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Yin Yoga 101: 3 Poses That Build Strong, Healthy Qi
These simple postures from Josh Summers will also help enhance the circulation of this vital energy.
Want to learn a style of yoga that’s focused on bringing balance—physically, energetically, and mentally? Join Josh Summers, founder of the Summers School of Yin Yoga, for our new online course Yin Yoga 101—a six-week journey through the foundations and principles of Yin Yoga, along with asana practice and meditation. Sign up today!
At one point or another, we’ve all probably heard or said something like, He has great energy! or She’s really grounded. In Traditional Chinese Medicine these phrases refer to a person whose Qi (vital life force) is both sufficient and flowing. In other words, they have an ample supply of healthy, intelligent energy, and that energy is circulating well. This makes the person relaxed, straightforward, centered, and vibrant. On the flip-side, there’s the condition of feeling off. Like fruit past its prime, a person with an energetic disturbance may be overly fatigued, irritable, have poor digestion, or feel pain.
As yogis, we all probably have a deep conviction in the power of our yoga practice to help smooth our energetic kinks. As an acupuncturist, I want to show you how a bit of TCM knowledge can help further refine your energetic state, especially as it relates to Yin Yoga. First, let me clarify a few TCM concepts: Qi, Meridians, Acupuncture Points, and Yin and Yang Theory.
What, exactly, is Qi?
Ancient TCM masters determined that a person’s health is directly tied to the quality and flow of Qi throughout the body. Pronounced “chee,” Qi is often defined as a life force extracted from the raw materials of ingested food and fluids and from the air we breathe. We can think of Qi as good metabolic intelligence. When it’s flowing, all the physiological processes of the body work in harmony. When it’s deficient or stuck, it leads to disease and disharmony.
Where do Meridians fit into this?
Every good communication system needs a means of sending signals. Electricity needs wires and cables. Your email needs the internet. And in TCM your Qi needs the Meridian system in order to flow and circulate well.
How do acupuncture points relate to Qi and Meridians?
Acupuncture points, located on the Meridians, are very effective at influencing the quality and flow of Qi. Many of the most important acupuncture points are located at joints where the body, energy, and Meridians are all in transition—which is key when it comes to Yin Yoga. Think of the joints as junctures of change, communication centers where signals are ideally transmitted smoothly. But those signals could get crossed or overloaded, like a traffic jam during rush hour. When this happens, there may be pain, swelling, or inflammation in the joint—a local block in communication that affects other parts of your body. Your organs depend on the smooth flow of Qi in order to function optimally. If stagnation at your joints persists, your organs won’t get nourished and your whole system can get thrown out of whack.
Yin and Yang Theory (and Why They Need Each Other)
Yin and Yang Theory describes oppositional but complementary relationships within and between everything. Yin qualities tend to be dark, slow, still, and hidden. Yang qualities tend to be bright, fast, moving, and visible. The TCM approach to health is promoting a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang energies.
A great way to keep our Yin and Yang energies balanced and our Qi flowing and healthy is yoga. But varying yoga styles influence the Qi in different ways. Yin and restorative practices are great if you’re suffering from Qi deficiency: low energy, poor appetite or digestion, a weak voice, or chronic illness. Stagnant Qi—which manifests as pain, tension, stress, or irritability—settles in your joints. Yin Yoga gently stresses the joints to loosen that stagnation and restore the relaxed flow of Qi. After that, an active, or Yang, yoga practice will pump fresh Qi through these areas, and you’ll feel renewed. Yin and Yang Yoga go together beautifully—like, well, Yin and Yang!
In Yin Yoga 101 we’ll explore sequences that enhance your body’s ability to generate and build strong, healthy Qi and enhance its circulation. For now, try these three poses.
3 Poses That Build Strong, Healthy Qi
Sit on the floor or a cushion, and bring the soles of your feet together, forming a diamond shape between your heels, knees, and hips. If your knees feel any stress, place blocks beneath them. Fold forward, letting your head hang or rest on a prop. Find a position that generates mild stress in the inner legs, outer hips, or along the back of the spine. Some people feel sensations in all these areas, while others feel the primary sensation in just one. Stay 3-5 minutes.
