Fall equinox was officially on Wednesday, which means we are on the downward slope toward crisp and cool weather, crunchy leaves, warm drinks, and the holidays! It’s easy to get burdened with the busyness of a new season. We get going so fast that we forget to take time to slow down and reset.
Our legs carry us to and from all the busy activities and keep us strong and rooted as we see change happening all around us. This particular sequence is a little gratitude flow for the legs that do so much to keep our foundation strong in the midst of hectic times. So take about 60-75 minutes of time to slow down and work through these poses. Release your hold on distractions as best as you can and you will feel renewed after you complete these poses!
Side note: To really experience the benefits of yin yoga, you must get curious about sensation. Rather than focusing on a physical destination or how flexible you are, hone in on finding surges of sensation and then breathing space into them. Pause in the moments you feel a lot, breathe through it, and then when the intensity settles, allow your breath to take you into a sweet spot of stillness.
These poses will target the four quadrants of the legs: the quads (tops of legs), inner thighs, hamstrings (backsides of legs), and the outer hips.
Sukhasana/ Easy Seat Pose (3 min) – it’s crucial to take a moment of observation and reflection before moving into the practice. Enjoy a few moments in a simple seated pose. Practice lengthening the breath up through the belly, ribs and into the chest. At the tops of the breaths, hover in the space between inhale and exhale. That space is representative of what you are doing for yourself now – taking a time out to observe. I think of it like a pause in time for a moment to listen and feel. Exhales guide the breath down and root you into your seat. Spend a few moments here breathing consistently and deeply, creating a fresh space for your practice. Set an intention that is personal for you. It can be as simple as a word (ex: “rest”) or as complex as a prayer….or maybe something else entirely.
Butterfly Pose (3 min) – Draw the feet in together and create a diamond shape with your legs. Feel free to support your knees with props if it feels appropriate for you today. Take a few breaths upright to lengthen the spine and then gently explore sensations as you move forward into a fold.
Wide Leg Fold (7 min) – Rise up from butterfly and straighten the legs out to either side into a wide “V” shape. Breathe a few moments upright and then let an exhale guide you forward.
Seated Forward Fold (3 min) – Situate yourself into staff pose with the legs extended straight out in front of you. Locate a firm seat (use a blanket under the hips if your low back is strained in any way). Elongate the spine with a few rounds of breath and then fold forward, bending the knees as it feels necessary. I like to use a bolster under my chest or a block under my head (pictured), so get creative with props and find a place to land here.
1/2 Pigeon Pose (6 min) – Come into a table top position and draw the right knee up to the right wrist then walk the foot over to the left, tucking it in toward the groin as needed. Extend the back leg long and use any props under the right hip if there’s uncomfortable space there. Sit upright for a few breaths, then find a fold that feels good here.
Firelog (Double Pigeon) Pose (3 min) – From pigeon, rise up and then swing the back leg around. Option A is to just cross the left ankle in front of the right (Sukhasana) or stack the left ankle on top of the right inner knee. If the left knee is high above the right foot, use a block/blanket to close out the space (top left photo in picture below). You can stay upright, perhaps adding a shoulder variation OR you can fold forward.
**repeat 1/2 pigeon and firelog on the other side**
Toe Stretch (2 min) – Come to a table top position and tuck all 10 toes. Begin to drop your hips back to the heels (like childs pose). You can keep the hands placed on the floor out in front of your knees or sit completely on the heels and rest the hands in your lap. To make it more intense, inch the knees forward while keeping the toes tucked (even the pinky toes!). This is technically not a leg stretch (for the most part), but is an excellent release for all the tiny muscles, bones, and joints that line your toes. It’s areas like these that don’t get much attention when we think of stretching, so this can be very intense. Breathe steady inhales and exhales through the sensation.
Hero Pose (with option to recline) (5 min) – Come out of the toe stretch back into table top for a moment and gently pat the tops of the feet on the ground behind you. Then, keeping your knees at hips distance, open your feet out wider than the hips and begin to sit back in between the heels (use a block under your seat here if it’s too much on the knees/ankles – there should be no pain, just sensation). You can stay upright the entire time, or you can begin to recline. If you have a prop under your hips, only go as far back as your forearms. If you do not have a prop, you are welcome to lower all the way down, but make sure there is no pinch in the low back.
Banana Pose (3 min) – Make your way onto your back. Begin to take the left heel over to the upper left hand corner of your mat. Then, move the right ankle over to meet it or cross it over the left. Keeping your hips grounded, begin to scoot your shoulderblades to the left so you create the shape of a banana with your body. You can reach the arms overhead here if it feels nice.
Reclined One Knee Twist (4 min) – From banana, make your way back to center and draw the right knee into the chest. Release your right arm to the side like half of the letter T and then draw the knee across the body to the left side using your left hand. Keep the right shoulder heavy into the earth and if it feels good in the neck, send your gaze to the right.
**repeat banana and twist on the other side**
Reclined butterfly (1 min) to Legs up the Wall (7 min) (or alternate savasana position) – Draw the heels in together and open the knees wide. Just resting for a few moments to observe all the space you’ve created in your body with the practice.
Then, when your ready – find a wall and sit with it at one side of you. Begin to lay back onto your spine and then swing the legs up the wall. Allow all of the goodness of your practice and the release in the legs to begin to settle in and through you as you rest here for several minutes letting everything relax.