It’s almost summer. And that mean warmth, sun tans, pool days, and adventure. All of which sound ah-mah-zing! But there comes a time when you need a break, because everything needs balance. Or maybe you need a stretch out after some good-time-summery-antics... whichever it is, Yin Yoga is your guy. And because it’s International Yoga Day, here’s a cool hip opening Yin Yoga practice.
Those who have never heard of Yin Yoga, here are the basics. Poses are held for 1-5 minutes (usually). The idea is that the longer holds, combined with relaxed muscles help target the connective tissue in the joints that are nearly impossible to stretch otherwise. When you go into a Yin pose, find stillness and start to observe what in your body is resistant. See if you can surrender to the sensations for the duration of the pose. When you exit, move slowly, as though you are moving through molasses. Then reset for the next pose by finding a neutral (seated, knee’s to chest, child’s pose, savasana) to observe the body’s response to the pose. You then have the option of moving through some cat-cow movements, gentle down dog, or any movement that feels good in your body.
A couple things to keep in mind, take the time to set up in your pose, ALWAYS. You can use all the props, or none. Wiggle into it. Fidget into it. Find what feels right for you. Then STOP MOVING. And if the sensation of the pose becomes too strong before the timer is done, come out of the pose early. If something hurts, not just a general stretching discomfort, I’m talking burning, pinching, piercing or numbness, COME OUT OF THE POSE. It is not worth it. I promise.
As you move through the sequence, follow the breath. Notice the inhales and exhales. Notice how the breath changes as you move from pose to pose.
That said, here it is:
- Butterfly Pose- Hold for 3-5 minutes.
Bring the bottoms of the feet together. Knees drop out wide. Options: Sit up on a folded blanket, pillow or yoga bolster. If the knees are up high, place pillows or block under them. You can bring the heels in close to the groin, or make a more diamond shape with the legs. If you would like, walk the sit bones out behind you and fold forward.
Once the timer finishes, if you are folded use the strength of the arms to push yourself back up. Sit upright for a few long slow breaths. Move through a few seated cat-cows, or windshield wiper the legs side to side.
- Dragon, right foot forward- Hold 3-5 minutes
After Butterfly, come into tabletop and step the right foot forward between the hands. Allow the hips to drop forward and down, but be mindful of any achy sensation in the low back. Options: Place a blanket for padding under the back knee. Place the hands on blocks (or books) to lift some up out of the hips a bit. You can drop down onto your forarms, or place the forearms on a yoga bolster, folded blankets, or blocks.
Once finished, move right into the next pose on the same side.
- Sleeping Swan (Pigeon), right side- Hold 3-5 minutes
Bring the right knee behind the right wrist, with the right heel under the left hip ridge. Options- place a prop under the right hip if it is floating to help even the hips without much effort. You can stay on your hands, or lower down onto the forearms. You can place a bolster under your chest for added support for the torso and head. Be mindful of your right knee. There should be no pain there.
Come out of this pose slowly by lifting up the chest if you folded forward, rolling onto the right hip, and bringing the left leg forward to a butterfly pose or rolling onto your back in Savasana. Sit still for a few breaths before slowing moving through cat-cows.
- Repeat Lizard and Sleeping Swan on the Left side.
- Bridge- 3-5 minutes
Come onto your back and bring the feet in about hip width distance. Push down through the feet to lift the hips just enough to slide a yoga block, or bolster, or firm pillow under the hips. You should not feel pinching in your low back. Allow the shoulder blades to roll underneath you and turn the palms face up. Options: If you would like a deeper hip flexor stretch, you may straighten out the legs (heels rest on the floor). If you would like a deeper chest opener, reach the arms overhead.
To come out, bring the arms or feet back in if you took either variation. Push down through the feet to lift the hips just enough to remove the block/bolster, and roll back down onto your back.
- Double Wind/Apanasana/Knees to Chest- 2-3 minutes
Slowly draw the knees into the chest placing the hands on top of the knees. Release the need to pull the knees in with the strength of the arms. Allow the shoulders to relax.
Release the pose. Legs go out long, big toes together. Arms along the sides.
- Bananasana- 3-5 minutes per side
Keeping the hips centered, walk the feet to the bottom right corner of the mat. Reach the arms overhead, grab opposite elbows, then bring head, arms and shoulders to the
top right corner of the mat. Options: cross the left foot over the right for a deeper stretch.
Unravel and come back to center. Take the same pose on the other side.
- Happy Baby- 1-3 minutes
Draw the knees into your chest keeping them hip width in distance. There is the option to hold the knees into the chest. Or, bend the knees and grab the outer edges of the feet. See if you can allow the arms to be weight enough, remember to relax the shoulders.
When the timer is done, release directly into the next pose OR take a few moments of to be still with knees bent and feet planted on the mat. If you chose the latter take about 5 breaths to move in any way that feels good in your body.
- Savasana- 5-10 minutes
TAKE UP SPACE! Roll your shoulder blades onto the mat. Feet are wide as the hips drop open. The chin tucks slightly into the chest. Take a big deep inhale, open the mouth and exhale. Release any control over the breath and simply allow the body to breathe. This is a pose of restoration and absorption. Don’t skip Savasana, it’s the most important pose!