Yin Yoga Sequence for Gratitude

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Nancy Nelson

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Melody Beattie

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Every year that I am here on this earth I am humbled and deeply moved by the people and things I have to be grateful for. Not always because there is an abundance of things and people quantity-wise, but because of the depth of the relationships and the value of the things that I have been blessed with. God is so faithful to provide for me and this past year has been one that I have seen his handiwork on display. He meets with me in the morning while I read my coffee and journal my prayers to the tunes of the birds chirping. He holds me close in moments of sorrow and pain and He rejoices with me in the joyous times. And even in the seemingly simple, mundane moments – He reveals beauty. Something I wouldn’t have seen without His guidance, His direction, His friendship. His eye truly is on the sparrow and I am so thankful for His provision.

Also, the above quote by Melody Beattie is everything to me. Geez. She just hits the nail on the head with this one. Gratitude opens the door to a life never imagined. The hard part is shifting our mindset from our over-booked lifestyles and toward what the present moment has to offer us. It’s easy to focus on what’s difficult and beg God to bring us out of the discomfort. We linger in this place for so long, as if we secretly like it. What if there was more? SO MUCH MORE. More goodness and abundance than we could ever dream up?! Gratitude is the key to unlocking the inner-beauty of the present moment.

This particular sequence is one that targets the chest, shoulders, and hips – which are areas we hold anxieties, cares, and emotions. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to feel something in these poses. Approach the postures with honesty, embrace the sensations – breath by breath, and take rest, friends. You are loved, seen, heard and abundantly blessed.

My Playlist

Need a timer? I highly recommend the CDN TM30! It’s got a vibration setting that’s just the right subtle reminder to ease out of the posture.

Reclined Butterfly w/knees supported (2 blocks or similar): 6-8 min.

Begin your practice reclined onto your back with your legs in a butterfly position. Close your eyes and allow your breath to begin to deepen as you relax into the pull of gravity. After your first few breaths, take the left hand to the heart and the right hand to the belly. Practice 10 rounds of a complete breath (belly-ribs-chest IN/EX through the nose).

Gratitude Nugget: Transition your awareness to the beating of your heart and the physical expansion of your breath. Spend several moments here expressing gratitude for your healthy body, your ability to be here and to create a physical release today. 

Yin Yoga - Gratitude

One Leg Twist: 4 min.

Release your legs forward and arms overhead for a nice full body stretch. Then, draw the right knee into the chest. Release your right arm to the side 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. You can use the block to support the knee (pictured) if it helps you find more support here.

Gratitude Nugget: Over the course of these next two postures, transition your focus to the chest and upper back. Notice first the physical tension and then let yourself observe the thoughts, concerns, and anxieties that might be present there. Breathe through these feelings and sensations. Perhaps using the following mantra with your breath: Inhale – Let; Exhale – Go. As you release the tension, begin to find seeds of gratitude. Perhaps being thankful that you have a caring heart or a compassionate outlook on life and others. Those are beautiful qualities. Nurture them.

Yin Yoga - Gratitude

Belly – Shoulder Roll: 3 min.

From your twist, reach both arms overhead and roll over onto your belly. Begin to extend the right arm straight out in line with the shoulder (90 degrees). Draw the left hand under the left shoulder and bend the left knee. Begin to press into the hand and roll onto the right side. You can use the left foot as a kickstand and if you would like, you can release the arm behind the back to release the top shoulder.

Yin Yoga - Gratitude

*repeat 2 poses on other side*

Pigeon Pose: 7 min.

Rotate around to the top of the mat and draw the right knee to the right wrist. Then, take the foot across toward the left side, drawing it in as close as you need. Take some breaths to lengthen the spine and eventually settle into the fold. Use as many props as feels appropriate to make this pose accessible and pain-free.

Gratitude Nugget: On the first side of your Pigeon Pose and Janu Sirsasana, think back to a really wonderful time you’ve had recently. Perhaps it was a brief moment of complete and utter joy or maybe a longer amount of time over the course of a week or a few months. Express thanksgiving to that wonderful time. Thankful for the circumstances that made space for that happy time. 

