Yin yoga to prepare your body for meditation
This Yin yoga sequence releases tension from the body to make sitting in meditation more comfortable.
About this sequence
If you experience tension, or aches and pains during meditation, practising this Yin yoga sequence beforehand can help. While in each pose, bring your awareness from the head into the heart. Feel the breath in your body and bring your attention inwards. Practise observing whatever arises in the field of your awareness, without judgement towards yourself or your body. If your mind is chaotic, take an anchor, such as following your natural breath. Find your appropriate edge while keeping it comfortable. Please hold each pose between 1 and 5 minutes and use props to make yourself comfortable throughout the practice.
1. Standing hip circles
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, knees soft, and place your hands on your hips. Begin making circles with your hips, bringing them forward and over to the left, backward and over to the right. Your circles can be as small or big as feels good. Try making your circles smooth and pay attention to all the subtle sensations you may experience in your hip joints. Reverse the direction halfway through.
Keep your feet hip-distance apart and knees bent. Ground through the four corners of your feet. Fold forward from the hips and take hold of your elbows with the opposite hands. Relax your back muscles and allow your head to be heavy. If folding all the way forward doesn't work for you, rest your forearms on the tops of your thighs. You can gently sway from side to side and focus on your breath. To come out of the pose, roll slowly up, vertebra by vertebra.
Step your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, with your toes pointing slightly outward. Squat down, making sure your knees are pointing in the same direction as your knees. If your heels don’t reach the floor, no problem: support them with blocks or a folded blanket. Bring your elbows to the inside of your knees, pressing the palms together. Energetically extend in opposite directions, up through the crown of your head and down through your sit bones, to create length in your spine.
From a squatting position, move your props from under your feet (if you have them) and sit back carefully onto the floor. Bring the soles of your feet together, a comfortable distance away from your pelvis. Bend forward from the hips - sitting on a cushion or blocks might be helpful here - and allow your spine to round. Extend your arms in front of you and relax into the pull of gravity. Focus on breathing and letting go. To come out of the pose slowly roll up and bring your knees back to centre.
5. Cow face pose
From a seated position with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, bring your left foot to the outside edge of your right hip, sliding it under your right knee. Bring your right foot to the outside edge of your left hip, stacking the knees on top of each other. This is a strong pose so sit on a cushion or blocks if needed. If you feel any pain, stretch out the bottom leg. Take a moment to find stillness in this shape.
Ground your sit bones, lengthen your spine and cross your arms in front of you, left elbow over the right. Interlace your forearms and take hold of your right thumb with your left hand. Placing the hands back to back or holding a strap with both hands are good options too. Bring your awareness towards your upper back and slowly sway your arms from side to side to find your ‘sweet spot’. Take a gentle Downward Facing Dog pose in between sides.
From an all-fours position, spread your knees wide. You may need a sturdy blanket to place under them. Keep your feet together or take your shins parallel to the edges of your mat, feet pointing outwards. Keeping your hips over your knees, slowly lower your upper body down. Rest on your elbows or bring your chest flat down to the mat, arms extended or under your forehead.
This pose is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself with loving awareness. It can be intense so adjust the shape accordingly, without judgment. Keep focusing on your breath to anchor your mind. To come out of the pose slowly move into Child’s pose, then roll your spine up and bring your knees in, one at a time.
Lie on your belly, with your legs a comfortable distance away from each other, and bring your elbows under the shoulders. Bring your palms together or keep your forearms parallel. Relax your buttocks and adjust the position of your elbows according to the sensations in your lower back: bring them forward to diminish the sensations and vice versa to intensify them. You could place a bolster under your ribs for extra support.
8. Child's pose twist
Sit on your heels with your knees wide apart and place your left fingertips on the floor. Lengthen your spine and twist your torso to the left, sliding your right arm underneath the left one. Place your right shoulder on the floor and rest your cheek on the floor or a block. You can keep your left fingertips down for support or bring your left arm behind you, rolling your left shoulder back. Breath towards the spine and imagine your internal organs being massaged with each inhalation. Use the support of your left hand to slowly unwind and repeat the twist on the other side.
9. Seated Swan
From a seated position with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lean back on your hands and place your right ankle over your left knee. Keep your right foot flexed and adjust the intensity of the pose, walking your left foot closer or further away from the hip.
Lean into your arms and walk your hands further away behind you. Keep the chest lifting toward the ceiling. Using your breath as an anchor, tune into the sensations and observe your reactions. To come out, slowly walk your arms closer to your hips and release your legs before repeating on the other side.
10. Windshield wipers
Lie down and place your feet flat on the floor, mat distance apart or wider. Sway your knees gently from side to side so that the inside of the right knee comes towards the inside of your left shin and vice versa. Let your hips move along too. Co-ordinate the movement with your breath: bring your knees to the centre as you inhale and over to the side as you exhale. Repeat a few times.
11. Happy baby
Lie on your back and, with your knees bent, lift them up towards your armpits. With the soles of your feet facing the ceiling, take hold of either the inside or outside of each foot, or hold your shins. Flex through your heels, gently pushing your feet into your hands, whilst pulling the hands down to create resistance (if you're holding your feet). Extend your spine by lengthening your tailbone and draw your belly slightly in. Maintain the length in the back of your neck. You can either hold the pose or rock gently from side to side.
To finish this sequence, stretch out your legs and lie quietly in Savasana for a few minutes.