7 Soothing Yin Yoga Poses to Calm Anxiety

When you’re stressed to the max, it’s time to drop down to your mat and engage in some seriously calming yin poses. Yin is a type of yoga that targets the deep muscle tissues of the body called fascia where trigger points (or knots) can form when you’re stressed. The deep stretches in yin work to release pain and tension in the fascia by holding passive postures for an extended period of time, allowing the fascia to soften and release.

Just like getting a massage, the physical tension releasing effects of yin yoga has a positive effect on our mental state, helping us to feel more relaxed and happy. Yin yoga postures can also be meditative, helping you to become present and bringing your nervous system into its calm rest and digest state, which allows stress and anxiety to melt away

Things to remember:

  • Because they work deep into the muscle, yin postures can feel intense. This intensity should feel like when you are getting a deep tissue massage. Breathe through it.
  • If you ever feel sharp pain, come out of the pose.
  • For maximum benefits, practice your yin poses in a calm, quiet environment.
  • The first few times you practice yin poses, you may periodically feel a bit antsy. Just come back to your breath and focus on surrendering to the moment.
  • As you become more experienced with these poses, you can practice holding them longer.

7 Soothing Yin Yoga Poses to Calm Anxiety

Butterfly | 2 mins

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This hip-opening and lower back-releasing forward fold will calm your nervous system and help bring a sense of peace and serenity.

  1. Sit on your mat and bring the soles of your feet to touch, allowing your knees to open like a butterfly. The closer your heels are to your body, the deeper the stretch will feel.
  2. Take an inhale as you lengthen your spine, then exhale to walk your hands forward as far as it feels comfortable.
  3. Relax your chin down towards your chest and relax your arms and shoulders. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep inhales and exhales to release tension. Then, find a natural breath as you hold for at least two minutes.

Melting Heart | 2 mins

Melts away your stress away as you open the chest, lats, and shoulders in this pose.

  1. Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  2. Keeping your hips stacked over your knees, crawl your hands towards the top of your mat and lower your forehead down.
  3. Lengthen the arms out and melt your chest towards the ground. Take a couple of deep, stress-releasing breaths. Then, close your eyes and find a natural breath while you hold for two minutes.

Dragonfly | 2 mins

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This hamstrings and hip opener helps to release any built-up tension from the hips.

  1. Sit on your mat and straddle your legs out to the sides. The further out they go, the more intense the stretch will feel. Flex your toes up toward the sky.
  2. Inhale to sit up tall and lengthen your spine, then exhale to crawl your hands forward as far as you can. Fold with a long spine, reaching your forehead forward. You can stay up on your palms or lower to your forearms. Relax your head and shoulders.
  3. Take a few deep breaths, then find a natural breath as you relax into the pose for two minutes.

Sleeping Swan | 2 mins per side

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This pose alleviates tension from the hips, quads, and lower back, bringing your body and mind into a peaceful and relaxed state.

  1. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  2. Pick up your right leg and bring the shin forward, positioning your knee behind your right wrist. Flex the toes back.
  3. Straighten your left leg back behind you and point the toes. Square your hips off to the top of your mat.
  4. Take an inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale to crawl the hands towards the top of your mat. Lower to your forearms or all the way down to your forehead.
  5. Find a natural breath and close your eyes to relax for two minutes. Switch sides.

Cat Tail | 1-2 mins per side

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This relaxing twist will wring out all of your stress.

  1. Lie on your back. Hug your right knee into your chest and lengthen your left leg down your mat.
  2. Take an inhale, then exhale and use your left hand to cross your right thigh across your body to come into a twist.
  3. You can always stay here, but if you’d like to go further, bend your left leg and capture your left foot with your right hand for a quad stretch. Try to keep your right shoulder close to the floor.
  4. Keep your head looking straight up or gaze over your right shoulder.
  5. Close your eyes and hold for one to two minutes. Then, switch sides.

Stirrup | 2 mins

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This pose relaxes the mind and body while opening up the hips and lower back.

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Lift your feet off the ground and hug your knees up toward your chest. Bring your upper arms inside of your thighs.
  3. Keep your lower back flat on the ground and reach your hands to the outer edges of your feet. If your lower back starts to lift, catch hold of your ankles, calves, or thighs instead.
  4. Close your eyes and find a natural breath as you hold for 2 minutes.

Savasana | 5 mins

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Also known as “corpse pose,” this relaxing pose is the ultimate de-stressor.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs down long and your feet out wide. Turn your palms up and allow your toes to fall outward.
  2. Close your eyes. Take a big breath in to fill up your belly. Then, take a loud exhale out of your mouth.
  3. Find a natural breath and allow yourself to completely surrender for at least five minutes.

5 Essential Yin Yoga Poses for Stress Relief

These basic yin yoga postures are excellent for a beginner to start with, but can also be used by practitioners of every level.

Pigeon Pose

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It is believed that much of our emotional tension is held in the hips. This pose will gently release tension and may even help you let go of emotional stress in the physical process. You will likely feel a very tight pull towards the outside of your hip; do not force your way into this yin yoga pose, but rather relax and breathe your way through the tightness.