On the second side, allow your mind to travel back to a difficult or challenging season you’ve encountered. Without attaching yourself to the emotions that accompany that time, send out a prayer of gratitude for the fact that you are moving forward. Perhaps still in the storm, but you are putting one foot in front of the other. Be thankful for qualities that this tough season has refined within you. Attributes you would not have attained otherwise.

Yin Yoga - Gratitude

Janu Sirsasana: 4 min.

From pigeon, rise up and swing the left leg around to face the front of the room, squaring your hips off. Keep the right foot at the left inner thigh (support the outer knee if needed). Take your time as you use several breaths to guide you down into the fold.

Yin Yoga - Gratitude

*repeat two poses on other sides*

Hero Pose + Neck Releases + Recline: 6 min

Yin Yoga - Gratitude
A regular gratitude practice leads to a heroic example.


Sitting back onto the heels, bring 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).

Interlace the fingers now behind the back and then tuck them over to the left hip. If this is not accessible for you today, you can take your right hand to your low back and left hand to the leg. Take a breath in and then as you breathe out, drop the right ear to the right shoulder. Loosen through your jaw and just breathe here. (Repeat on the other side) 1m each side

Yin Yoga - Gratitude

Remaining 4 min: 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.

Yin Yoga - Gratitude

Dangling Forward Fold: 5 min.

Release from hero pose, spending a few breaths in a down dog or table top to stretch through the back of the legs. Then come to standing, feet at hips distance or perhaps even wider. Lift up halfway and put a generous bend in the knees. Take an inhale and then let your exhale guide you forward as you drape your chest and belly over the thighs, letting your head hang heavy. You can let the arms dangle like a rag doll or interlace the hands behind the head or back.

Gratitude Nugget: As you release the weight of your body into this pose, allow the gentle, but bountiful depth of gratitude you’ve been able to cultivate in your practice begin to wash over you as you surrender here. Inhale: Accept; Exhale: Release

Hero Pose + Neck Releases + Recline: 6 min

Legs Up the Wall (any variation – 3 examples below): 8 min. + 7 min. in Savasana

Set yourself up at the wall. Begin to lay back onto your spine and then swing the legs up the wall. Spend a minute with the legs in butterfly or a wide V and then extend the legs straight up the wall. Rest for several minutes in legs up the wall, absorbing sensations as they come.

Gratitude Nugget: Spend time in Legs up the Wall, an inversion, to be thankful for the opportunity to physically, mentally and emotionally shift your perspective and start anew. Fresh starts are wonderful gifts. Each moment we encounter offers us this option.

For Savasana, stay here, or move to a more suitable position for your body. Before settling completely, practice 5-7 rounds of Brahmari breath (humming bee breath), then take rest.

Hero Pose + Neck Releases + Recline: 6 min

Gratitude often leads us to a place of humility and contentment. With these attributes as our foundation, we are better equipped to extend out compassion and love. With this in mind, close with metta (Loving-Kindness) meditation if time allows. Feel free to utilize my guided version by clicking play below:

Namaste, friends.

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8 Responses

  1. Thank you! I love this sequence . A question: after one leg twist and belly/shoulder roll, do you have any transition suggestions to get to the second side?

    1. Thanks Lisa! When I taught the sequence I had students press back to child’s pose from the belly, then sit up, drop the hips to one side to extend the legs in front and then roll onto the back again. Does that make sense?

  2. Thank you, Nancy, for your beautiful sequence! I just love how you include everything…pictures, bubble bee breath example, gratitude nuggets, and even the metta meditation is there for us to click on. You think of everything, and I appreciate how easy your sequences are to follow and how they bring us into that space that is yoga!

    1. Thank you Dana!! I’m so happy to hear that my sequence and post served you so well. I appreciate you sharing your feedback. Come back soon!

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Titles for Website (38)
Nancy Nelson
Nancy Nelson
Nancy is the fearless leader here at Nancy Nelson Yoga! She has been instructing yoga since 2012 and is certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) with Yoga Alliance. She loves guiding yoga classes in all forms – from sweaty vinyasa flows, to slow mindful movement - but her favorite style to practice and teach is yin yoga. She attended a formal 50-hour Yin Yoga training with Bernie Clark and Diana Batts in the fall of 2018 and it truly propelled her into developing her yin focused website, webinars and trainings.

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