Most people when they begin their yoga practice do so by practicing hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is still the most popular style of yoga. However, when we talk about all styles of yoga, we conclude that there are dozens of different styles.
You can even read somewhere that there are currently over a hundred different styles of yoga. Of course, many of them derive from primary styles. Nevertheless, over time, each new style can be characterized as a unique style. Especially in cases where a certain style is shown to solve certain problems to a large extent.
What Exactly is Yin Yoga?
When we talk about yin yoga, we can say that it is a style that aims to soften and gradually open our entire body by staying in poses for a long time. It is a style of yoga that, in addition to having physical benefits for our body, also benefits us on a spiritual level. Having that in mind, yin yoga can also be characterized as a meditative yoga style. Through the practice of yin yoga, the practitioner becomes more aware of his whole body, becomes more aware of his consciousness—his thoughts. In that way, practitioner better connects with his entire body. During the practice of yin yoga, you can usually stay in the poses for three to five minutes. That period of time is great for our body on a physical level. If you stay in the poses longer (from 10 to 20 minutes), it is considered that yin yoga is excellent for our spiritual growth. It is even advised to stay in some poses for 45-60 minutes if the practitioner wants to emphasize his spiritual development.
Yin yoga arose from the so-called Tao yoga. Its main characteristic is staying in pose for a long period of time. Tao Yoga as such has been an integral part of Kung Fu for thousands of years. A man named Paul Grilley is considered to be the creator of yin yoga. In the late 1980s, he took classes with Paulie Zink, a Tao yoga teacher and martial arts champion.
What are the Benefits of the Deer Pose, on a Physical and Energetic Level?
The deer pose is classified by difficulty as a beginner’s pose when it comes to yin yoga. Its Sanskrit name is Mrigasana. The pose itself is excellent for increasing the mobility of the hips, for improving both external, and internal rotation of the hips. Since yin yoga itself derives from Tao yoga, many poses affect the functioning of the meridians located inside our body. In the case of the deer position, the kidney, liver and gall bladder meridians are stimulated. Therefore, practicing this pose improves bowel function. People who have asthma and high blood pressure are advised to practice this pose. It is also a good pose to reduce swelling in the legs.
Accordingly, it is advised that pregnant women practice it, without any fear. They can do it until the second trimester. Also, this pose can ease menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms.
On an energetic level, this pose is excellent for activating the second chakra, in case the basic pose is practiced. When the twisted deer pose is practiced, the third chakra is activated.
How do You Get Into Pose?
Before entering the basic deer pose, you can be in the butterfly pose, Baddha Konasana. You can spend between three and five minutes in the butterfly pose. After that, step back with your left leg, keeping it in a bent position. More specifically, make sure your knee is in line with your ankle. If you have taken the correct pose, your right heel will be exactly above your left knee. The ankle of the right leg will be in line with the right knee. In case one of the seat halves is lifted, place a pillow or blanket under it. The same goes for the right knee. If the knee of the right leg is lifted from the yoga mat, place a pillow or blanket under the knee. Become fully aware of the sensations in your hip and lower back. Change sides.
If you have very open hips and a finely stretched back, you may not feel any sensations in this pose. In that case, enter in a slightly more demanding variation—the twisted deer pose.
Deer pose is largely done by practitioners who simply don’t like pigeon pose or their body isn’t ready for it yet, due to the closure of the hips in terms of external and internal rotation. If you practice the deer pose without any major effort, feel free to start practicing the pigeon pose. The pose itself is more demanding than the deer pose.
How to Breathe During the Deer Pose and Also During Yin Practice?
As I mentioned at the beginning, yin yoga can also be characterized as a meditative yoga style.Due to this fact during your yin practice, and of course during the deer pose, I recommend that you apply two breathing techniques that are considered to be excellent for deepening your meditative practice. These are belly breathing and the so-called victorious breathing (ujjayi).
Belly breathing activates the second chakra. During this type of breathing, it is very important to be aware of the expansion and contraction of your stomach. If it is necessary to become fully aware of this breathing technique, place your palms on your stomach at the level of the navel. Try to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation, breathe exclusively through the nose.
Victorious breathing (ujjayi) is often characterized as oceanic breathing, since when practicing this breathing a sound is produced that resembles the sound of ocean waves.
Although yin yoga is a very slow style, it can be very demanding. Especially when it comes to staying in posies for which the practitioners are not physically ready at the moment. With that in mind, you must never allow yourself the luxury of practicing a pose that you feel you are not comfortable with. This also applies to the pose of the deer.
Although it’s less demanding than the pigeon pose (which requires excellent hip rotation), don’t go into it lightly by any means. And of course, use yoga props as soon as you feel you need them. With their help you will progress faster in your yoga practice.