The extremities are oft forgotten or rushed over. Yet we use them all of the time in our day to day lives.
While there aren’t that many poses in yin yoga for these areas, there are certainly enough to build a short practice, and to work in to your daily practices as you warm up.
Typically yin poses are held for 3-5 minutes, but the ones for extremities are not held as long. Just hold each of these for 1 minute to 1 and a half minutes.
So without further ado, let’s get on the mat!
1. Finger Stretch – Begin by sitting in any way which is comfortable to you, nice and tall. Extend the right hand forward, opening the palm away from you and pointing the fingers downward. Spread fingers nice and wide, flexing the palm. Relax your shoulders down. Grab hold of your pinky finger, and as you exhale gently pull it back. Take one deep breath cycle while holding on here. Release and move through each finger in the same way, while continuing to spread the fingers wide. When you get to the thumb, bring the backs of both hands together and wrap the fingers around the thumb. Instead of pulling down and back, lift the thumb in the direction of the outer edge of your forearm, more towards the side. Repeat on the other hand. You may find that one hand (perhaps the dominant one) is more sensitive.
2. Wrist and Forearm Stretch (Palms Up) – Come on to your hands and knees. Begin by placing the backs of your hands on the ground. Spread your fingers wide. Bend your knees as you rock your hips back towards your heels. Try to keep the back of your palms flat to mat, pushing the wrists forward. You can keep the back of your hand to the ground the whole time, or start to lift the back of the hand from the mat. Starting at the wrist, leaving knuckles and fingertips down, and bending the elbows. Take 10 or so deep breaths. Slowly release the hands and take a few gentle circles with the wrists to release.
3. Soles of Feet Stretch – Tuck the toes underneath, and sit back on your heels. You may need to move your little toe out. To add a wrist stretch in here, reach your arms behind you. Either holding on to opposite elbows and opening through the chest, or taking prayers hands (pointing fingers down or flipping them up). Close your eyes. Notice if you are tensing up your shoulders or arms. Gently release the arms and ease off of the heels, wiggling the toes.
4. Reverse Wrist Stretch (Palms Down) – Returning back to table top, turn your hands so the finger tips are pointing towards your knees. Spread the fingers wide. Walk your knees in closer. Rock your weight back, bringing the hips toward the heels. Start by keeping the entire palms flat to the floor. Your elbows are straight, but don’t lock them. If you choose to stretch deeper, start to lift the heels of your hands, bending your elbows. This will intensify the sensation in your forearms and wrists. This stretch in particular is great if you spend a lot of time typing at a desk (hi!!!), or if you suffer from carpal tunnel. Pushing your wrists forward, you can peel the heels of the hands up even further. Slowly ease out by lifting the hands from the mat, and shaking them out.
5. Front of Ankle/Tops of Feet Stretch – Sit all the way back on your heels, with your toes untucked. You may need to lift the hips up to tuck the tailbone under, and then sit back down. Walk your palms back behind you, until you can start to lift your shins and knees up off of the ground. Leave your hands behind you, rising up through the chest. For a balancing challenge, you can try to bring your hands to your knees. Again take 10 or so breaths here. Carefully set your shins and knees back down to the mat.
6. Neck Release Stretch – Come in to a comfortable cross legged seated position. Sit up nice and tall. Drop your left ear to your left shoulder, to stretch through the right side of your neck. Keep your chin rolling slightly up. Let your head be heavy. Hold as you are, or to intensify, walk your right fingertips out to the side and use your left hand to gently guide your right ear further from the shoulder. Don’t use downward pressure with the hand, but rather a traction. To stretch in to the back of the neck, slowly roll the chin down towards the left shoulder. After holding here, use your left hand to cradle the head and gently lift it back up, before taking the other side.
7. Seated Meditation – Sitting tall, bring your hands to your knees. Return to your natural breath. Feel the breath traveling to your low belly and low back. Bring awareness to the extremities, and notice what feels different. Toes, ankles, fingers, wrists, neck, jaw, shoulders. Relax even more. Bring the hands together at your heart, take a cleansing breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.
To see the poses step by step the first time through, check out the video below.
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