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Back in B.C. (Before Covid) times, I used to jump out of bed, grab my tennies, and head out for a 5K walk with friends a few times a week.
Things are different now. I take my time as I roll out of bed, sleepily drag myself to the bathroom, and maybe, just maybe, change clothes before I head to my mat to practice morning Yin yoga.
My body and mind are speaking differently these days, and Yin yoga gives me the chance to exercise some deep listening. When I make the space to listen in the morning, I can hear all of the places in my physical body gently wake as I move into long hold after long hold.
While Yin Yoga is practiced in a variety of settings, taking time for it early in the day, when your muscles are cold, allows you to access the deeper fascia. That depth, that stillness, is what I seek. It prepares me to listen a little more deeply and be a little kinder to myself, even when I’m off the mat. For me, that kindness looks like giving myself grace to move slowly, to not be tethered to devices, and to create silence and stillness for myself.
A morning Yin yoga sequence awakens that innate connection between your body, your breath, and your mind. When you bring some breathwork and exploratory movement to your poses and the transitions in between them, you can fully open the dialogue with yourself first thing in the morning.
A morning Yin Yoga sequence
Your only goal with this practice is to connect with your body and with yourself. Step into the invitation of the morning.
Easy Seat with Adhi Mudra
Come to a comfortable cross-legged position in Easy Seat, sitting on a bolster or a folded blanket if you like. Take some time here to connect to yourself and your breath. Bring your thumbs to the palms of your hands and wrap your fingers around them in adhi mudra. This mudra reminds you that you are made of layers and you turn inward to find a sense of grounding whenever you need. Settle into this connection and remain here for several breaths.
Release your legs and find some gentle movement.
Easy Seat with Nadi Shodhana
From seated, switch the crossing of your legs and come back to Easy Seat and practice Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing). Bring your right hand in front of your face. Place your pointer and middle fingers on the third eye (center of your forehead), while your thumb and third finger rest on either nostril. Pinch your left nostril shut. Inhale through your right nostril and hold the breath in. Then release your left nostril and pinch your right nostril shut before you exhale and hold the breath out. Breathe in through your left nostril and hold the breath in, then release your right nostril and pinch your left nostril before you exhale and hold the breath out. Continue breathing in this pattern for 3 more rounds.
Release your right hand and repeat with your left hand. Add longer holds before and after each breath.
From Easy Seat, begin to rotate yourself slowly at your hips in a circular fashion for seated Kundalini Circles. Rotate a few times in both directions.
Uncross your legs, and come to seated on your heels with untucked toes. Let your left arm rest alongside your body as you wrap your right arm behind your back, bringing your right hand to the inside of your left elbow and clasping it. Bring your right ear toward your right shoulder for an easy neck stretch. Send breath awareness to the left side of your neck. Stay here for 1 minute.
Release your left arm. Flex and extend your spine in a version of seated Cat and Cow by arching the spine to open across the front of your body, then rounding the spine to open across the back of your body for 3-5 times. Repeat Graceful Bow with neck release on the other side and stay here for 1 minute.
Add any movement you would like before you transition to the next pose.
Tuck all 10 toes and sit back toward or on your heels. The intensity of this pose is determined primarily by the positioning of the weight of your body. If you lean forward, you’ll experience less stress on your toes. If you center your weight directly over your heels, you will feel more stress on your toes. Make a conscious decision to listen to how much load your feet want today, then allow yourself to remain in stillness for 2 minutes.
Release by leaning forward, untucking your toes, and gently patting them against the floor.
Butterfly Fish Pose
Set up at the top of the mat with 2 blocks and a bolster or a couple firm pillows. Bring one block on medium height, which will go under your heart, and another, also on medium height, about a foot and a half behind it, which will go under your head. Sit a foot or so in front of the second block, facing away from it. Bring the soles of your feet together, knees bowing out to the side. Bring the bolster beneath your thighs to support your low back and provide a more gentle opening in this morning practice. Slowly lower yourself back, first onto your forearms, then lower yourself onto the blocks. Adjust their placement if needed. Feel for opening along the hips, inner thighs, chest, and neck. Send breath awareness to any part of the body that is asking for your attention. If it feels right for you this morning, you may turn the block under your head down one level to create more opening across your throat. Remain here for 5 minutes.
If it resonates with you, offer yourself an affirmation, such as “I speak my truth.” Notice your breath around your throat. Over the course of your time in this pose, you may opt to remove the block from under your head.
From Butterfly Fish, roll to one side, move the blocks out of the way, and return to your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the mat in Constructive Rest.
Reclining Big Toe Pose
Keep your left leg bent as you straighten your right leg toward the ceiling. Drape a strap around your right foot. Allow for your elbows to rest on the mat as you guide your right leg closer to your body. Stay here for 1 minute.
Walk your hands up the strap, bringing your right hand closer to your foot. Remain here for a few breaths.
Guide your right leg out to the right side. Stay for 2 minutes.
Bring your right leg back into the centerline of the body and step your left leg into the strap alongside the right. Take a few breaths here, then release your right foot and bring it to the mat. Allow for your bent right leg to provide grounding as you repeat Big Toe Pose on your left side.
Bring your left leg back to center and take your right foot alongside the left with both legs extended toward the ceiling while supported by the strap. Feel the grounding across the sacrum.
While on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet to the mat. Slide a bolster underneath your sacrum for Supported Bridge and stay here for a moment to feel grounding across the sacrum. If you need, adjust your bolster so you feel supported. Extend your right leg straight while the left leg remains bent and grounded for Half Pontoon. Stay here for 2 minutes.
To release, bend your right knee and bring it back to meet the left. Take a few breaths before repeating on the left side.
From Half Pontoon, release and straighten both legs to come into Supported Bridge for a few breaths. Extend both legs straight and release your arms alongside your ears for Pontoon. Stay here for 3-5 minutes.
If you have any loud feedback from your low back at any time, walk your legs back to Supported Bridge.
From lying on your back supported by the bolster, bend your knees and bring your feet back to the mat. Lift your hips enough to slide the support off to the side. Lower your back to the mat and take a few breaths in Constructive Rest, taking in new sensations of release and rebound along your back. Hug your knees into your body, then roll onto your left side. Let your legs stay to the left while bringing your shoulders back toward the mat in a reclining twist. Stay here for 3 minutes. Welcome any movements that feel good here.
Roll yourself onto your right side and release your shoulders back toward the mat for Tucked Twist on the other side. Stay here for 3 minutes. To release, roll in the direction of your knees and come onto your belly.
Still lying on your belly, bring your legs apart a comfortable distance, bend your elbows, stack your hands, and rest your forehead on the backs of your hands. Gently roll your forehead a few times from right to left and then find stillness. Allow yourself to rest for 5 minutes.
To release, bring your hands beneath your shoulders and come through hands and knees and then shift your hips back toward your heels in Child’s Pose. Take your time here. When you’re ready, come to seated again. Sit in the residue of your practice. Bring this feeling of connectedness with you throughout your day.
About our contributor
Tamika Caston-Miller, E-RYT 500, is the director of Ashé Yoga, where she curates yoga experiences and trainings in service of collective healing and community repair. Having begun her yoga journey in 2001 with a home practice, she now holds advanced certifications and training in Trauma-Informed Yoga, Somatics, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, and Yoga Nidra. Tamika’s journey has been informed by chronic pain and injuries, social justice for QTBIPOC communities, the battle between shame and compassion and quest for ancestral healing, and the love for the practice and philosophy of yoga.