Yin yoga sequence for the Water element

Water Element Yin Yoga Sequence

Posted: 7th January 2021 by Emma Wall

The energy of the Water element in TCM

This Yin yoga sequence harmonises and nourishes the yin to our yang, allowing us to recognise all facets of our existence. Focusing not just on the external, but on our internal world too. Never has there been a more fitting time to tune into the energy of the Water element, as we’re asked to stay home and minimise our social contact this winter. The energy of the Water element in Traditional Chinese Medicine is considered the most Yin like of all the seasons. Yin in its nature is introspective, dense, cold and still and sits in contrast to the outward, dynamic movement of the summer and the Fire element.

The Water element allows us to retreat into the world of our dreams and emotions, as we use its stillness to reflect upon the inner workings of our being through practices such as meditation and Yin yoga. As we learn to quieten down the noise of our external environments, we, in turn, attune our ability to listen to our truths. And it’s within the calm held space of such practices that we can nourish, heal and surrender up that which is no longer serving us, clearing space physically and emotionally ready for when growth once again can occur.

Read more about the Water element in TCM – The Five elements – Water Element

Yin yoga sequence for the Water element

This Yin yoga sequence for the water element focuses on nourishing the kidneys with breath centred awareness and on stretching into the inner knees, thighs and groin to stimulate the Kidney meridian. For the paired energetic line of the Water element, the Bladder meridian, this Yin yoga sequence alternately compresses and decompresses the spine. The Bladder meridian, which corresponds with the myofascial back line of the body, is also targeted through gentle hamstring stretches.

For this practice, you will need a few cushions, maybe some yoga blocks, and a blanket. Why not embrace the nature of the Water element completely in this Yin yoga sequence by dimming the lights, putting on some soothing music and making sure the space that you’re practising in is both warm and without distractions from the outside world, such as a mobile phone.

Dangling breathing into the kidneys

Lengthen the backline of the body and draw into the Water Element with your breath

Coming into the pose

Before folding forward into your standing forward fold, take a moment to bring your awareness into the energy of the Water element by placing warm hands onto the area of your kidneys. Breathe as if you were breathing into the back of your kidneys, then bring your hands to just above your navel and breathe into the front of the kidneys. Release your hands and hinge forward at the hips with soft knees into Dangling. Allow your spine to extend a little more with every exhalation.

Dangling pose - Yin yoga sequence for the Winter

Suggested propping

If you have a very tight backline of your body then you can bend your knees considerably and rest your forearms on your thighs. Alternatively, you can rest your hands onto blocks for support. As you drop deeper into the pose you may wish to fold your arms underneath you or to let your hands come to rest on the floor. For those who are more open in this pose, wrapping your arms around the backs of your legs could be an option.

Leaving the pose 

Bring yourself down to the mat and rest for a moment in Child’s pose. You may want to bring your head to a block in Child’s, being sure to tuck your chin to keep the back of your neck long.

Wide Knee Child’s with Needle Arms

Continue building awareness in the kidneys and spine throughout this Yin yoga sequence

Coming into the pose

From Child’s pose, bring your knees as wide apart as is comfortable until you feel a gentle stretch in your inner thighs. Notice the decompression at the end of your spine and the length along your whole spine. Breathe into the back kidney space. When you’re ready feed one arm underneath the other armpit through to the other side so that you’re in a slight twist. Breathe into one kidney at a time as you do each side.

Wide kneed Childs Pose with needle arms

Suggested propping

You may want to make the knees more comfortable with a rolled-up blanket under them. Both your head and the top of your shoulder can rest onto props to support them, especially if you can’t get your buttocks to your heels. You may want to place a soft prop between the backs of your knees.

Leaving the pose

Come out the way you came into the pose and slowly round up to Seiza position. Once upright release your legs in front and come to seated crossed legged for a rebound. As you inhale imagine you’re drawing up blue light from your tailbone to the crown of your head. As you exhale imagine drawing down red light from the crown to the tailbone.

For more Yin yoga sequence ideas for your home or teaching practice check out – In My Element: Yin yoga sequences guiding you through the Chines 5 elements

Straddle Pose

Deep stretch for the backs of legs, stimulating the Kidney and Bladder meridians of the Water Element

Coming into the pose

Start from seated with bent knees wide apart and your feet on the floor. Extend your legs away from you in a wide-angled position, keeping your spine long. Hinging forward at the hips, bring your torso towards the floor until you feel a deep stretch in the back of your legs and inner thighs.