Meridians Influenced: Kidney, Liver, and Spleen—the three Yin Meridians of the leg—are stimulated, deeply nourishing the Yin energy of the body, which has a cooling and calming effect on the body and mind. Folding forward stimulates the Bladder Meridian along the spine. The Bladder Meridian influences Yin energy through its relationship to the TCM element of Water, creating a calming, cooling, and soothing effect; it is particularly helpful if Qi is stagnant.
Sit on your heels or on a block between your heels. Place your knees a comfortable distance from each other. Lean back, extending the spine and resting on your hands or elbows. Alternatively you can rest your back on a prop (as shown) or release all the way to the floor. Find a position that creates a mild sensation across the front thighs and/or lower back. Stay 3-5 minutes
Meridians Influenced: The Spleen and Stomach Meridians, which travel through the front thighs and front torso, get stimulated and work with their paired organs to generate Qi through their role in digestion. This has an energizing and enlivening effect on body and mind. As you move into the backbend more, you’ll likely start to feel mild compression in your lower back, which is where the Kidney Meridian travels. The Kidneys are the root of our energy, and they support the Spleen and Stomach to effectively extract pure Qi from our food. Saddle has a nourishing effect on our Qi and is helpful if your Qi is deficient.
Sit with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Allow your legs to fall to the right, as you drape your right-side torso over a bolster. Bring your head either to the floor or a cushion and extend your arms overhead. Find a position where you feel gentle sensation in the outer part of the top hip or along the side top waist or rib cage. Stay 3-5 minutes, then repeat on opposite side.Meridians Influenced: Side Supine Deer influences the Gall Bladder Meridian along the side body, working with the Liver to relax Qi flow through the entire body, promoting harmony and balance. Additionally, the subtle twist at the pelvis influences all the meridians that travel through the hips, further contributing to the systemwide harmonizing and homeostatic stimulation of this pose. Everyone benefits from harmonized Qi.
Yin Meditation with Josh Summers
Want to learn more about Yin Yoga?
Join Josh Summers in his six-week online course, Yin Yoga 101.
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Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday
Ho Chi Minh was born on May 19, 1890. Referred to as the “father of modern Vietnam,” he spearheaded the Vietnamese revolt against French and Japanese occupation. In 1954, after the French and Japanese left, the United States entered the scene; it was during this struggle that Ho Chi Minh died in 1969. In 1975, North and South Vietnam united into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. On Ho Chi Minh’s birthday each year, people hold parades in cities, carrying posters depicting him. Many women wear the áo dài, a traditional Vietnamese garment. Speeches about Ho Chi Minh often follow the parades. More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch
Lorraine Hansberry (1930)
At just 29 years of age, African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry secured her place in theatrical history when she became the first black woman to have a play produced on Broadway. Her acclaimed “A Raisin in the Sun”, a penetrating psychological study of a working-class African-American family in Chicago, was inspired in part by the discrimination and legal battle Hansberry’s own family faced upon buying a home in a white Chicago neighborhood. Why was her literary career cut short?
This Day in History:
Nine-Year-Old Cynthia Ann Parker Kidnapped by Comanches (1836)
Parker was a young girl when Comanches raided Fort Parker—located in what is now Texas—and massacred its inhabitants, capturing her in the process. Raised by her captors, she was adopted into the tribe and went on to bear the last great Comanche chief, Quanah Parker. At first, Quanah led raids on frontier settlements, but after his defeat and surrender, he learned to live alongside his white neighbors and eventually became the richest Native American in the US. What became of his mother? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch
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Now this is the Law of the Jungle—as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
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The Colored Rains of Kerala
In July 2001, red-colored rain began falling in the Indian state of Kerala. For the next two months, it returned intermittently. A number of theories explaining the origins of the coloration were proposed, including that it was contamination from a dust cloud, debris from a volcanic eruption, and even extraterrestrial cells. The Indian government initially speculated that the red rain was caused by an exploding meteor but later issued an official report asserting that it had been caused by what? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch
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No additional cost for entry or entertainment (called a cover charge), as at a bar, club, or restaurant. Watch the video…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch
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Definition: (noun) The attribute of being brief or fleeting.
Synonyms: brevity, briefness
Usage: The superficiality and transience of the club scene is part of its appeal for young people.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch