Summertime Yin: 2nd Installment

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If you’re new to Yin Yoga and the concepts behind it, I suggest you have a quick read of this and this to familiarise yourself with its basic tenets.

With the arrival of June, we transition firmly into summer territory, despite what last week's storms would have us believe.

Yin yoga is the perfect complementary practice to a busy summer calendar, helping to really restore and balance our energy by encouraging us to turn inwards and towards stillness to counteract the late nights, long days, and lust for life that summer carries with it.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the season of summer is associated with the element of Fire and the organs of the heart, lung, and intestines.

The heart is considered as the “king” of the organs by TCM for the vital role it plays in controlling our circulation and distribution of blood, and the consequent dependence of all other organs on it for good health. It is also said to house the body’s spirit and therefore plays an integral role in our emotional world.

The small intestine is responsible for sorting the pure from the impure matter that it receives from the stomach, assimilating the necessary nutrients, and passing on anything unnecessary to the large intestine to be eliminated.

The lungs do the vital job of filtering our breath and delivering oxygen to our blood and then expelling carbon dioxide on every exhale. This also makes them the first organ to come into contact with the chi from the outside world and assimilate it with our chi. The lungs are seen as the main way to replenish our energy.

As ever in the TCM context, the organs of the body play a bigger part than their anatomical function and are endowed with energetic properties. The balanced flow or energy/chi/prana through the heart and lung meridians/energetic channels is associated with a feeling of joy and enthusiasm for life, being well balanced emotionally and treading the line between vulnerability and resilience with ease, there is genuine warmth in our interactions and a relaxed and satisfied taste to life.

“When heart chi is healthy, we feel warm, nourished, and nourishing, able to contact innate joy, inner peace, and harmony, and able to build healthy relationships.” – Sarah Powers

Conversely, when heart/small intestine chi is unbalanced, we may experience sadness, issues with our circulation, and feel disconnected and emotionally cold, and turned off from life.

The yin yoga sequence below is a selection of poses that target the heart and small intestine  (and the lung and large intestine) meridians to encourage the healthy flow of chi through these channels and organs to find balance this summer. Savasana isn't pictured because it is included as standard in every yoga practice we do. Please make sure you leave time for at least 5 minutes at the end of the sequence.

As always when practicing yin, remember these things;

  • Find an appropriate edge, feel enough sensation for the pose to tug at the connective tissue and the meridian lines housed within it.
  • Stay in the pose for an extended amount of time, somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes (or maybe more)
  • Try not to fidget unnecessarily, this applies to the mind too, keep the attention on the breath.

For your reference, here are the meridians of the heart and small intestine which this sequence targets

 Heart Meridian

Heart Meridian

 Small Intestine Meridian

Small Intestine Meridian

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Extended Child's

Meridians targeted

  • Heart meridian along arms

Physical Focus

  • Massages the internal organs
  • Stretches the spine and the chest

Hold for

3-5 mins/as long as you want. Make sure to swap the turn of your head

Make it work for you

  • Knees could be narrower
  • Pad the knees either under the knees of in the knee crease
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Sphinx

Meridians targeted

  • Lung and Heart as the chest lengthens away from the abdomen
  • Kidney and Urinary Bladder in lower back and sacrum

Physical Focus

  • Stimulation of sacro-lumbar arch
  • Tones the spine

Hold for

3-5 mins

Make it work for you

  • Use a bolster under the ribs (as I have in the picture) to support very flexible backs
  • Pad under the ankles if its uncomfortable in the tops of the feet
  • Place a folded blanket under the hips and pelvis for more comfort
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Quarter Dog

Meridians targeted

  • Heart and Lung meridians in arm
  • Urinary Bladder in back
  • Stomach and Spleen in the chest

Physical Focus

  • Back bend for the upper back
  • Opens the shoulders

Hold for

3-5 mins on each side

Make it work for you

  • You could use a bolster/brick/folded blanket under the chest or armpits. Make it high enough to feel supportive, so that you can relax down into it
  • Place a folded blanket under the knees if they don't like the pressure
  • Watch out for any tingling in the extended arm- it could be a sign of nerve compression. If you experience it then please adjust the arm or come out of the pose completely
  • Taking the arm wider may help to alleviate any pinching/compression in the shoulder
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Caterpillar

Meridians targeted

  • Lung meridians in the upper back

Physical Focus

  • Opens the back body
  • Stretches hamstrings

Hold for

3-5 mins

Make it work for you

  • Use a blanket or block under your sit bones to help the pelvis rotate forwards
  • You could use a bolster on its end to support the head
  • Let the spine round
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Supine Twist (with a tail)

Meridians targeted

  • Urinary Bladder along the spine
  • Heart Meridian along the chest
  • If you put the arm above the head (not pictured) you get into heart, lung and small intestine

Physical Focus

  • Stretches belly and the back
  • Massages the stomach

Hold for

3-5 mins each side

Make it work for you

  • The pictured pose has me holding the bottom foot- but this is not necessary, you could let the bottom leg be free if it's more comfortable

 

Tips for all postures

 

  • We are looking for sensation- not pain. If you feel pain at any point then please come out of the pose and either try again with props to alleviate the pain, or if the pain persists then skip the pose altogether
  • Soften what doesn’t need to be engaged- including the jaw and face
  • Keep the mind focused on the breath
  • Try not to fidget unnecessarily and marinate in the stillness.
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Jasmine Pradhan is the editor and co-founder of Balance Garden, and is also a London based yoga teacher you can find her on instagram @stretchandthecity or on her website www.stretchandthecity.co.uk