Hello yinsters & happy holidays!
I wanted to share this sequence since the wintertime/cooler temps tend to draw us into a place of stagnancy in the body. My hope is that this set of poses will help to open up the body in areas that don’t tend to get much TLC during the cooler months of the year. If you find the sensation is intense, breathe deeper. Our lungs also tend to get neglected this time of year, so use this time on your mat as an opportunity to return to the breath as well as a feeling of openness and ease in the body. Cozy up next to the Christmas tree and get ready for some stretchy goodness.
Reclined on bolster (5 min) – Begin your practice by lying the full length of the spine back onto a bolster or several blankets. Allow your chest to splay open and your arms and legs to take up space. I chose a reclined butterfly pose for my legs here but you are welcome to do whatever feels best in your body.
Twist on block/blanket (3 min each side) – This is what I like to affectionately call the “yogi foam roller twist”. You’ll begin to prop your hips onto the prop as you would for supported bridge. Scoot the hips all the way to the right until the right hip is totally off the block but the left hip is still in contact with it. Lift the right leg and straighten out the left leg. Begin to take the right leg across the body to the left side of the mat. You can prop the foot onto a blanket/block if needed. Open your arms out into a “T” or cactus shape to create more expansion across the chest here. As you breathe, pay special attention to the outer left hip as it pushes into the block. Breathe into that intensity and notice the tension melting away with each exhale.
*repeat twist on other side*
(Roll to belly)
Sphinx (5 min) – The low back tends to take a lot of grunt in the winter months. We hunch over as we cuddle up on the coach, try to keep warm in the car and as we sit at our desks. This stretch will help to gently stretch and release the vertebrae in the lumbar spine and help to restore natural curvature. On your belly, rise up to your forearms allowing the elbows to land beneath and a little beyond the shoulders. You can elevate to blocks (as I did) or stay nice and low. Just play with what feels right for you today.
If you want to hang the head and feel no pain in the neck as you do so, feel free to drop the chin toward the chest and create small side to side movements.
Rest on your belly or take half frog on either side (pictured) for a few moments before moving to the next pose.
Threaded Needle + Option to extend leg (3 min each side) – Come to table top pose and take your left leg out to the side. You can keep the hips lifted or you can drop back to a childs pose variation depending on what feels nice. Take the right arm to the sky and then thread it across and through over to the left. Let the side of your head and shoulder hang heavy here. You can decide what you’d like to do with the left arm (reach it forward or perhaps thread it behind the back). If there’s pain in the extended leg/knee, just pull it in and only worry about the upper body in this posture.
*Repeat threaded needle on other side*
Frog (5 min) – Nothing like a juicy hip stretch to wake up those wintry joints! Starting in table top, begin to walk the knees away from one another, keeping the hips situated in between the knees (not shooting forward or back dramatically). You can eventually turn the feet out (to big toe edges) as long as it feels good in your ankles/knees to do so. Stop when the sensation grows and pause and breathe until you can find a place of stillness. You can drop to the forearms, bring the chest to a bolster, or relax the forehead to a block here if you’d like.
If the pose is altogether too much, just push back to a wide legged childs pose instead.
Pause in a knees together childs pose with the arms relaxing back for a few moments to counter before moving on.
Toe Stretch + Neck Release (2 min each side) – Come back to sit on the heels with the toes tucked under. Walk your hands back, perhaps resting them in the lap or keeping them in front of you resting onto a block. If there still isn’t enough sensation, you can walk the knees forward an inch or too to increase sensation by creating a slight angle in the feet. Make sure that stubborn pinky toe doesn’t escape!
You can keep it simple here with just the toe stretch or add this gentle neck lengthener. Take your right hand behind your back and grab ahold of the right tricep with the left hand in front of your body. Find a gentle tension between pulling the elbow back and drawing it forward with the hand. Take an inhale to lengthen the neck and then on your exhale, drop the left ear to the left shoulder. Take a few breaths here to explore the intensity and then make your way to center and do the other side as well.
Gently walk forward out of the toe stretch and pat the tops of the feet onto the floor behind you to release the toes before moving on.
Supported Bridge (3 min) – Come onto your back and begin to prop your hips onto a block beneath the sacrum (flat space at the base of your spine). Once you feel grounded here, you can take the feet forward and arms overhead if you’d like. Slow your breath and rest steadily here.
Banana (2 min each side) – Begin to walk your hands and feet toward the right side of your mat, keeping the hips grounded in center. You can cross the left ankle over the right and grab the left wrist with the right hand to add a bit more intensity here. Breathe into the left side body.
Move to the other side of the pose.
Savasana (7-10 min) – Come to your back (or any comfortable resting position) and relax your entire body. Allow for all the effort that got you through your day and your practice to fade away as you lie back and soak up this new space in the body and mind.
*TIP* Rest a blanket onto your hips to increase a sense of rest and grounding once more.