by Melissa Deraval – 200hr RYT, Body Works Day Spa
Practicing yoga puts us more in touch with our physical body and our emotions, two very important attributes that we bring to the table in a relationship. Carrying this state of mindfulness to all areas of our lives brings clarity and calm to the choices that we make, including more rational relationship decisions. Let’s start by using some yoga poses to clear those lingering detrimental issues out of our tissues so that we can be more open to love!
I hope the following yoga poses help you unwind those areas of tension in the heart, hips, shoulders, and mind so that you can pass that gentleness along to all those you meet. Think of this sequence as a cozy cup of self-love and drink up!
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana): Upward Facing Dog/Cobra helps to strengthen the arms and wrists, lengthen your chest, ribs, and abdomen, stimulate the abdominal organs, firm the buttocks, and relieve fatigue.
- Lie flat on your belly, with legs stretched out behind you & tops of the feet on the ground, hands flat under your shoulders with fingers spread wide down into your mat.
- Inhale, press your palms into the ground and lift the belly & thighs up off the mat.
- Firm the thighs and spin them inward while also firming up the arms and turn them out slightly so that the elbow creases face forward.
- As you continue to breathe, send the length of your tailbone down towards your heels and lift your navel towards your spine.
- Actively draw the shoulders away from your ears while lengthening the sides of your ribs.
- Keep the gaze forward or slightly upwards taking special care not to compress or “turtle” the neck.
Modify: Place the tops of the thighs and feet on the ground for Cobra pose instead.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana): Pigeon Pose & Ankle-to-Knee (below) helps to relieve all of the congested tension and emotions that reside in our hips. Free your hips (and the rest will follow!)
- From a Downward Facing Dog, slide your right knee towards your right wrist and your right ankle behind your left wrist.
- Let your right hip sit down into the mat and your left leg lengthen straight out behind you. *If your right hip is tight, place a blanket or pillow underneath it to sit on.
- Take a gaze back at the left leg to note that it’s coming straight out from the left hip. Rest the tops of all five left toes down into your mat (pay special attention to your left pinky toe.)
- Inhale and sit up nice and tall and as you exhale, begin to fold over the right shin keeping a long, flat back.
- Stay upright with your hands on the mat or, if your front knee feels okay, fold forward creating a little pillow with the backs of your hands for your forehead to rest on.
- Stay for 5+ breaths (even up to 5 minutes!)
- Move into the next pose (Ankle to Knee) and then repeat Pigeon & Ankle to Knee on the opposite side
Modify: bring the front foot in closer toward you for a gentler hip opener. Alternately, move the front foot away from you and shin parallel to the top of your mat for a deeper hip release.
Ankle-to-Knee pose (also known as Firelog & Double Pigeon)
- Sit up tall, legs straight out in front of you.
- Fold your right leg so it is parallel with the front of your mat.
- Fold your left leg, placing your left shin directly on top of your right so your left ankle rests on your right knee and left knee rests on top of your right ankle, holding for 3 to 5 breaths (or longer if this feels super good in the hips).
Deepen: If you’d like to deepen the pose, keep both feet flexed, shins stacked, and hinge forward from your waist to fold out over your legs. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed.
**If your hips are really open, try sliding the left ankle down the shin a bit towards the right
Modify: Place your right foot on the floor bending at the knee, then place your left ankle on top (like a figure 4). Sit up tall and feel the stretch in your outer hip, inner thigh and lower back.
Plow Pose (Halasana): Plow helps to revitalize you by recirculating your blood flow and sending it towards the brain and heart. According to Elephant Journal, the position of your legs over your head in this pose can also subconsciously get you feeling a little frisky because you’re looking at your hips. Who knew!?
*Plow can be quite a deep pose to get into. If there is any tension in your neck at all, skip this pose and set up in Bridge pose instead. If you are working on modified variations of Plow, however, see some helpful tips at the end of this description.
- Start by lying flat on your back (use two folded blankets under the shoulder to help the natural curve of the neck as another variation)
- Bend at your knees and hug them into your chest.
- Keeping some length in your neck, chin slightly towards your chest, roll your legs up and overhead touching your toes to the ground behind you and place your hands on your low back or interlace your fingers and lengthen your knuckles towards the bottom of your mat.
- Stay for 3-5 breaths
- Engage your belly and slowly roll the legs back down to the mat.
*Counter pose by taking a cobra or fish pose variation
Modify: If your feet don’t touch the ground overhead, place the toes onto a block or even the seat of a chair for support.
Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana): Reclined Bound Angle is a soothing pose for the nervous system. It also allows for the relaxation of the abdominal muscles which is beneficial to intestinal and reproductive disorders. This pose also improves blood flow to the pelvis by stretching the inner thigh muscles and groin. Ooo la la!
- Lie flat on your back, knees bent.
- Bring the soles of your feet together, opening the knees out the sides.
- If the low back starts to arch, place pillows under the knees to release any muscular holding in the legs, back, and shoulders.
- Let your arms fall naturally at your sides, palms up or rest one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.
- Close your eyes and notice the quiet sensations of your breath. Gently match the length of the inhalations with the length of the exhalations. If you get too caught up in counting the breath, drop the count and simply focus on the way the air feels as it moves through your nose, through your ribs, heart space and into your belly (same on the exhale).
- Set an intention for love, perhaps even listening to a guided meditation on Metta (Loving Kindness).
Take Savasana to finish your practice by straightening out the legs. Open the legs to the width of the mat and let your arms fall at a slight angle at your sides. Take 5-10 minutes to settle here and reap the rewards of your practice.
This is one of our favorite articles. It was originally published on February 5, 2014.