How to Do the Pigeon Pose:

Start in an elbow plank position. Step one leg all the way up to the top of the mat, placing your shin down onto the mat with your heel close to the opposite hip. Flex the foot of your front leg while relaxing the foot of your back leg.

Do a mental body scan to make sure you aren’t holding any tension in your shoulders, neck, fingers, toes or forehead. Once you have achieved the yin yoga posture, your only job is to relax into it and allow time and breathing to take you deeper. Focus on breathing deeply, allowing relaxation of your hip muscles.

Pigeon Pose Tips:
  • Keeping your foot flexed is important to protect the knee joint. Do not relax the front foot. If you feel knee pain, keep adjusting until you no longer feel that pain in your knee. The goal here is to work on the hips, not the knees.
  • Aim to keep your hips square to the ground rather than twisted.
  • You may choose to keep your upper body propped up by your elbows or you can relax all the way down to the ground supporting your forehead with your hands. If it feels too intense from the elbows, then prop up on your hands to get even higher.
How Long Do I Hold This Pose?

Beginners: Hold 20 sec per side
Advanced: Hold 3 sec per side

Child’s Pose

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Child’s pose is one of the most relaxing, soothing and gentle yoga poses. If you experience lower back pain or stiffness, you will love the stretch and release in your lower back found with this pose.

How to Do the Child’s Pose:

Start in a kneeling position towards the back of your mat. Keep your feet close together, almost touching, but separate your knees to the width of your mat.

Walk your hands forward as far as they can go, paying attention to keep your hips over your heels. Place your forehead down on the mat and relax your face, neck and shoulders. Breathe deeply, stretching just a little bit more in both directions with each breath.

Child’s Pose Tip:
  • You should feel as if you are stretching in two different directions: back with your hips and forward with your arms.
How Long Should I Hold This Pose?

Beginners: Hold 60 sec
Advanced: Hold 5 min

Seated Spinal Twist

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Twisting is excellent for relieving lower back tension and promoting digestive health. You will also feel a good stretch and release across the middle of your back and your hip.

How to Do the Seated Spinal Twist:

Start in a seated position on your mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend one knee and place the foot flat on the mat just outside of your other knee so that this leg is crossing over the straight leg. Hook your opposite elbow outside the bent knee and press into it to create the twist in your spine.

Place your other hand onto the mat behind you with tented fingers, pressing down to lift your shoulder up and rotate even further. Use your knee to press into your elbow at the same time as using your elbow to press into your knee. Breathe deeply and aim to rotate and lift even more with each breath.

Seated Spinal Twist Tips:
  • Although you will also feel a stretch in your hip, aim to keep your focus on lengthening your spine.
  • Do not perform this pose if you have a spine or back injury.
How Long Should I Hold This Pose?

Beginners: Hold 20 sec per side
Advanced: Hold 3 min per side

Wide-Leg Standing Forward Fold

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This version of a forward fold is especially relaxing for a yin yoga practice because it is more stable than a traditional narrow stance forward fold and will allow you to feel a stretch and relief in your lower back.

How to Do the Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold:

Start by standing and opening your feet very wide, to either edge of your mat. Your toes should be pointing straight ahead and your heels firmly planted into the ground.

Bend forward at your hips while keeping your knees fully straight. Place your elbows lightly on the ground on the front edge of your mat with your hands interlaced.

Keep the pressure on your heels and touch the ground lightly with your elbows without placing too much weight on your upper body. Allow your head to relax forward and relieve any tension in your neck. Breathe deeply.

Wide-Leg Standing Forward Fold Tip:
  • If it is difficult for your hands to reach the floor, place yoga blocks under your hands.
How Long Should I Hold This Pose?

Beginners: Hold 30 sec
Advanced: Hold 5 min

Supine Butterfly

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Ending with this pose is a great way to sink into deep relaxation. Butterfly legs allow gravity to open your hips while the shoulder alignment will help train good posture.

How to Do the Supine Butterfly:

Start by lying flat on your back. Bring the soles of your feet together to touch and place them about 1 to 2 feet below your hips. Allow your knees to fall open to the sides.

Adjust your shoulders so that your chest feels lifted and your shoulders roll back. Lift your chin just slightly, allowing for a clear pathway for your breath. There should be a slight curve of your lower back so that your spine is in a neutral position rather than pressed to the ground.

Lay your arms out by your sides, with your palms facing up in a relaxed and comfortable position. Breathe and focus on stillness.

Supine Butterfly Tip:
  • Although this pose may seem passive, you can continue to work your knees closer to the ground with each deep breath.
How Long Should I Hold This Pose?

Beginners: Hold 30 sec
Advanced: Hold 5 min


Final Tips

The best thing about yin yoga is the opportunity to relax, tune out, and allow yourself to be still for a few moments during a busy day.

If you are having a hard time committing to a complete home yoga practice, I suggest just starting with one of these poses. Just one. For just 30 seconds to a minute. The benefit and pay off to your mood, attitude, and ability to feel refreshed and relaxed will still be significant and noticeable.

Come back to these postures whenever you feel frantic or anxious, and feel the stress melt away.

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