Running errands the other day, I noticed how many people were bustling around with their shoulders hunched forward and hands shoved into their pockets. My first thought was “Ouch! That posture!” which was immediately followed by the realization that I looked exactly the same as everyone else. I tried to correct it, but kept finding myself back where I started. Even when I got home, I found myself hunched over a book, curled up in a blanket. We don’t have to tell you that that’s bad for your posture, right :)? This Yin series is designed to open your chest and shoulders, but has a few forward folds thrown in to slowly bring you back. A bolster or pillow is recommended.
Begin by laying with your back supported, either with a pillow or a bolster placed lengthwise down your back. Allow gravity to gently slope your shoulders open to rest more fully on the bolster. This is a great place to practice diaphragmatic breathing; on the inhale your belly should rise and should fall on the exhale. Stay here for five minutes, focusing on your open heart.
Return to a seated, cross-legged position with both sit bones evenly planted on the mat. While maintaining an open chest begin to your stretch your neck a bit. Let your head really hang; you should feel a nice stretch in the base of your neck. Tilt your head to the right, so that your chin reaches for your left shoulder and your right ear moves toward your right shoulder. Adjust until you feel a nice stretch on the left side. Do this organically and with caution; if a stretch feels too intense back out, if it’s not enough play with the placement until it is. Spend about 3-5 minutes doing this slowly. Remember to keep an open heart in mind.
Grab your bolster and spend a few minutes relaxing in supported Child’s pose. Stay there for three minutes.
Remove the bolster and set aside. Focusing on the openness of your chest and the stretch through your cervical and thoracic areas, come into Reclining Twist on the right side. Stay for 4-5 minutes, and repeat on the left side.
Return to a seated position with your bolster and some pillows nearby. Bring the soles of the feet together to come into Butterfly pose and stack as many pillows in front of you as you need to rest comfortably. When settled, you should look something like this:
Be consciously aware of your shoulders draping over the pillows, and remain for four minutes.
After coming out of the pose, remove the support and make sure your block is nearby. Lying on your back, place your feet flat on the floor. Lift your seat off the ground, and place a block under your sacrum to rest your weight on (you can also use a strap around the knees if they tend to splay open). You should look something like this:
Remain here for 3-5 minutes.
If you have tight hamstrings, keep your block or a bolster handy. Come into Caterpillar pose, placing the block or bolser under the knees for tight hamstrings. Stay here for three minutes, again being aware of the roundness in your shoulders.
Take your bolster over to a wall, and place it on the ground so that the long edge runs parallel to the baseboard. Coming into this next pose isn’t difficult, but there is no real rhyme or reason to getting there. Start by sitting on the bolster so your left shoulder is touching the wall. Using your upper body for support, place weight into your right hip as you pivot your chest to face the wall. Settle your back on the floor, and place your legs up the wall. It should look something like this: Relax and enjoy it for five minutes before ending your practice with shavasana.
Photo credit: www.yogajournal.com and www.dorestorativeyoga.com