Yin sequence to release the upper body after work (minimal props!)

Back in pre-lockdown days, I used to get a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders – partly stress, partly from sitting at a desk in front a computer all day. Interestingly, I haven’t had that at all since lockdown, so perhaps varying my seating position throughout the day (on floor, on meditation cushion, on sofa, on chair, standing) is a good idea? Or maybe I am just less stressed.

Anyway, I digress. To combat the tension, I put together a short yin yoga sequence, which really helped with releasing the upper body tension. If you don’t have any props, fear not! You can do all the poses with things you already have in your house: a cushion (ideally a big one that is relatively firm) and a rolled up blanket or towel.

So put some relaxing music on and let’s melt away that upper back tension. Enjoy!

Reclining butterfly

This is probably my favourite pose and one that I do on a regular basis as it really gets into the shoulders and upper back.

What to do

  • Come to lie on your back.
  • Place a yoga brick or a rolled-up towel or blanket under your upper back (ladies, align it with your bra strap area) so that your chest is slightly lifted but the crown of the head is still on the floor. If this feels too intense, adjust the height of your prop (so unroll your blanket so it’s not so big or dense).
  • Bring the soles of the feet together and allow the knees to drop out. Add cushions under your knees or thighs to support your legs if that feels nice.
  • Your arms can be wherever feels most comfortable. I like them over my head to intensify the opening.
  • Hold for 2–5 minutes.
  • When you are ready, slowly move any props away and come to lie on your back for a couple of breaths before moving on.

Mermaid

I think this is my second favourite pose and another one that I do regularly to bring some space into the side body.

What to do

  • Grab your bolster or your cushion – if you are using a cushion, fold it in half so that it is more compacted and has a bit more height.
  • Place the bolster or cushion on your side waist (make sure it’s your waist and not your upper side ribs) and lie on it sideways, stretching the arms and legs in opposite directions.
  • If that feels too intense on your shoulders, you can use another cushion under your hands so that they feel supported and are not hanging. You can also keep your knees bent.
  • Hold for 2-–5 minutes.
  • When you are ready, gently roll onto your belly for a breath and then repeat on the other side.

Reclining twist

Who doesn’t like a twist? There are tons of variations, this is a simple twist on your back.

What to do

  • Come to lie on your back, stretching your arms wide open into a T.
  • Shift your hips to the right and drop your knees to the left side in a 90 degree angle. It’s nice to place a cushion in between the knees for a bit more support.
  • Roll your neck left and right a few times to release and then either keep your head looking forward or turn your head to the left (same direction as your knees.
  • Hold for 2–5 minutes.
  • Slowly and mindful come back to centre, laying on your back, and take a couple of breaths here before you repeat on the other side.

Legs against the wall

(also known as Viparita Karani). This has to be everyone’s favourite relaxing pose. Use cushions under your bum for further lower back release.

Cat is optional

What to do

  • Lying on your side, get your bum as close to the wall as you can (ideally touching the wall or skirting board). You can either do this straight on the floor or on 1–2 cushions (or a bolster) to lift your bum higher.
  • Slowly turn to lie on your back and straighten your legs up against the wall.
  • Keep the arms wherever feels best for you: by your side, on your belly, in a T, above your head holding onto opposite elbows.
  • Stay here for as long as you like.
  • When you are ready, slowly come out of the pose in the same way you got into it.

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