Transition & Balance- a Yin Sequence for the Stomach and Spleen
In Chinese Medicine, the Earth Element (Stomach & Spleen meridians) corresponds with the Autumn Equinox and late Summer. Earth can be balanced anytime, especially on any Equinox or Solstice, or during times of major transition.
"Chinese Medicine uses meridians named after and related to our physical organs to treat disease and imbalances in the body. The organ names are there to help describe the function of the related meridian and also to describe the myriad of relationships that exist in our bodies and between us and our environment." Chad Dupois
This yin sequence includes acupressure, energy work, and breathing to help us digest and process both physically and emotionally. If you'd like to stimulate digestion, rub some bergamot essential oil on your belly.
Energy Medicine for the Spleen "Cradling the Baby"
(From "Energy Medicine Yoga" by Lauren Walker)
After you've completed the exercise, take a few breaths and notice any energy shifts in the body.
Saddle Pose (5 min)
Fold up a blanket so it's a longer rectangle. Place the blanket under your shins and roll the ends over your calves and sit on the blanket. Toes are untucked. Knees are grounded and in line with your hip bones. If this is painful, feel free to sit higher on a block or bolster. This pose targets the top of the feet and thighs where the stomach meridian is. To add acupressure to this, find Stomach point 25 (you can refer to the image above if you want a visual). The point is about 1" away from the belly button, place 2 fingers next to each other; Stomach 25 is at the edge of the last finger. This point is good for constipation, stomach pains, and problems with digestion.
Toe Stretch (2 min)
From Saddle, tuck your toes (even the pinky toes). You can keep the hands on the floor out in front of your knees or sit completely on the heels and rest the hands in your lap. This pose does get more intense the longer you're in it, so I recommend starting with less weight on the heels and work up to it. This pose is an excellent release for all the tiny muscles, bones, and joints that line your toes. These areas don’t get much attention when we think of stretching, and they can get pretty tight from wearing shoes all day. Breathe steadily through the sensation.
Ankle Stretch (2 min)
Untuck the toes and move towards a tabletop position. After Toe Stretch, I like to tap the tops of my feet on the mat to release. Unroll your blanket and fold it horizontally to place under your knees, just to lift them away from the mat slightly. If you want something more intense for your ankle stretch, you can remove the blanket and lift the knees, keeping the head stacked over the hips (no leaning back), hands can be on blocks or at your heart. This is another one that can get more intense the longer you hold the pose.
To release, come through tabletop and stretch the legs back into Downward Facing Dog. Take about 10 breaths there.
Seated Twist (4 min)
Come to a seat with your legs extended in front of you, weight even in your sits bones and pelvis neutral. Cross your right leg over your left. Sit up tall and on your exhale, twist your your right, with your right hand behind your pelvis and your left hand on your shin.
For acupressure, gently press the fingers into Stomach Point 36 ("Leg 3 miles", visual reference is above). This point is used to improve weak digestion, boosts energy, and strengthen the immune system.
Line up 4 fingers below the knee cap. Stomach 36 is where the pinky rests- on the outside of the shin bone; this spot is often sensitive.
Unwind the twist, shake out the legs, take a few rounds of seated cat and cow (arching and rounding the spine), then take your seated twist to the left.
Embryo Pose (5 min)
Roll your blanket into a tube shape (if this is too much, just fold it into a rectangle). Sit on your shins, place the blanket on your thighs, and fold over your legs, allowing your head to rest on the ground or a block. Having your knees together for this variation is recommended, with the blanket below the belly button. Take full deep breaths and allow the belly to relax around any discomfort.
Sphinx/ Seal (5 min)
From Embryo, move through a few rounds of Cat & Cow, before transitioning onto your belly with legs extended straight. Slide your blanket under the belly. Again, taking nice deep breaths and allowing the belly to relax. Halfway through, if you'd like, you can straighten your arms for Seal.
Waking Lizard (4 min)
Move the blanket out from under you and find Downward facing Shavasana, bending the knees and windshield wiper side to side.
