As we near the end of the Yin asana list, have you noticed a trend? The vast majority of Yin poses focus mostly on the lower half of the body. Before we we broach the one major shoulder opener (don’t w0rry, it’s coming next week), let’s dive a little deeper into the hips. You might notice that this pose is very similar to pigeon pose from yang varieties of yoga. The hips tend to be fairly problematic for most people due to our desk-sitting lifestyles and the fact that many of us store unprocessed emotions in that area.
This is a very simple pose to come into but can be made more advanced by coming into it from downward facing dog. If choosing the simpler route, begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Starting with the right side, bring the right knee between the hands. Place some weight into the right side of the body and note how your knee feels. If there is too much tension in the knee, bring the foot closer to the hips/body until you feel the tension alleviated. Once you’ve reached this or if you don’t have any tension in the knee to begin with, flex the right foot and position the shin so that it is parallel to the front of your mat (your right ankle should be near your left wrist). If tight muscles in the hips prevent the shin from being parallel, that’s okay. Just go as far as you comfortably can. Then tuck the toes of the left foot to lift that leg off the mat a bit. Wiggle the leg back straight behind you as far as it will (comfortably) go, making sure that the leg is in a straight line and not veering off to one side or the other. Be sure that your weight is evenly distributed and that you’re not leaning to the left side. This is “Swan”. If this feels like enough (your hands/arms should be in the same position that they were in tabletop), then stay here for three to five minutes. To come out of the pose, lean into the hands releasing the right foot. Send the right foot back to meet the left and lie flat on your belly for a few breaths. Roll over to lay on your back and perform a few windshield wipers before repeating on the other side.
To come into Sleeping Swan, begin by lowering yourself from hands to forearms. If this still feels okay move in a little further, first by stacking the fists and resting the forehead on top and then -if you’d like to go further- remove the hands and rest the forehead on the ground with the arms extended straight out in front of you. The full expression of the pose is allowing the torso to rest on the shin. Another option is to rest the body on a bolster. Remain here for three to five minutes and follow the same steps to come out of Sleeping Swan as Swan. Come back up onto the hands and release the right leg back to meet the left. Come to lie flat on your belly for a couple of breaths before rolling onto the back and performing some windshield wipers before repeating the same process on the other side.
Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com