This Yin posture works to lengthen and unknot the Fascia (connective tissue) in the back line of the leg that is extended up towards the sky/ceiling (around the hamstrings) and the front line of the hip that is on the ground (hip flexor).
To come into this shape:
1. Take a long yoga strap or anything similar (dog leash, scarf, jump rope, etc) and lay down onto your back (mat optional), legs fully extended.
2. Bend one leg and place your “strap” around the ball of the foot (thick pad under the toes above arch) and extend the leg up. “Back wrap” the strap around the hands, leaving fingers free (no strain in hand) and let the arms hang heavy.
Note: continue extending that leg as much as you can and draw it towards the torso ONLY UNTIL you feel a dull, achy pull in the back of the leg - NO SHARP PAIN.
3. Relax the muscles in both legs and hold Flamenco for 3-5 minutes before switching sides.
* If you have a long yoga strap and can buckle it making one long loop, do so. With the leg bent, put strap around the foot as stated above. Then put the strap around the back of the head and let the head get heavy as you straighten the leg making sure there is an appropriate amount of pull in the back of that leg. This looped strap allows the hands and arms to relax completely. Make sure there is no sharp pain and that the sensation in the back of the leg with the strap is tolerable - about a 4 on a scale of 10. Hold for 3-5 mins per side - resting on your back in between and noting the changes and sensations in the target areas.
This is a great pose to do after you have been sitting for a long period of time!
This wide legged straddle is known in Yin as Dragonfly and it targets the connective tissue of the inner thighs and groin as well as the low back, hamstrings and hip joints. Held for a period of time this pose can undo knots of tension in those target areas, providing relief from painful tension and increase the mobility in those muscles and joints. Mentally the forward fold invites inward exploration and reflection - helping to provide mental relief and clarity.
To come into the pose, from a seated position, take the legs apart until you meet resistance (this may feel like a dull achy pull in some or all of the target areas). Place the hands in front of you and fold forward. You might stay more upright or use a bolster, a firm pillow or blocks to rest your forearms on. You can also put a folded blanket under your hips to elevate them and facilitate flexion of the hips (this can also help those with sciatica). You can also bend the knees any amount or slide rolled up blankets under the knees if the hamstrings are tight/there is above a 4 in sensations (don’t put up with any painful sensations!). Hold for 3-5 mins or until you need to exit. Exit out of the pose with care and pause in Savasana (lying on your back).
Alternatively you can take this pose up the wall (helps with low back pain). You can use blocks under legs to manage the inner thigh/groin pull.
Sleeping Toddler or Open Wing
As odd as this Yin pose looks it is super helpful to reverse the ill effects of our slumped, seated postures. The target areas are the shoulder joint, the fascia around the arm muscles and the fascia of the pectoral (chest) muscles. As we slump forward the pull of the shoulders cause adhesions or knots in the fibers (fascia) around the muscles and thus the front of the body becomes tight and shortened and the shoulder joint becomes almost locked in a forward position. In this pose you use the weight of your upper body to apply appropriate pressure to restore natural lengthen and range of motion to the target areas.
From a belly down prone position, lengthen one arm out with the palm down, approximately shoulder height, and then bend the opposite arm and press into that hand to move yourself towards your side (you do not have to be all the way on your side...you could be halfway, the bent arm acting as a kickstand) only to the point where you feel resistance and mild to moderate sensation in the extended arm, shoulder, chest and hand. IF YOU EXPERIENCE PAIN, TINGLING OR NUMBNESS IN the extended arm or hand, ease off the extended arm, a little bit or all the way and experiment with the angle of that extended arm - try taking the arm closer towards the body or further away...working around the compression (pinching) in the shoulder. Both legs can be straight or bent to any degree and you could even take the top foot in front or behind (shifting you back more if that is appropriate for you to apply more pressure to the shoulder joint). Hold Sleeping Toddler/Open Wing for 3-5 minutes only staying in the pose if the sensations remain dull and achy (not sharp and painful). To ease out of the shape move slowly and mindfully pausing on your belly with the extended arm at your side for about a minute. Repeat on the other side knowing that the 2nd side could be totally different.
Make no mistake! There is a lot going on in this simple Banana shape pose...especially as we age. This Yin pose targets the side body, especially in and around the ribs and side waist. It also can target the IT Bands (Ilio Tibial Band from the outer hip to the outer knee), the shoulder and the spine (lateral flexion).
Lie on your back, bend your legs and move your hips towards one side of the mat and then extend the legs. Pick up the head, neck and shoulders and move them to the same side of the mat as the feet, creating that banana shape. Experiment with crossing the ankles (outside over inside or vice versa....pick the cross of the ankles that brings mild to moderate sensation in the outer hip/IT Band. Try taking the arms overhead - the arms can be bent (pad under a shoulder with a blanket if any pain) or lengthened and you can use the inside hand to grab the outer wrist to give a gentle pull, thus adding appropriate sensation to the side waist. Hold this shape for 3-5 minutes, pause in Savasana (lying on your back with the arms resting at the sides) and then repeat on the opposite side, moving slowly and mindfully in and out of the pose.