Shakira sang it right. “Hips don’t lie.” We store all our emotions in our hips – anger, frustrations, pain, trauma, sadness! And, that’s why we feel calmer and relaxed when we practice hip opening poses in yoga. However, we could find certain poses extremely challenging when we have stiff hips. This yin yoga sequence for hips is a gentle way to release the stored emotions and make our hips supple and flexible.
What is Yin Yoga?
It is precisely the opposite of what we all do daily – the Yang. Yin yoga is a slow, gentle practice where we hold the postures for 3 to 5 minutes or longer. The focus is on the connective tissues, ligaments, and tendons which are not targeted during other Yoga practices.
Before we practice Yin Yoga, there are three principles we need to remember:
- Come to an appropriate edge: Find the state that’s utmost comfortable for you and your body at any given moment.
- Resolve to remain in stillness: It is challenging to hold a posture for 6 minutes without moving, but when the mind guides, the body listens.
- Hold the pose longer
Here are some more tips that could come handy:
- Practice deep abdominal breathing throughout the sequence.
- Breathe in and out through the nose.
- Honor the body and surrender the mind to the particular posture.
- Use props such as bolsters, cushions, and blocks wherever required.
The hip opening Yin Yoga sequence mentioned here lasts for 60 minutes. The practitioner holds each symmetrical pose for 6 minutes, followed by a rebound time of 1 minutes. Asymmetrical poses are held for 3 minutes on each side, with a short counterpose of 30 seconds in between the practice.
Yin Yoga Sequence to Open Hips
- IT bands
- Inner Thighs
Start by sitting in a simple cross-legged seated position, Sukhasana or get into Padmasana. Irrespective of the seated posture, keep the spine long and straight.
Relax the entire body. Roll open the shoulders. Close the eyes.
Focus on the breath. Allow the abdomen to expand with each inhalation. Feel it falling close to the ribs with each exhalation.
Practice about 15 rounds of deep breathing.
- After completing the breath, keeping the eyes closed, come on all fours to Table Top position.
- Spread the arms shoulder-width apart and stack the shoulders over respective wrists.
- Rest the top of the feet on the mat, toes extending away from the body.
- Inhale, arch the back, and look up to come to Camel.
- Exhale, round the back, and tuck the chin to the chest to look down and come into Cat.
- Repeat seven such rounds slowly and mindfully, synchronizing the breath and the movement.
- After completing the 7th round, sit back on the heels and swing the legs forward.
- Bend the knees and join the soles of the feet. Allow the knees to come closer to the floor, if possible.
- Lengthen the spine and fold forward. Walk the palms forward as much as possible. Hold the pose in the most comfortable place for the body.
- Breathing deeply, hold the posture for 6 minutes.
- Walk the palms gently towards the body and roll up the torso to exit the pose.
Deepening the pose
- Walk the palms further after holding the pose for 3 minutes. Rest the forearms and elbows on the floor, if possible. Deepen the forward fold by resting the forehead on the heels or beyond the toes.
- Continue breathing and hold the Asana for three more minutes.
Counter-Pose: Child’s Pose
- Walk the palms back and straighten the torso.
- Swing the legs back and sit on the heels.
- Spread the knees as wide as the mat.
- Fold forward slowly and rest the arms and palms on the floor.
- Allow the abdomen to rest between the knees.
- Hold Child’s pose for one minute.
- Downward Facing Dog to prepare for Dragon Pose
- Press the palms into the mat, tuck the toes, and lift the hips to come into Downward Facing Dog pose.
- Adjust the alignment to stack the shoulders over the arms.
- Lift the right leg into the air and close the right hip.
- Place the right foot outside the right palm and lower the left knee to the floor. Extend the left toes backward with tops of the feet resting on the floor. Adjust the alignment to stack the right knee over the right ankle.
- Push the hips and pelvis forward and close to the ground as much as possible.
- Stay on the palms or lower to the forearms, elbows resting on the floor.
- One can also use a block on either side of the hips to rest the palms.
- Hold the posture for three minutes.
- Press the palms into the floor, tuck the left toes, and lift the right leg into the sky before placing it down and coming back into Downward Facing Dog Pose.
- Drop the knees down and relax in Child’s Pose for 30 seconds before practicing on the left side.
- Complete the Child’s Pose after practicing Dragon on the left side.
- Straighten the torso, swing the legs forward, and stretch them out.
- Bend the right knee and rest the right ankle on the left knee.
- Bend the left knee and rest the left ankle beneath the right knee.
- Place the palms forward and start folding forward.
- Use a bolster or block to rest the forehead and release excess pressure from the cervical area.
- Hold the posture for three minutes.
- Walk the palms back and lift up.
Counter-Pose: Recline Back
- Stretch out the legs and gently recline back for 30 seconds before repeating with the left leg on top.
- The practitioner can hug the knees to the chest and roll sideways to release the spine.
Stirred Up Pose/Happy Baby Pose
- Reclining on the back, hug the knees to the chest.
- Hold the soles of the feet from inside and open the feet, stacking them above the knees.
- Gently pull the knees close to the chest to open the hips.
- Rest the head on the mat and relax the shoulders.
- Hold the posture for 6 minutes.
Counter-Pose: Recline Back
Release the leg and just lie down on the back for one minute.
Anulom Vilom Pranayama
Pranayama practices are integral elements of a Yin Yoga sequence. Alternate Nostril Breathing is a cleansing and restorative practice, the inclusion of which boosts the benefits of the sequence.
- Sit down in a seated posture, preferably Sukhasana or Padmasana.
- Rest the left palm on the knee, tips of the thumb and index finger touching each other.
- Take a deep inhalation. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Rest the middle and index fingers between the eyebrows.
- Exhale completely through the left nostril.
- Inhale through the left nostril and close the left one with the right ring finger.
- Open the right nostril and exhale completely.
- Inhale through the right nostril and close the right one with the right thumb.
- Open the left nostril and exhale completely.
- This completes one round.
- Practice Anulom Vilom for the next 6 minutes.
Dharana – Short Meditation
As with Pranayama, meditation is also an integral part of a Yin Yoga sequence. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to meditation. A practitioner can choose a simple meditation technique for the next 10 minutes. The focal point can be the breath or just a count. One can also use any mantra of their choice. Keep it simple so that the practice is complete within 10 minutes.
It is now time to relax the entire body and embrace the impact of the powerful hip opening practice.
- After finishing the meditation, lie down on the back.
- Stretch out the legs, allowing the feet to fall naturally to the sides.
- Extend the arms away from the body to give enough space for armpits to breathe.
- Relax the entire body and bring the focus to the breath.
- Allow the tummy to expand with the in-breath. Let the abdomen fall close to the spine with exhalation.
- Remain in this relaxing posture for the next 4 minutes.
- After completing the Pentacle, join the legs and extend the arms over the head. Interlace the fingers and give the body a deep stretch.
- Curl to the right and sit up.
- Rub the palms and place it on the eyes.
- Blink open the eyes and look into the palms.
- Join the palms at Heart center in Namaste and fold forward to express gratitude to Mother Earth for this lovely practice.
Yin yoga practice teaches us patience. Keeping the eyes closed throughout the practice will help us surrender and focus better.
And, remember, Rome was not built in a day. Practice this Yin Yoga sequence for hips three days a week and feel the difference in three weeks!