A Grounding Yin/Restorative Sequence: Yoga for Spring Renewal
Article At A Glance
Enjoy a grounding Yin/Restorative yoga practice to ease the body from hibernation to spring renewal and restoration.
Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. As the weather becomes warmer, the days grow longer, the trees grow greener, and flowers come into bloom. The world around us can seem to flicker to life, but what happens if we feel depleted amidst this transition? Can we practice Yin/Restorative yoga with spring renewal in mind?
Yoga sequences designed for spring often focus on moving faster or practicing deep, detoxifying twists. But in reality, many of us may seek slower, more supportive practices during the transition from cool to warm weather. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the healing modality from which yin yoga arises, offer explanations for why we may crave more stillness in the spring.
Spring Renewal and Ayurveda: Kapha Season
In Ayurveda, spring is ruled by the Kapha dosha, which has heavy, moist, and cool qualities. We can see these qualities in spring showers and the muddy puddles and damp earth that they bring. Kapha is also related to groundedness and stability. And yet, in excess, Kapha can manifest in resistance to change, stagnation, or fatigue. This can also lead us to seek slow, steady movement through both yoga and daily life.
Water and earth are the dominant elements in Kapha season. In Sanskrit, Kapha literally translates to “phlegm.” The water element is especially important in relation to the respiratory system, which can become bogged down by mucus from seasonal colds or allergies. This makes breathwork especially important in the spring.
Spring and Traditional Chinese Medicine: The Wood Element
Similarly, according to traditional Chinese medicine, spring is associated with the wood element, which represents growth, expansion, and flexibility. Spring is also connected to the liver and the gall bladder meridians. In traditional Chinese medicine, the meridians represent the flow of Qi, or vital energy in our bodies. This is similar to the flow of Prana through the Vayus that is described in Ayurveda.
From a physiological perspective, the liver and gallbladder are associated with digestion and detoxification. When we overwork or overload ourselves with constant movement or stress, traditional Chinese medicine says the wood element moves out of balance This leads to rigidity or irritability. Anger is also said to arise when the wood element is out of balance, and it is the dominant emotion connected to spring. But when we slow down and move with greater purpose and intention through daily life, Chinese medicine says the wood element returns to balance, allowing for greater adaptability and self-growth.
Both Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine recognize spring as a time of renewal and transformation, making it the perfect season to practice slower, gentler practices like yin and Restorative yoga. Through these practices, we can cultivate the strength to cut through the stagnation of winter and grow in sync with the world around us.
A Yin/Restorative Yoga Practice for Spring Renewal
The following sequence can help us embrace the transformational spirit of spring. This sequence allows us to gently shed the heaviness of winter, easing our bodies out of hibernation and embracing the revitalizing energy of spring. In this grounding yin and Restorative practice, we awaken the body with gentleness and ease, and leave feeling nurtured and refreshed.
Spring is all about gently nourishing the body. So please feel free to adapt this sequence to your own body. You can use additional props, take longer in each shape, or modify the postures in any way that might support your individual needs.
You will need the following props to practice this sequence: a yoga mat, 2 blankets, a bolster, a strap, and (optional) an eye pillow. You may enjoy practicing this sequence outdoors to connect with nature, if the weather permits.
Lotus Breath to Restore and Renew
Lotus Breath is a gentle Pranayama (breathwork) practice that can energize the body as we clear stagnation from the lungs. If you experience seasonal allergies, practice with tissues on hand.
- Come to a comfortable seat in Easy Pose (Sukhasana). Place a bolster or folded blanket under your seat to allow for greater ease as you elongate the spine.
- Bring your hands together at heart center, then shift your hands into Lotus Mudra (Padma Mudra) by leaving the wrists touching and opening the palms and fingers like petals on a flower.
- As you inhale through your nose, open your fingers wider. Exhale with a clearing sigh through your lips to bring your fingers back together as if sealing the flower back into a bud.
- Repeat this breath 4 to 6 times.
Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana): Yin/Restorative Yoga for Spring Renewal
Baddha Konasana, also known as Butterfly in yin yoga, can be practiced in two different but equally beneficial ways. If the heels are drawn in close to the pubic bone, you will likely feel the stretch around the groin. This targets the liver meridian, which is said to run through the inner leg and inguinal region. But if the feet are placed farther away from the groin, you will likely feel the pose more in the outer legs and hips, where the gallbladder meridian is said to run.
- Stay seated upright and uncross your legs. Bring the soles of your feet together and separate your knees, creating a diamond shape with the legs.
- Begin with an upright spine, then fold forward from your hip joints to a degree that feels comfortable in your body.
- Stay in a version of this posture that feels sustainable and grounding for 4 to 6 minutes.
- When you’re ready to come out of the posture, slowly roll your spine back upright. Use your hands to guide your knees together. Press your palms to the ground to lift your chest, and slowly windshield wiper your legs from side to side.
Supported Supine Twist for Spring Yin/Restorative Yoga Practice
This restorative pose is a twist that brings the spring element of detoxification to the practice in a calm, grounded manner.
- Set up a folded blanket at the top of your mat and bring a small roll to the edge of the blanket closest to the center of the mat. This roll will be used to support the cervical spine.
- Lie down on your mat with your head positioned on the blanket and the small roll positioned under the back of your neck.
- Draw your left knee gently toward your chest and take it across your body for a twist. Place a bolster or rolled-up blanket under the thigh, shin, and foot, making sure the entire leg is grounded.
- Although this is a twisting posture, the focus is less on the neck and more on the lower body, so you are welcome to keep your head in the center if that’s most comfortable for you.
- Rest here for 5 to 7 minutes, then slowly draw the knee back into center. Bring your right leg to meet the leg at your chest.
- Pause with both knees at your chest before repeating on the second side.
Add Supine Tree Pose (Supta Vrksasana) to your Yoga Practice
Supine Tree Pose is an unconventional way to practice Tree Pose. Since we practice the pose lying on the ground, it brings in the grounding, earthy element of spring to our Yin/Restorative yoga practice.
- Stay lying on your back with the blanket under your head. Stretch both legs out on the mat as if coming into Relaxation Pose (Savasana).
- Butterfly your left leg, bringing the sole of the foot to anywhere that is comfortable on the inside of the extended leg. Prop up the knee with a rolled-up blanket or bolster.
- Rest in this supported shape for about 5 minutes before re-extending the left leg.
- Pause briefly with both legs extended to notice how the body feels before switching sides.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) For Yin/Restorative Yoga
The final posture of this short sequence is one that uses the wall for an extra element of support. Viparita Karani is also a gentle inversion, allowing us to ground and rest as the blood returns from the legs to the core body. A great way to end your Yin/Restorative Yoga Practice.
- Move with ease as you transition upright from the last posture and bring the short edge of your mat to a wall.
- Place a blanket into a rectangular fold to the edge of the wall. This will support the base of your spine and pelvis.
- Set up a second blanket with a small roll for the neck about midway down your mat. This will support your head and neck.
- Secure a yoga strap around your thighs just above the knees. This will provide an added sense of grounding as it keeps the legs from separating in the posture.
- To transition into the posture, place your pelvis on top of the blanket at the wall, set your head onto the second blanket, and extend your legs skyward. Scoot toward or away from the wall until you find a shape that feels supportive for you. Your glutes should be fully grounded on your blanket. If your low back is rounded and your tailbone is pointing up the wall, scoot away from the wall, bringing your blanket with you until your lumbar spine is able to be in its natural concave curve.
- Either place your hands on your lower abdomen for grounding or extend them out to a T-shape alongside you.
- Close your eyes and place an eye pillow over your brow line if you have one available.
- Use this posture as the final resting pose of this short practice, and rest here for about 10 minutes.
- When you’re ready to make the transition out of this posture, bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet on the wall. Roll to one side and pause for a moment in a fetal position, noticing how your body feels. Slowly move to an upright seat, taking an extra moment to connect inward before returning to your day.