Yin Butterfly, or Passive Butterfly, is a wonderful grounding posture. It is a relatively accessible asana, especially with the use of props if necessary. This pose can be a great way to start your Yin yoga practice or to prep yourself for seated meditation.
It can also be a fab way to start the day — to ease out any tension in the neck from a long night’s sleep and to give a general stretch to the whole spine.
You can add this pose into your favorite sequence, using it as a rest pose (like Child’s Pose), a grounding posture at the start of your practice, or as a complimentary pose at the end of a seated sequence. It’s a winner any which way you use it!
Of course, not all poses are for every body. Sciatica can be aggravated in this pose. You can play with elevating your seat above your hips or just skip the pose altogether. If you have any low back issues that make flexion difficult, it might be best to opt out as well. It’s muy importante to pay attention to how your knees feel in this pose, and when it comes to knees (as in all of yoga), always err on the side of kindness and caution.
1. Buh-Bye Headaches
If your neck is healthy, this pose will be a great release, especially in that crunchy space at the base of the skull. If you’ve had whiplash or any neck issues, hanging your head heavy might not be such a good plan. Instead, you can hold your forehead in your palms or rest your noggin on a pillow.
If it feels good to let your head dangle, your head will serve as a weight to keep drawing you deeper into the pose. This creates even more space in the spine as you breathe and release. You can also let your jaw softly “unhinge” in this pose, releasing any tension from clenching your teeth or holding stress in the mandible.
2. Low Back Release (Without Needing Flexible Hamstrings)
You can get a really great stretch of the low back without having to involve your hamstrings. The closer your heels are to your groin, the less of a hamstring stretch you’ll experience in this posture. But remember, in this Yin version of Butterfly, you don’t want your heels drawn in too closely.
Think of creating a diamond shape with your legs and then explore the distance to discover what feels best. If you do move your heels further away, you’ll begin to experience more of a stretch in the backs of the legs and in your butt.
How cool that so much is possible in one pose!
3. Gets Into the Groin
There is some lovely stress placed on the connective tissues of the groin in this posture. I know, stress doesn’t sound too hot but it’s good stress here — the kind that makes for healthier ligaments, tendons, joints, and fascia.
If you have space to hinge forward, you’ll likely begin to feel more stress throughout the groin. Connective tissues thrive on steady, long holds that aren’t forced. This posture allows you to unfold slowly, sinking a touch deeper with every exhalation.
The nice thing about this pose is that it can be easily modified. You can sit on a cushion if it’s too tough to sit tall or if hinging forward seems impossible. You can also place pillows or supports under your knees if you’re feeling quite tight and need that little bit of extra care.
4. Calms the Mind
Forward Folds, such as this, are wonderful for turning the focus inward. Because you’re physically folding into yourself in this pose, the world can easily begin to fall away. This can facilitate a more seamless transition into a meditative state. At the same time, if you’re not used to such quiet, this might be very challenging.
A big help is that you can feel the flow of your breath very acutely in this posture. As you inhale, you’ll lift slightly and as you exhale, you’ll drop deeper. Focusing on the ebb and flow of the breath can be a great way to achieve stillness of the mind and to release anxiety if it starts to boil up.
5. Shoulders Soften and Release
The passive nature of this pose means you can begin to really let go of unwanted tension. Your shoulders can cave forward completely, dropping away tightness accrued from habitual holding.
Even though many of us sit slumped forward all day, this is a different kind of slumping — and one that will most likely leave you feeling more relaxed in the upper body. Of course, it can be nice to do a heart-opener after a long day of being hunched forward, so listen to your body. In this pose though, you can always play with arm placement, giving you lots of space to explore different ways of releasing and softening the shoulders.
As you’ve seen, there are lots of ways to modify this posture for different bodies (one of the reasons it’s so rad). So Yin-Butterfly-it-up, my friends — anytime, anywhere. Come into the pose to a point where it feels juicy (but still totally doable), then find stillness and stay awhile.
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