Every great story has a beginning, middle, and end, correct? The same rule applies to a well-planned yoga class. This closing sequence is a great way to shift gears from more vigorous work to prepare for savasana. Alternatively, it can serve as part of a seated/reclined class or as a stand-alone (especially if time is of the essence!).
These poses target the hips, with an invitation for the legs and back to also release. The practice takes about 10 to 15 minutes, not including savasana, depending on breath cycles and the time it takes to transition into each pose. You’ll do the first four poses all on the same side and then switch sides to repeat the sequence. The final four poses target both sides.
Half Happy Baby
Begin by lying on your back with your legs extended. Bend your right knee and gently take hold of the outside and back of your thigh with your right hand. Direct your right knee toward your right armpit until you feel a stretch around your hip and/or upper thigh. Your heel can drop toward your glutes or your torso (depending on how much external rotation there is in the hip).
If it’s available to you, you can bring the sole of your foot parallel to the ceiling so that your shin is at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
You can keep holding your right thigh with your right hand or move it up to gently grasp your outer calf or ankle or your foot (either the inner or outer edge).
Rest your left hand on your left hip bone to encourage that leg to remain grounded and rooted. Stay for five breaths.
Half Knee to Chest
Clasp the back of your right thigh with both hands and direct your knee toward your chest. Activate your left leg by pressing the back of your thigh toward the floor, pressing your calf and heel firmly into the floor, and flexing your left foot.
As you inhale, feel or imagine your belly pressing against your right thigh. On the exhale, feel your belly soften away from your thigh. Repeat for a total of five breaths.
Bend your left knee and plant your left foot on the mat. Use your hands to guide your right ankle to rest above your left knee, and make sure your right foot is flexed.
Gently nudge your right knee away from your right shoulder. Press your right ankle into your left thigh. Visualize your right sitting bone moving away from your core. Stay for five breaths.
Cross your right thigh over and on top of your left thigh as if you were coming into eagle pose. Press into your left foot to lift your hips and move them an inch or so over to the right. Let both legs fall over to the left, allowing them to rest on a bolster or block if you like.
Bring your arms into a T (palms up or down) or cactus shape. Direct your gaze and chest up to the ceiling. Try to melt your right shoulder into the ground. Stay for five breaths.
Repeat this sequence on the other side, and then begin the following.
Full Happy Baby
From twisted root pose on the left side, come back to the center, uncross your legs, and plant both feet on the mat, knees bent.
Take both knees wider than hip-width apart and, grasping the backs of your thighs with your hands, draw your knees toward your armpits. Your heels can be close to your sitting bones.
Stay here or progress into full happy baby by directing the soles of your feet to face the ceiling so that your shins are at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
Your hands can keep clasping the backs of your thighs, reach for the outside of your calves or ankles, or gently take hold of the outer or inner edges of your feet. Hold for five breaths.
From happy baby pose, bring your hands to your inner thighs so they’re a few inches away from your knees and your fingers are pointing away from your body. Reach around to grasp the backs of your thighs. Extend both legs into a V shape.
Use your hands to guide your legs wider or narrower, depending on where and how intensely you feel the stretch. You want to feel the stretch particularly in the inner thighs, but it shouldn’t be the most intense sensation available. You may have to move your hands to the outside of your thighs for support. Stay for five breaths.
From wide-legged pose, place your hands on the outside of your legs to bring your legs toward each other until they’re hip-width apart. Allow your knees and ankles to relax. Imagine that your legs are soft, like noodles. Close your eyes or allow your gaze to become unfocused. Stay for five breaths.
Knees to Chest
From legs in the air pose, gently clasp your shins and bend your knees into your chest.
Focus on your belly pressing against your legs on each inhale and softening away from your legs on each exhale. Stay for five breaths.
From knees to chest pose, extend your legs along the mat. Take your feet more than hip-width apart, so that if you were to point your toes toward each other they would not touch. Ideally nothing is touching your fingertips.
Enjoy the effortlessness of savasana for five minutes or longer.