My classes lately have been leaning towards hip openers and a lot of back decompression and forward folds. As I was planning my sequences for my yoga class, I would go, "Okay, so I'll use this sequence also for my classes in QC and Libis, as I taught it in BHS already." When I road-test my sequence with my self-practice, I do make a bit of modification coming into mind the different crowds of the studios, and their needs. Of course, during the class itself, the sequence also changes. But the formula is always the same, hip openers and forward folds. Lately, my regular students request a lot of hip openers, #punitsingit if you may.
Hip openers are my personal favorite. It was through me working through my split that I got into yoga in the first place, as a safer way to my "lola" body (lola in dance world, as there are dancers that started moving way before they reach first grade). I discovered that the hips carry our burdens or emotions, and being the largest part of the body, you can just imagine how many kinks have gotten inside those crevices. That's why some people cry during hip openers, because we tend to release a lot of emotions.
In yin yoga we focus a lot on grounding the pelvis, because it is what provides stability and space to our physical support. As we ground our sitting bones, we get to sit so much straighter, creating space in our body, looking taller and improving our posture to be straighter instead of slumped to slouch.
Hip openers also help a lot with our back pain, and standing up at work most of the time, I get to have a lot of tightness on my lower back and hips. On an added benefit, hip openers create space in the body, and will help those with a lot of menstrual issues. In our Yin Yoga for Women's Health workshop, our sequence had a lot of hip openers.
Forward folds aid a lot in back decompression, as bad posture and standing for prolonged periods of time tend to compress the spine. Also, if you tend to wear heels a lot (yes, pole dance world and our sky-high heels, it includes us), you notice that arch your lower back makes. Well yes, it does create a sexy shape in photos and performances but this can create a lot of bone compression in time. Aside from decompressing the back, forward folds direct your energy to you, and rid you from distractions allowing you to focus more on yourself rather than the distractions that surround us. I personally find forward folds humbling, as the pose is so inward and also, hard for yoga selfies (*wink*)
I'm sharing some of my favorite poses and a short which you could do at home, and modified it for those with a tiny space in their homes like me, Start with a 5-minute meditation either lying down in pentacle or a comfortable seated position. In this meditation, quiet down and clear your mind and direct energy towards yourself. keep the body soft, heavy on the pelvis and spine straight and tall. Hold each pose for 3 minutes (eventually graduating to 5 if you wish) and then end with a 5-minute rest in pentacle or savasanna. I also give options for those who are still working on their flexibility. Special thanks too to my pole buddy Kelay who took some of these photos for me after pole class.
Sit with your sitting bones rooted on the mat and form a big diamond shape with your legs, keeping the feet away from the groin. keeping the pelvis rooted, inhale and lengthen the spine, creating space in the body. Then, slowly walk your hands forward until you feel the stretch. Once you do, keeep the belly soft and exhale lowering down feeling the back muscles open. To get out of the pose, place your hands in line with your shoulders and while keeping the back soft and the pelvis rooted, push yourself back up with your arms, head coming up last.
Modification: If your knees come up higher than your hips, sit on a block, bolster, or cushion. You may also use blocks or pillows to support your knees or head. Remember, the key is not so much to reach your head to foot that your hips lift up. Focus on keeping them grounded.
(works on hips, hip flexors, stretches the front body)
Come into cat or tabletop, hips in line with knees and shoulders in line with the wrist. Step your right foot in between your hands and walk your right foot towards the left hand and drop the right knee to meet your right hand. Your front leg is now at a right angle. Sit on that right hip as you walk the left leg back grounding on your left big toe and remembering to keep the left hip turned in. Walk your hands forward so the back is straight and relaxed and the buttocks soft. There is a tendency here to put most of the weight in the hands so sink your hips down. As your body loosens and softens, see if you can walk your hands closer to your hips remembering to keep the spine lengthened instead of crunching on your vertebrae. Feel the stretch on the right hip and left hip flexors and quads. I also feel this on my belly. To come out of the pose, tuck the back toe in, push yourself up and rest in child's pose. Remember to do the other side.
Modification: You may sit on a block if your hip doesn't touch the ground.
Gecko is my absolute favorite. It's a very deep opener, so I don't expect beginners to come to this pose with no props. It also stretches the muscles in the belly, hip flexors, and front side. This is not necessarily a fully yin pose. In face, there's a bit of yang involved since the arms would be acting as a support
Modification: If the right heel comes up, step on a block. You may also prop your arms on a block if you can't reach the ground.
We need to close the hip in from all those hip openers. Cradle is like a lying-down child, a yummy forward fold that decompresses the spine and massages the belly. All you need to do is bring your knees in towards you and give them a hug, letting the hands act as weights rather than forcing them down. Keep the sacrum down or for an added stretch, lift the sacrum at the last minute
Modification: You may use a strap or scarf to help you
Modification: You can raise the right arm up overhead for an added arm stretch.
This is actually a short sequence that you can do at home if you don't have time to practice in a yoga studio but need your yin fix. You may use the timer feature in your phones or download the Chakra Chime app (available both in Apple and Android) for self-practice, Remember to honor your body and go where your body takes you to avoid any injury and it's perfectly fine to take a step back if you feel pain or stinging discomfort. Also, please remember to breathe and let the breath guide you to go deeper into your pose, sending the breath to where it is tight. Have fun!
For my classes with Yoga for Life, you may check out the Yoga For Life Facebook Page as well as announcements of their events.