Yin Yoga home practice for flexibility

pregnant women practicing yoga in fitness studio

Since a lot of people come to yoga for flexibility, I’ve created this 25 minute yoga sequence for flexibility that you can easily follow at home. It uses gentle yin yoga poses to gradually stretch the body and help to increase flexibility. If you are not sure what yin yoga is, you can check out last month’s blog post to find out all about it.

Before you begin this class, you will need some props. When we practice yin yoga during my livestream classes we use cushions, blankets or whatever household items we can find as props. It will also be good to have a timer too because we hold each pose for 3-5 minutes. (Or you could find a Spotify playlist for yin yoga that only use 3 minute songs so you know it’s time to move out of the pose when the song ends).

1. Butterfly pose

butterfly pose
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Start in this pose to help relieve tension in your lower back and hips. By working on these areas it can also increase flexibility by releasing tightness in the body.  If you place your feet further away from your body your hamstrings will get more of a stretch. If the feet are closer to the body you will target your adductor muscles.

To get into the pose start in a seated position with your knees lifted and feet flat on the mat. Then, allow the knees to fall softly to the sides as soles of the feet come together. You can choose to fold forward by rounding the back, resting the hands on the ankles or feet and allowing the head to drop too if that feels OK.

To support you as you hold the pose you can place props (cushions or blankets will work) under the knees or you can place props over your legs to fold over and rest your head and chest on (stacking two cushions will work well here). Once you are comfortable, hold the pose for 3- 5 minutes. If you need to adjust or ease out at anytime that is fine. It is important to note that discomfort when holding poses is normal, but anything more, or any pain, is a sign to gently come out of the pose and take care of your body.

To transition out of the pose, remove props and gently draw the knees back together. As a counter pose, take the feet as wide as your yoga mat and allow both knees to fall softly to the right and then the left. You can repeat this windshield wiper movement a few times before preparing for the next pose.

2. Caterpillar pose

seated forward fold
Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

This pose is known as seated forward fold in most yoga classes. You may notice the names of poses change in yin yoga to differentiate between the ways poses are held in yin yoga. Caterpillar pose is a great pose for working on hamstring flexibility. It also helps to strengthen ligaments along the spine.

To get into this pose start in a seated position with legs out in front of you. Straighten the legs or have a bend in the knees if the hamstrings are really tight. Hinge forward from your hips and round the back to fold forward onto your legs. You can reach your hands to your lower legs, ankles or feet.

To support you in this pose you can sit on a prop to elevate the hips and lengthen the spine. This will also help with tight hamstrings. You can also place props, such as stacked cushions, over the legs to fold forward onto. Once you are comfortable, hold for 3- 5 minutes. If you feel you are still not able to relax into the pose and it does not feel passive, bend the knees more or use the wall as your prop and do this as ‘legs up the wall’. This involves sitting up close to a wall and then turning your body to place legs against a wall as the rest of your body rests on the floor.

A counter pose for this one could be some gentle seated twists. Sitting in a comfortable position then twisting over to the right for a few breaths and then repeating on the left.

3. Dragon pose

dragon pose
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

This pose helps relieve tightness in legs and hips to make those areas of the body more flexible. It is also a great stretch for the hip flexors which is very useful for preventing injury.

To get into this pose, begin in a table top position on your hands and knees with your hips stacked over your knees and your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Step one foot in between the hands so that the knee is above the heel. Allow the back leg to slide back as far as you can.

To best support yourself here you can use cushioning, like a folded blanket under the back knee, particularly if you have sensitive knees. You can rest your hands on the top of the front thigh, or if you have yoga blocks or thick books handy, place each hand on top of one (as pictured). Hold for 3- 5 minutes and adjust at any point as needed.

A great counter pose is either downward facing dog or child’s pose. Take one of these options and then do dragon on the other side. Take a counter pose after completing the other side too.

4. Seated straddle pose (dragonfly)

straddle pose
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

This pose is great for the legs. It will give your hamstrings, quads and inner groin a stretch. It also helps to strengthen your spine and open your hips which both help with lower back health.

Start this pose seated then take your your legs apart as far as you can go. You can sit on a cushion or blanket to help tilt your hips. You can also do this pose with one knee bent to get a further stretch in the hamstrings and spine. Make sure to do 2-3 minutes on each side.

As well as placing a cushion under the hips, you can also place props out in front to fold over and rest your elbows or hands onto. This will be particularly helpful if it feels too tight to fold completely forward.

As a counter pose here you can do windshield wipers again like you did after butterfly pose.

5. Savasana

savasana pose
Photo by Elina Fairytale on Pexels.com

It isn’t a yoga class without this final pose of rest to finish with. To get the most out of this experience, particularly when practicing at home, it is best if you can create a quiet space and maybe play some relaxation or meditation music in the background. Do what you can to get most comfortable before you get into your pose. Turn down the lights, close the door, place a jumper or socks on if it’s cool. You could also use an eye pillow or cover your eyes with a light scarf to block out light.

To get into the pose you could come to lie down on your back with your legs straightened and arms by your side. If this does not feel comfortable, try bending the knees and placing a cushion or blanket underneath to support the lower back. Another option, without props, is to bend the knees and take the feet as wide as the mat and then allow the knees to fall softly together. If this is still not comfortable try savasana lying on your left side or even seated. If it does not feel relaxing to close your eyes try turning the gaze downwards towards the nose instead.

Aim to stay in savasana for 3- 5 minutes to get the most out of it. If you find your mind is wandering and getting distracted try counting each round of inhale and exhale to keep the mind on the present moment. If you lose count or get distracted just start again from one.

When it is time to come out of savasana, take your time. Begin with a deep breath in and out. Start to bring small movements to the body by wriggling the fingers and toes, then move into stretching the arms, followed by the legs. Gently roll over to one side first then come up to a seated position to close your practice.

If you liked this yin yoga sequence and want to practice with a qualified yoga instructor, you can try my Thursday evening livestream class or Saturday morning in-person class in Templestowe.
Also, if you want to know more about my personal yoga journey, check out my interview with Go Solo Magazine.