Shoelace pose in Yin yoga
& its many variations
If you’ve ever witnessed a super bendy person in the Yin yoga pose called Shoelace pose, it might have sent you looking for the closest escape route from the yoga studio. How can I ever recreate the human pretzelling of that pose you might think? But the good news is Yin yoga practices something called variable anatomy, whereby you align the poses according to the needs of your unique physiology and not according to some aesthetic ideal. So luckily in Yin yoga, there is no expectation whatsoever for you to recreate the shape of Mr or Mrs bendy butt in Shoelace pose.
The target areas for Shoelace pose in Yin Yoga
I use the butt pun here because that’s exactly the area that this pose is targeting in its stretch, the glutes (aka your butt) and the IT band (that bit that can feel really tight down the outside of your leg from your outer hip to outer knee). For those of you interested in the Eastern roots of Yin Yoga, which stems from the ancient Philosophy of Taoism combined with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these target areas correspond with the energy along your Gallbladder meridian.
Learn more about the corresponding meridians in TCM here.
And there’s even more good news! There are loads of ways to get around your inability to recreate the deep gluteal stretch that Bendy Butt is getting, without having to look in the slightest bit like them. For what it’s worth it could just be the unique anatomical makeup of the hips and thigh bone of Bendy that allows them to make this shape. Just because you can’t recreate the human pretzel makes you no better or worse than them, simply anatomically differently built. Phew! So now that we’ve cleared that up let’s begin to break these differences down and look at some of the ways in which we can make this pose work for us.
Tight Shoelace pose:
In this version of Shoelace, you have your knees stacked and your heels pulled in either side of your buttocks. Both hips are externally rotated (inner part of thigh bones turning up towards the sky). If you need a deeper stretch, then you may feel it more intensely in your glutes/IT band if you fold forward in this pose. folding forward also has the added benefit of stretching your lower back out. Just remember that you’re going to be here a while in Yin yoga, so make sure you come to your appropriate edge and not beyond. Time and gravity will pull you deeper, trust me! Just let them do their thing.
Wide Shoelace pose:
This is the same set up as Tight Shoelace only this time your shins are more or less in line with your hips. The only difference between this and Tight Shoelace is that you’ve increased the external rotation of the thigh bone in the hip joint. This version of Shoelace may suit people with more outwardly rotated hips better than the one before.
Loose Shoelace pose:
Here you stack your feet and knees, keeping the same degree of external rotation as Wide Shoelace. Only this time take your knees even further out to the side away from the midline (abduction).
Untied Shoelace pose:
If the thought of all this external rotation is making you dizzy then the good news is that this version keeps the distance that you’re legs are apart from each other (the abduction) the same as Loose Shoelace. However, this version allows you to begin to internally rotate your legs back to something closer to a neutral sitting position. If none of the above 3 options is available to you but you just don’t feel Untied Shoelace enough in the target areas sitting up in this pose, then fold forward over your legs and experiment with walking your hands more to the left or right.
Broken Shoelace pose:
As a final option, try extending one leg out in front and bringing the other knee out to the side. Again, leaning into the pose will help you access the stretch. As will playing about with where your hands are in relation to your torso.
Using Props in Yin Yoga poses
Props are your friend when setting yourself up for the long hold time of a Yin yoga poses. Experiment with using props like blocks, cushions or rolled-up blankets. These can be placed in the gaps between or under your knees/hips, as support for your head or hands either of your lap or the floor, or even in your groin crease to decrease the angle of hip flexion. By sitting on a block you can help to lower your knees towards the floor.
Remember we are looking for function over form in Yin Yoga poses. It really doesn’t matter which of the above poses, or many other variations within these 5 poses that you take. If you’re feeling it in your glute/IT area and lower back then you’re doing it right!
For further reading on Shoelace pose click here.
In My Element
If you’re looking for more advice on ways to approach Yin yoga poses so that they’re right for your body and mind, then check out the inspirational book – In My Element: Yin yoga sequences guiding you through the Chinese 5 elements