Please feel free to comment, instruct me, or counter my ideas:
There are at least two kinds of "counter" poses. I am not writing here about the yang poses that counter the yin poses but rather the postural counter poses, like bending backward when one has bent forward. I am concerned about the lack of poses that counter the forward poses, and I have found an excellent remedy. Below is a list of all of the poses that Bernie has listed here with my comments:
Anahatasana (aka Melting Heart) - Slightly backward for the shoulders and upper back but forward for the hips. Does little to help my problem, which is so many forward poses but very little backward poses.
Ankle Stretch - Does not counter forward poses.
Bananasana - It is irrelevant to forward poses, but is its own counter.
Butterfly - Absolutely wonderful, but is strongly forward. I do many of these "problem" poses gleefully and gratefully.
Half butterfly - Absolutely wonderful, but is strongly forward and is sort of its own counter.
Camel - This is a wonderful counter to yin forward poses, and I do it. But I can't imagine a universe in which this could be in and not be extremely yang. I do this pose every day, but it is extremely strenuous. I have held it for 3 minutes once, but I usually do it for 1 minute.
Cat pulling its Tail - This is a counter to forward yin poses, but it is one sided (having to do it twice) and partially yang (having to hold one's foot). You have to do it twice, and as you will read below, I have a better way.
Caterpillar - Forward, part of the "problem".
Child's Pose - Forward, part of the "problem".
Dangling - Forward, part of the "problem".
Deer - No solution to the "problem".
Dragons - Very limited help and very yang.
Frog - No solution to the "problem".
Happy Baby - Forward, part of the "problem".
Reclining Twists - No solution to the "problem".
Saddle - A real solution, except that it is impossible for many people, including me.
Shavasana - More about this below.
Shoelace - Forward, part of the "problem".
Snail - Forward, part of the "problem".
Sphinx and Seal - These two are counter poses to forward poses, and I do them, but they are yang.
Square - A forward pose.
Squat - Forward, part of the "problem".
Straddle (aka Dragonfly) - A forward pose.
Swan & Sleeping Swan - A forward pose.
Toe Squat - No solution to the "problem".
As you can see, for me, there is no real yin counter to my beloved forward poses. But necessity is the mother of invention.
I love Shavasana. When I did just yang yoga, I would try to do it after every pose; it felt wonderful. My solution to my problem of so many forward poses and no backward counter poses is to do Shavasana with pillows under my back where in my sequence I just previously did challenging forward poses. So, if the forward pose challenged say my hips, then I put one or more pillows under my hips and do the Shavasana. My health has taken a tangible step forward. I feel freaking wonderful.
I also manage to arrange other pillows to allow me to frame my head with my arms to get the maximum stretch possible. And I can be completely relaxed in this position for 6 minutes or more easily. If I want more challenge, I just insert more pillows under my back. The stretch goes from my elbows and chin all of the way to my knees. It does not give as much of a stretch to the thighs as say the Camel or the Saddle, but a yin Camel seems impossible to me and the Saddle is impossible for me.
One word of caution. Build gradually with this backward bend. It is no joke. But it is worth it.
Yin Yoga fanatic