This Yin Yoga practice is suggested by Paul Grilley, a yoga teacher widely recognised as the person behind the construction of the Yin Yoga we see today. It comes from his book “Yin Yoga: Principles and practice” and focuses on the hips and spine.
If ever you doubt you’re ‘doing it right’, remember Bernie Clark’s words…”If you are feeling it, you are doing it”.
Take your pose to it’s ‘edge’; not to a point of pain, but a slight discomfort that you can surrender to. Resolve to remains still. If pain occurs, move out of the pose safely. Grab a blanket or pillow for support, have a timer handy and put on some soothing music or create silence… now you’re ready to go.
Gently place the ankle on the knee. Keep the ankles flexed to protect the knee joints. One knee may be a lot higher. If painful sit in a cross legged position with blankets or pillows to support under your knees.
Hold for 3 – 5 mins
Further options include leaning slightly forward, or moving the hands in front of the legs into a forward fold.
Legs are in butterfly position with one leg being extended out to the side in a straight position. Extend the stretch down the lower back by folding forward over the extended leg. A variation is to fold forward to the floor directly in front of you. Find which direction of fold hits the juicy spot you wish to release and remember to let go of tension in the neck, head and shoulders.
Hold for 3-5mins on both sides
It doesn’t matter how wide apart your legs are or how far you fold forward. Sit on a blanket or pillow to raise hips above knees if it helps.
Sitting with legs out in front, fold forward ensuring chin is tucked down to chest. Allow the back to curve and let your legs bend or roll into a comfortable position. Feel the stretch up the back along both side of the spine and even up the neck and over the skull.
Hold for 3-5 mins
Bending the knees considerably can help move the stretch away from tight hamstrings and into the target area of the back. Move as far into the forward fold as is necessary for you to feel the stretch.
Rest on one knee, step the other foot forward so the hips open and your weight is shifted forward. Allow the hips to sink.
Hold for 3-5 mins on both sides
For a more intense stretch in the hips, step the foot further away on the floor so the ankle is in front of the knee (as opposed to directly underneath). If it’s the ankle joint’s ligaments and tendons you’re wishing to release, move your foot placement closer to your body so the ankle is behind the knee.
Lay on your stomach and raise the upper body and legs, floating your arms up backwards like you’re reaching for your toes.
Hold for 5 breaths
This pose has a yang quality and it is the first back bend for the body throughout the practice so far. It’s purpose is to help in transitioning the body from one direction of spinal flexion to another.
Do not strain this movement. Lifting and hovering the legs even slightly off the floor is suffice. Take as many breaths as you feel are needed without overdoing it and breath deeply and calmly.
From a position lying on your stomach, push up onto the hands to arch the back. Spread the fingers and turn the hands slightly outwards to stabilise and support in the upper body.
Hold for 1 min
This pose is a short back bend. It can also direct a stretch deep into the shoulder joints as you slouch into the upper arms. The more bend in the arms the less of a bend through the spine. A slight compression is usually felt in the lumber spine (lower back) but if pain occurs take your elbows to the floor for sphinx pose.
A very nourishing pose that promotes self reflection. Bring your sitting bones to the heels, take the knees wide, extend the arms and place the forehead to the floor.
Hold for 1 min
This pose is also relatively brief and acts as a counter pose to the Seal by releasing the lower back and upper body into the arms and shoulders. As a variation you can bring the knees together and place the arms down along side you like you are reaching for your feet. This option separates the shoulder blades and creates a lovely stretch down the centre of your back.
This particular spinal twist is the ‘twisted root’ variation. Lying on your back bend your knees, hook the right leg over the left before dropping both legs to the left. Extend the arms out to the sides and if it causes no pain in your neck, turn the head to look down the right arm. For the opposite side take the left leg over right, drop the legs to the right and look down the left arm.
Hold for 1 min on both sides
It is easier to fully ‘twist’ the legs whilst they are in the air when lying on your back before lowering them to the floor. If your back and/or knees do not agree with this pose, untwist the legs and just move the legs to the side with knees together.
Relax the body by releasing the legs and arms out, lay the head on the floor and close your eyes. Face the palms upwards and allow your feet to roll outwards. Release any tension you in the muscles and feel you are melting into the floor.
Hold for however long you want! (Atleast 1 min).
This is a very important part of your Yin Yoga practice. It is time to withdraw your senses into your body and experience any sensations you feel – physically and emotionally. This process of being in Savasana allows us to follow our breath and notice the flow of energy our practice has released throughout our entire body. Observe yourself and as always note any thoughts that may arise, but just allow them to float away as you recognise any sensations without judgement.
I love finishing Yin Yoga practices with a seated meditation as the body, especially the spine and hips, are open and inviting to the grounded and settling nature of this pose.
Comfort and stability are key for mediating in this posture so if you find it uncomfortable, always sit with a pillow to raise your hips higher than your knees. Keep a straight back by thinking long in the spine and long through the back of the neck.
Close your eyes, breath and be.