Butterfly and Breath: A Short Yin Yoga and Mindfulness Practice
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
When you don’t have much time, but need to ground yourself into the body, a short yin yoga and mindfulness practice can work wonders! The following sequence can take as little as 12 minutes, or you can increase the time if you have longer available. Here is the link to the audio version, which is 18 minutes long.
Arrive and Centre
Begin by finding a comfortable way to sit and focus on the natural rhythm of the breath as it moves through the body. Take a pause and turn your attention inwards. Now soften gently. What is here? Listen to the language of the body, heart and mind and connect with whatever is here, in this moment. What sensations are present? Maybe tightness, softness or places of numbness in the body? How is your heart? The feelings, emotions and moods? Notice too what thoughts, images or stories are here, without following them, pushing them away or getting involved.
Then set your intention for the practice, maybe using words such as these:
“I commit, in this moment, to cultivate mindfulness awareness of my body, heart and mind, knowing that it is for my own deepest well-being and for the benefit of all those whose lives mine touches.”
Take time to feel how this intention can motivate you to stay present, even if you are feeling distracted. Take 12 breaths, maybe contemplating the Neruda poem given below.
A Yin Pose: Butterfly
Come now to a place where you begin to feel sensation; this is your first edge. Take a breath here and as you exhale, notice whether the sensation changes. If it eases you can move a little deeper, until you feel your next edge. Remember that you will stay here a while (3-5 minutes), so the sensation can be interesting, but not painful. A deep achy feeling is ok, but if you feel any sharp pain, particularly in the knees, then ease off straight away.
There are three guiding principles of a yin practice: 1) to move to your edge; 2) to find stillness in the body which can also show the mind how to access tranquility; and 3) to stay a while, letting time and gravity deepen the experience. See if you can release any tension or striving and instead access a sense of softening into the pose. Yin tissues have a low fluid content of 6%, so we need to work them in a different way from muscles. We hold a static, stable pose to load the ligaments and allow them to stretch slowly, while ensuring that the muscles stay soft.
Yin yoga poses allow us to stimulate the flow of energy – or chi – through the body, and improve meridian health. We invite moisture to the connective tissue, such as the ligaments and the sheath – or fascia – that surrounds all the muscles, organs, bones and nerves. By sequencing yin poses in a particular way, we can coax chi through the meridian system that runs through the fascia, in order to bring greater health to the organs, such as the kidneys, lungs, heart and liver.
While you relax into the pose, you can cultivate a longer ujjayibreath, drawing energy and your awareness into your belly, and relaxing the nervous system.
We take Butterfly in many of the yin sequences as it harmonizes the three meridian pairs of the lower body; the kidney-urinary bladder, the liver-gall bladder and the stomach-spleen meridians. We both stretch and compress the places where the meridians run through the connective tissue to increase the flow of energy through these channels. The kidney meridian will particularly help bring more energy into the lower tantien, the ground of our being.
When we are feeling fatigued, without much energy left to offer others, we can take a pose that specifically supports the kidney-urinary bladder meridian pair, as they act as a store of vital energy and need to be balanced to ensure healthy functioning of all the other organs. The kidneys are the yin organ, responsible for filtering blood, balancing bodily fluids, and regulating blood pressure and glucose levels. The urina