them more supple and agile.” These longer holds of yin yoga poses not only allow this physical change to occur, but provide other mental and emotional benefits such as:
- Improved focus: Yin yoga provides an almost meditative quality as you settle into each pose and maintain your focus on the experience. This leads to improved concentration which can benefit your actual meditation practice.
- Reduced stress: In today’s busy world, there are not many opportunities to be still. Yin yoga poses allow you find that stillness and quiet as you melt and relax into each pose. You will leave the practice feeling less stressed and more refreshed.
- Reduced pain: Because this practice helps restore the body, it can help alleviate pain as you release and ease tension in the muscles and lubricate the ligaments and joints.
- Heightened self-awareness: The extended holds in yin yoga give us the time and space to explore our feelings and emotions as they come up in each pose. They also allow us to get to know our body better as we make continuous adjustments for our anatomical needs and find our personal edge in each pose.
- Increased range of motion: Taking care of the connective tissue around the joints allows you to relieve joint stress and safely open them to their healthy limits.
Holding yin yoga poses for under 3 minutes:
There are instances when you might find yourself needing a shorter hold of yin yoga poses, especially as a beginner. These common experiences are worth paying attention to in your practice:
- Emotional discomfort: Holding yin poses for longer periods of time can bring up many physical sensations in the body, and as a result, many emotional reactions as well. A goal of the yin practice is to eventually learn how to sit with these uncomfortable emotions, but it might feel overwhelming in the beginning stages of your practice.
- Your practice style: Yin yoga requires a delicate balance of feeling sensation, but not going beyond your limits. It is about finding your own physical and emotional edges in the pose. Holding a pose for an extended time just for the sake of competition or pushing the body harder is not the goal of a yin practice. If you are used to always practicing with intensity, or even not challenging yourself at all, a shorter hold can help you learn how to navigate the balance between the two.
- Your individual anatomy: Each body is different in its structure, which will determine which poses are easier or more challenging and how long a hold should be. Some people may find release in a shorter amount of time, while others may require longer.
Ready to try yin yoga? Yin Yoga Experience with Jonah Kest and Yin for the Hips with Josh Kramer are great classes to explore this practice. For some individual yin yoga poses, be sure to check out these poses for your chakras.