Straddle Pose - Water element Yin Yoga Sequence

Suggested propping 

If your lower back wants to round when leaning forward, then sit on a prop before folding forward. If your hamstrings are feeling overly stressed, then place a prop such as cushions under the backs of your knees. You may want to rest your elbows on a prop in front of you in order to be able to support your head or release your head itself onto a prop.

Leaving the pose

Gradually tiptoe your hands back towards you until you are upright. Gather your hands under your knees and help the legs back to centre. Slowly move onto your back for a rebound. When you’re ready to continue, roll onto your belly for the next pose.

Sphinx/Seal pose

Extend the spine and compress the kidneys

Coming into the pose

Come onto your forearms so that you’re in a gentle backbend. Drop your chin slightly so that you can feel the length along the whole spine. Revisit the visualisation of drawing blue light up along the length of your spine and red light down it. Feel the compressive stimulation in the area of your kidneys. If you would like to take the backbend deeper, then push up onto your outstretched arms into Seal pose. If you like you can even extend one arm a bit further in front at a time and breathe into the corresponding kidney.

Water element Yin yoga sequence - Sphinx pose

Suggested propping

Taking a soft prop underneath your lower ribs, whilst maintaining your pelvis grounded can offer some support for your lower back and relieve some of the pressure on your shoulders. You may want to rest your forehead onto a prop.

Leaving the pose

Push back up into a Tabletop position and pause for a few breaths. Move the Qi up and down the spine with some mindful Cat-Cow undulations. Rebound in a seated or supine position on your back.

Caterpillar Pose

Come into an inward-looking space and connect with the Yin energy of the Water Element

Coming into the pose

In Caterpillar pose we allow ourselves to surrender into an inward-looking space. Dense and Yin like in its energy, like the Water element it draws on, this pose grounds you into your internal landscape. The whole length of the Bladder meridian is stimulated in Caterpillar as you stretch from the back of your heels, all the way up the back legs and across the spine. Allow the hands of gravity to gently ease your torso down towards the floor as time progresses in the pose. You may like to use the breathing visualisation from before.

Caterpillar Pose with props - Yin yoga sequences for the winter

Suggested propping

As with all seated forward folds, sitting on the edge of a prop will help with spinal extension and an anterior pelvic tilt. If you want to focus more on stretching out the lower back instead of the back of the legs, break up the backline of the body with props under the back of the knees. You might want to rest your head or elbows on a prop placed either between your legs or on top of them.

Leaving the pose

Unravel the spine one vertebrae at a time until you’re upright. From here either continue rolling onto your back or take a seated rebound.

Frog pose

Deep groin opener and adductor stretch

Coming into the pose

Start from a Wide kneed Child’s pose with your feet together. Begin to bring your weight forward so that your hips are in line with your knees. You can choose to drop your belly so that you create a subtle backbend in the pose, or you can keep your spine more neutral. The stimulation should be felt mainly in your inner thighs and groin and not in the back of the hip socket. If it feels okay in your hip anatomy, then bring your feet further apart so that your legs look like frog’s legs.

Frog pose - Water element Yin yoga

Suggested propping

Experiment with placing props between your legs and under your belly and head. Depending on how much of a backbend you want to include in the pose, one or all of the propping options above can change the feel of the pose substantially. You can rest on your forearms or extend your arms in front.

Leaving the pose

Remove any props and make your way onto your belly. Make a cushion out of your hands by placing one hand on top of the other. Turn your toes in towards each other, with your heels dropping out and give your hips a little shake to release your lower back. Push up into an upright position for the next pose.

Prone Spinal Twist

Release tension along the spine

Coming into the pose

Twists are a great way to restore equilibrium in your nervous system at the end of your practice and to leave your spine feeling realigned. Facing along your mat with both knees bent to the side at 90°, lower down onto your front with as long a spine as possible. Keep your head facing straight or turn your head away from your bent knees. Draw your knees in or away from your body until you find the sweet spot to release through your lower back.

Prone spinal twist to stimulate the Kidney and Bladder meridians of the Water element in TCM

Suggested propping

Some people prefer to lower their torso onto a bolster in this pose, whilst others find it more comfortable to rest their front body onto the floor.

Leaving the pose

Push yourself up to seated between sides, being extra mindful of your spine. Rotate the knees around the back of your mat to repeat on the other side. Once you’ve worked on both sides come down into Savasana to allow your spine, breath and mind to realign.

This is one of many practices featuring in the new book from Flow Publications – In My Element: Yin yoga sequences guiding you through the Chinese 5 Elements – Available to buy now on Amazon.

In My Element

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