Waking Lizard is combination of several poses- Half Frog, Sphinx, and a lovely added quad stretch (and is a favorite of mine). Do as much, or as little, of this as you'd like.
Start with the left knee out to the side (adding a blanket under the knee for padding) in line with you hip- you can decrease this angle if your side or low body feels too compressed. Lift up onto your left forearm and turn it so it's parallel to the top of your mat (you can stay on your belly with your right cheek down) and reach your right hand back for your right foot, keeping the knee in line with the hip bone (you can use a strap if you'd like the quad stretch but can't reach your foot easily).
Cat Tail (4 min)
Release your right foot and slowly relax onto your belly, forehead on your hands. Gently roll onto your right side, keeping the left leg bent or straighten it. Rest your head on your right hand or bicep, whichever is more comfortable, then reach for your right foot with your left hand. Feel free to stay here or add a twist. Release onto your belly for a few breaths and notice any differences between the sides. Repeat Waking Lizard and Cat Tail on the 2nd side.
Reclined Saddle (4 min)
I like this pose with a bunch of props (2 bolsters, 2 blocks, 2 blankets) because it's more comfortable for my low back & knees. Feel free to adjust your props as needed. Prop set up- place one block between the bolsters, near the top where your head would be; I also stagger the bolsters slightly lengthwise. One blanket is under the knees, the other is rolled up behind the low back. The second block is under the seat.
Saddle can also be practiced with one foot on the earth and switch halfway through.
To release the pose, press up evenly, and come into a wide- legged downward facing dog to stretch the legs. A few rounds of cat/ cow after is beneficial too.
Dragon (4 min) Winged Dragon (1 min)
Dragon is another favorite of mine but it's a pose that can be a struggle for many people, as we hold so many emotions in our hips. If you find that you're tensing your body (notice the jaw!) or starting to feel angry, focus on breathing and relaxing.
From tabletop, step one foot forward to a low lunge, the ankle is under the knee or slightly forward. Walk the foot wide, potentially to the edge of your mat, both hands will be inside the foot. Hug the inner thigh towards the body.
After 4 minutes, start to peel the inner arch of the foot off the mat and open the knee towards the side. Only open as far as feels comfortable for you. Hold for 1 min here, before releasing with a sigh and a groan into downward facing dog. Stretch it out for at least 10 breaths (more if needed) before moving into the second side of dragon.
Dragonfly (10 min)
As we'll be holding this pose for a long time, props are highly recommended. To help find evenness through the sits bones and a nice anterior (forward) tilt, slide a blanket under the seat, turned so it's more of a diamond shape. A bolster is also great support to rest the torso or forearms on.
Legs are wide in a V shape; spine can round.
Gently release by sliding the hands under the hamstrings and drawing the legs together; windshield wiper the legs. Find stillness and a few rounds of seated cat/ cow.
Half Shoelace (4 min)
Start with both legs extended in front of you. Cross one leg over the other, knee to knee, allowing the legs to soften. If it feels ok, fold forward over the legs. Windshield wiper the legs between sides, finding a slight arch to the spine to open the heart. Repeat Half Shoelace on the other side.
Slowly recline onto your back, hugging the knees into the chest. Rock a little side to side, massaging out your low back. Drop the knees to the left for a reclined twist. Take 10 breaths there, then transition to the other side.
Legs up the Wall (10 min)
Sit with one hip up against a wall. Begin to lay back onto your spine and then swing the legs up the wall. You can add a blanket under the low back for added support. Allow all of the goodness of your practice and the release in the legs to begin to settle in and through you as you rest here, letting everything relax.
Earth/ Stomach Healing Breath
Repeat 3, 6, or 9 times. Do the movements slowly and quietly, trying to remain still and focused inside of yourself. Begin each sound by picturing its appropriate color (yellow gold) and a smile between your eyes.
Namaste! I hope you enjoyed the sequence.