In this week’s Yin series, we’ll cover the fairly basic yet incredibly beneficial butterfly pose. This forward fold is particularly beneficial for those with tight hamstrings as the nature of this pose does not require loose hamstrings to get a therapeutic stretch. Our typical American lifestyle usually means too many hours sitting at a desk, driving a car, and more often than not, on the couch. The rounding of the spine allows for space between the compressed vertebras to counteract all of that sitting (much like in Dangling and Caterpillar) and the stress on the hips helps to regenerate “stuck” joints. This pose (like most Yin poses) is suitable for yogis of all levels, although those with sciatica should be sure to have a forward tilt in their pelvis and may find that sitting on a rolled up mat or a cushion helps them to achieve this. The really nice part about this pose is that you can control the stretch of the muscles while still working our target area; the connective tissue of the spine and hips (which you can learn about in our intro post here).
To come into the pose position yourself in a sitting position with optional sciatica support already in place. Be sure that your weight is evenly distributed through the sit bones, and if you feel that your pelvis is rotating backwards go ahead and adjust the support. Once situated, bring the soles of your feet together and move them away from the body allowing the knees to fall open. Begin to fold forward noticing the reaction of your muscles. Once the back is rounded, adjust the placement of your feet until you achieve the muscular reaction you are looking for; the further the feet are away from the body, the less you’ll feel it in your groin. Be sure that the feet are not so close that your groin or hamstrings could prevent you from reaching a fully rounded spine. Remember that our goal is to eventually find stillness so that the emphasis can be taken off of the groin and instead be on the rounding of the spine and the stress on the hip joints. Once you have found your edge, the place in a pose where there is some discomfort and intensity but never pain, remain in the pose for three to five minutes. Allow the neck to hang (unless there has been recent trauma or whiplash, in which case it should be supported) and the hands to rest comfortably on the feet or the floor. Keep your focus on your breath, and if the mind wanders simply bring it back to the rhythm of your breath. When time is up, press your hands into the floor and slowly begin to roll back into an upright position. Spend a few moments taking note of any new sensations in the body as a whole and in our target areas of the spine and hips. A nice way to end this pose is by lying flat on the stomach, allowing the natural small backbend that comes with this to counteract our forward fold.
Butterfly can be enjoyed for much more than 3-5 minutes and can be done while watching TV, talking on the phone, or wherever you see fit! Enjoy this pose as a regular part of your Yin practice.
Photo courtesy of http://www.yinyoga.com