In last week’s Yin series, we covered a pose that allowed us to find space in our spine while simultaneously opening the hips. In this week’s post we’ll discuss Saddle (also known as Supta Virasana in Yang practices), a fairly deep but incredibly therapeutic pose that works to open the sacral-lumbar arch. As always, the yogi’s number one priority is to listen to their body. If there is ever any pinching, burning, or other painful sensation in the back or knees, back out from the pose and try Sphinx/Seal pose instead. Tight ankles can often be an issue here, but sometimes a rolled up blanket or towel is a simple fix.
To come into the pose, start by simply sitting on the heels of your feet. Take notice of how this feels. For most of us, this is okay. For those with particularly tight ankles, you may already start to feel some sensation in this area. As long as there are no painful sensations in the ankles or knees (which we talked about in our intro post), place your hands behind you on the floor while leaning back and begin to feel the arch in your lower back. Stay here for a moment; our stiffer yogis may already be noticing a pulling sensation in the quadriceps. This is okay and should dissipate in about 30-60 seconds. Breathe into it! If this feels okay, begin to lean back onto your elbows. The arch in your back should be fairly dramatic here. Again, there should be no painful sensations. Be sure to remember that discomfort and pain are two different things. If you are ready to take the full expression of the pose, come into a position where you are comfortable enough to spread your feet apart (this may mean coming off of your elbows) so that they are on either side of your hips with palms facing up. Begin to lower your shoulders towards the floor, stopping and laying on a bolster if the sensation is too intense. If you have made it onto the floor or a bolster allow your mind and body to breathe, relax, and find stillness. Ideally this pose is held for three to five minutes, but if any kind of painful sensation arises while in the pose back out and take Sphinx/Seal.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, do so very slowly. If you start to come up too quickly, your body will tell you. Come up just the way you came down; onto the elbows first, then the hands, and finally to rest on your heels. From here, release the legs out in front of you and come to lie flat on your back. Stay here for a few breaths. If you feel “stuck” in the pose, just roll to one side and release the legs until you are able to roll over onto your back. After you’ve stayed here for a few moments, hugs the knees to the chest for a nice lower back release. You may choose to sway from side to side here massaging the spine. Once you have found stillness, release the legs once again to be straight out in front of you. From here, come into child’s pose and allow your body to recover here for as many breaths as you see fit.
Alternatively, Saddle can be taken as Half Saddle where the yogi only has one leg bent and keeps the other straight staying for 2-4 minutes and then bending and straightening the opposite legs. This makes the sensation of the pose in its entirety a little less intense.
However you choose to do Saddle, enjoy it a few times a week to truly reap the benefits. Practicing this at night will have you waking up with rested and refreshed legs, making it truly perfect after a long day on your feet. Enjoy!