While I nourish my need for sweating, focus, discipline and determination during my Ashtanga practice, I have discovered a way to nurture the more energetic and spiritual side of my nature through Yin yoga.
By preparing my classes, by researching and studying (more often than not helping myself to the online information made available by Bernie Clarke), by practicing the combination of asanas before serving them up in class and by observing my students I have deepened my practice—not only physically but also at a more subtle level.
I especially enjoy practicing and teaching the chakra balancing sequence I put together a few months ago. The seven soundtracks with chakra music Chakra Awakening by Energi have the perfect duration for a 90 minute class, leaving ample time for a moment of centering at the beginning and a beautiful long savasana at the end.
If the students are new to the world of the chakras, I give a general introduction before we start the practice. While the students are holding the poses I give a short description of the respective chakra, its functions, associated body parts and the issues when unbalanced. I emphasize which parts of the body they should focus and remind them to hold still, relax and surrender to gravity as much as possible. In between each chakra I stop the soundtrack and let the students relax in Savasana for a minute or so, allowing for the released energy to be absorbed by the body and for the blood to circulate freely.
Not only does this flow work through all the chakras but the whole sequence touches upon all the major focus areas of Yin yoga, such as the leg and hip muscles, the spine and the shoulders. At the same time the music in combination with the long holds (almost five minutes per posture) and the time taken for meditation and savasana, give this practice an all together restorative character.
Give this sequence a try and let me know what you think.
1. Muladhara Chakra.
Mountain Pose (Samasthitih)—The only standing posture of this sequence, meant for grounding and finding one’s centre. Feet can be slightly apart no more than hip distance. Arms relaxed by the side of the body. Eyes closed.
Caterpillar (Paschimottanasana)—For people with very stiff hips and hamstrings, I offer a pillow to sit on and/or put a rolled up towel under the knees. The aim is not to overstretch the legs but to focus on the centre of energy at the bottom of the spine, grounding the sitting bones into the mat or pillow.
2. Svadhistana Chakra
Long-Legged Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)—The hips are the focus area so I encourage the students to put their feet at a distance that is comfortable for them and remind them lean into the hips and relax. People with back or neck issues can rest their forehead on a block or pillow or support their head with their hands while leaning on their elbows.
Dragonfly (Upavishta Konasana)—A more intense forward bend, which further helps to release energy blocked in the hips and second chakra. Again, students with stiff legs can put a towel roll under their knees and the head can be supported too.
3. Manipura Chakra
Supine Twists (Jathara Parivartanasana)—Five minutes on each side. Reclined twists put some pressure on the solar plexus area gently massaging the organs in the abdominal area. I remind the students to focus on their belly button, relaxing into the twist.
4. Anahata Chakra
Sphinx or Seal (Bhujangasana)—Giving the students the option to move into Seal after a few minutes in Sphinx, I encourage people to relax the leg and bum muscles and stretch front upper part of the upper body by dropping the rib cage towards the mat. Since this posture can be quite intense I allow for some time to rest in Crocodile in between this posture and the next.
Melting Heart (Anahatasana)—Neck and spine allowing, students can lie on their chin for a superb stretch of the heart area. If this is too much, they can rest on their forehead or turn on their cheek, making sure they alternate between left and right. Rest in child’s pose after this asana.
5. Vishudda Chakra
Ocean (Ujjayi) Breath-–In Lotus Pose (Padmasana) or any comfortable seated posture. Can even be done lying down if necessary for comfort. Although I personally do not usually talk about ujjayi breath during a yin practice, in this case I find it helps focussing on the throat chakra.
Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)—By putting a block or rolled up towel just under the shoulders, allowing the head to hang back and rest on the mat the throat gets a beautiful stretch. With the legs relaxed the legs and the arms alongside the body with the palms facing up, this is also an nice posture for restorative yoga when building down towards Savasana.
6. Ajna Chakra
Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)—Making sure the knees and ankles of the students are comfortable, using support to sit on if necessary, I ask people to concentrate on their third eye and direct all their energy to that spot.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)—In this posture, the sixth chakra is activated by gently resting the spot in the between the eyebrows on the mat. The rest of the body should be as comfortable as possible, so students can choose to have their knees open or closed, the arms stretched out or resting alongside the legs. If people have stiff ankle joints, I slide a rolled up towel or yoga mat under the ankles.
7. Sahasrara Chakra
Meditation—Asking the students to find any comfortable seated cross-legged pose in which they can keep a straight spine (sitting on pillows, against the wall, whatever works) and with the hands resting on the knees in Jnana mudra, I let them sit and breath for the full duration of the last song. I ask them to focus on the crown of the head and leave the rest up to their meditational imagination.
Last but not least, I let them rest.
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Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock