Today I want to share with you a sequence that is very helpful for getting out of a dull state. The energetic focus of this sequence is on the kidney and urinary meridian channels, which are physically stimulated by the opening of the hips, incorporation of passive backbends as well as forward bending. When these channels are blocked or stagnant, we tend to slip into a protective, lazy and unproductive state. In contrast, when these energetic channels are given some attention through the longer holds of the yin practice, yogis will feel a sense of physical, mental and emotional balance. You might also experience a deeper connection to your sense of love, devotion, creativity and passions. One thing I really adore about the spring season is how green everything is. One day it’s winter, then a few warm days and spring showers later – BAM! It’s spring. It’s amazing how quickly the earth comes back to life after the cooler months. Our bodies and minds work similarly to this – we need some rain and some sunshine to nourish us. Then, we start to feel renewed and vibrant.
Begin your practice by turning toward the wall and walking into a forward fold with your hips facing the center of the room. You are welcome to bend the knees and fold the chest over the thighs as to not overstretch the lumbar spine. I placed a block between my feet for an addition grounding effect. Take your time and lean into where you feel this most – trusting that wall to support and uphold you even when it gets intense.
Butterfly Pose – 5 min
Draw the soles of the feet together and drop the knees wide. Use an exhale to guide your chest forward and release your head to a block, allowing gravity to pull you in. Over time, you may adjust the height of the block or remove it completely as long as your breath can stay vibrant and full.
Sphinx/Seal Pose – 5 min
Come to your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms. Take a few breaths here observing the physical and energetic shift from the previous stretch. You can stay as is or gradually transition deeper as sensations settle. Options include straightening the arms into seal pose and/or propping the forearms onto blocks (pictured) or blankets.
+ Neck Releases (30 seconds each side) – to enhance the release through the neck, you can drop each ear down to the corresponding shoulder. Relax your jaw and breathe steadily as you do this.
Counter pose – Half Frog – 2 min each side
Open the arms out to the sides like cactus arms. Begin to slide the left knee up toward the left elbow. Rest for 2 minutes then move to the other side.
Puppy Pose – 5 min
From a neutral table top position, take a deep inhale and as you exhale begin to walk the hands forward until you reach a stopping point and melt the heart toward the earth. You can support your chest or forehead with a block if it helps you. If you want to increase sensation, you can bend your elbows 90 degrees bringing the palms together above your head and then reach the thumbs toward the base of the neck. You can also do this with two blocks under the triceps (bottom photo) for additional release.
Childs Pose – 3 min
Rest the hips back to the heels for a moment to allow the spine to settle.
Pigeon Pose – 5 min
Begin to draw the right leg out in front of you pulling the heel as close in to the hip as you need, while extending the left leg to the side (twisted deer variation) or back of the mat (pictured). Take some breaths to lengthen the spine and then eventually settle into the fold. Use as many props as you need to make this pose accessible and pain-free.
Wide Leg Lateral Stretch – 5 min
From pigeon, rock onto the right hip and come into a wide leg stance at the long edge of the mat. Take the right foot into the left inner thigh. Take a block to the inside of the left leg (you can play around with placement that feels best for you). Place your left elbow on the block and rest your head into the palm of the hand. Opposite arm can stay at your side, or to intensify the stretch in the side body, take it overhead and rest it on the opposite side of the head. You can also increase intensity by lowering the block a level or removing it completely.
Spinal Twist – 5 min
Reach the right arm forward and roll onto the right side body, resting the head on the arm (first picture). Take your left leg forward, 90 degrees from the body (second picture). You can pause here and begin to rotate the spine back toward the floor behind you. OR you can bend the right knee and reach for the ankle/foot with your top hand (third picture). If you can bind with the foot, relax the head back down and begin to rotate the top shoulder back, moving into the twist.
Counter pose – Childs Pose – 1 min
**Repeat pigeon pose through spinal twist on the other side.
Forward Fold (seated) – 3 min
Starting in a seated position with legs straight out in front of you, locate a firm seat (using a blanket under the hips if your low back is strained in any way). Breathe a few breaths into the spine from an upright position and then take a few breaths to lower you forward. I like to use a bolster under my chest or block under my head (sometimes both!), so get creative with props and find a place to land here.
Reclined Heart Opener (block down the spine) – 3 min each
This is just one of those things that makes me feel taller after doing it. Every part of your spine matters – from cervical, to thoracic, to lumbar, it houses your spinal cord as well as helps bring blood and nutrients to the brain. Breathe deeply and consistently while in these variations to create space between the vertebrae.
3 min – Upper back w/block vertically placed between shoulder blades
3 min – Middle back with block horizontally placed at tips of shoulder blades
3 min – Low back (sacrum)/Supported Bridge Pose
Savasana – 7-10 min
Choose whichever savasana position will help you to rest more completely. Enjoy some time to soak up all the goodness that you were able to create with your practice.