As a practice, yin is typically very prop heavy. But there are many times when you may not have all of the props available to you, or want to pack light, but still get your practice in.
That’s where the following sequence comes to the rescue. These are 7 deep and delicious stretches you can do with zero props, to keep your practice going strong wherever you are.
Yin yoga is held for a few minutes per pose. Find your edge. Find your version of the shape that allows you to feel sensations, but isn’t hard to hold or to breathe.
Roll out your mat if you have one, and let’s get stretching.
1. Wide-Legged Child’s Pose – From hands and knees, bring the big toes together and take the knees as wide as you would like. Know that the wider the knees, the more intense the pose will be. Walk your hands out in front of you, and ease down to the ground. If your forehead doesn’t quite reach the floor, I would typically suggest placing a block underneath for support, but in this case if you need to modify, put your hands or fists under the forehead instead. Find the form of the pose that works best for your body today, it may vary day to day. Relax fully as you melt the chest to the mat and sink hips to the heels. After a few moments, push in to the palms, and walk the hands in inch by inch to come up.
2. Toe Squat – Lean on to the knees and curl your toes underneath. Sit back on your heels. You may need to move your baby toes out of the way. Option 1 is to keep your hands on your thighs here, or choose to add on a chest opener. To get in to the chest, bring your hands behind you and either clasp opposite elbows, or take reverse prayer. This is quite an intense pose, especially if you often wear heels or really constricting footwear. Breathe in to this intense sensation. After holding for 2-3 minutes, release your hands and bring them forward to the ground in front of you. Untuck the toes, stretching them back and then rolling the ankles out before moving on. *Note that in the picture I am using a blanket as I’m recovering from a knee injury and need a bit of extra padding still. This is always open to you.
3. Head to Knee – Also known as half Butterfly. From a seated position, extend your right leg out in front of you. Bring the left foot to the inside of your right thigh. Keep a micro bend in the extended leg. Lift and lengthen through the spine as you ground down through your sit bones. Start to hinge at the hips, dropping the nose towards the knee. As this is a passive forward fold, let gravity do the work of bringing you deeper into the posture. Avoid the temptation to push and pull by turning the palms up towards the sky. Let your head hang and be heavy. Typically I would place a block under the head if it doesn’t reach the leg, but instead let yourself soften and notice if the lack of prop actually allows you to get deeper here. After a few moments, engage your arms and slowly lift your upper body back up. Switch sides.
4. Sphinx Pose – Make your way on to the belly. Bring your forearms and hands flat to the ground, shoulder width apart. Point your toes back behind you. Lift the chin and the chest up, opening the collarbone. Think of pushing the arm bones back. Lengthen the crown of the head up, reach the tailbone toward the heels, and stretch through the front body. If you find the back bend is too intense and feel any pinching, walk the elbows forward to lessen it.
5. Reclined Pigeon – Flip over on to your back. Bend your knees and bring the feet flat to the floor. Cross your right ankle over top of the left knee. Flex your right foot and feel your right thigh move away from the body. You are looking for a stretch in to the right glute and right hip here. This might already be enough for you today, in which case you can stay here with the left foot down. Or you may choose to reach through the legs and hug the left knee in towards the belly. Keep the head and shoulders heavy on the floor, using only the slightest amount of arm strength.
6. Laying Spinal Twist – Lower the left foot down to the floor, and cross the right thigh all the way over the left. Push in to your left foot to lift the hips up and shift them a couple of inches to the right. Drop your knees to the left side. Open your arms out in to a T or cactus shape, grounding your right shoulder in to the floor. If the twist is too intense, unwrap your legs and stack one leg on top of the other.
Repeat 5 and 6 on the opposite side.
7. Savasana – Time to come in to your final resting pose, but before you do feel free to take any last little movements. Lower and length the arms and legs. Letting the toes drop out to the sides, and turning the palms up to the sky. Let the eyes close. Take a moment to scan through the body and notice how you feel now as opposed to when you started this sequence. Has any tension disappeared? Be heavy on the ground as you enjoy a last few moments of deep relaxation and rest.
Prefer to be guided through the transitions, follow along for the full 40 minute practice video below.
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