addle Pose works multiple areas of the body at once! Though Saddle Pose can be challenging, there are many variations and ways to modify it, so it becomes accessible and enjoyable to all!
Physical Benefits of Saddle Pose
Saddle opens up the tops of the ankles, provides a therapeutic stress to the knee caps, stretches the quadriceps and hip flexors, and if arching back, compresses the low spine.
Other benefits if exploring different variations include: stretching and opening the upper chest and shoulders (if arms are overhead); internal rotation of the hips (if sitting between the feet) and; compression of the cervical spine (neck) and stimulation of the throat (if head is hanging back).
Energetic Benefits of Saddle Pose
Through our Yin poses we provide self-acupressure to the meridians – energy channels running throughout the body. In the Chinese medicine system this is said to unblock the flow of Qi, helping to heal the internal organs of the body. 🙂
In Saddle Pose, we are working the Stomach and Spleen meridians (by stretching the tops of the thighs); the Urinary Bladder and Kidney meridians (as we compress the lower back); and the Heart and Lung meridians (if the arms are overhead).
Who Is Saddle Pose Great For?
Particularly rejuvenating for the legs, Saddle Pose is especially helpful and beneficial to people who work on their feet all day, or for athletes and anyone after a long hike! From experience, Saddle Pose also feels amazing during pregnancy and helps to ease those low back aches and pains. 🙂
Saddle pose is very therapeutic, but it can also be intense and may therefore not be suitable for every body in its fullest form. For this reason, I provide many different modifications below; hopefully one of these will be accessible and feel fabulous in your body. 🙂
NOTE: Do not do the full Saddle Pose if you have any spinal injuries or disc issues, instead try a modified alternative (see Gentle Saddle below). Always listen to your body – if it does not feel right, come out.
Is Saddle Pose Right For You?
To see if Saddle is comfortable, sit on your heels and check in with your ankles and knees.
ANKLES: Saddle provides a lovely opening for the tops of the ankles but if it is too much, try these modifications:
- Place a towel or blanket underneath your ankles to act as a bridge and reduce sensitivity
- Try Half-Saddle bending one leg at a time (see Half-Saddle Alternative below). Half-Saddle is a great option and wonderful pose in and of itself!
KNEES: During Saddle pose we deliberately stress the kneecaps, which is very therapeutic to the knees and stimulates the production of chondrocytes and fibroblasts (helping to build new cartilage and ligaments.) However, if there is discomfort, damage or pain here, you will need to modify or not do this pose. Two modifications for knee pain:
- Add height – sit up onto a block or folded blanket (or both) placed between your feet. By sitting up higher you should feel less stress in the knees (and ankles).
- Place a small rolled up towel just behind the knees. If your knee sensitivity subsides with this modification, stay here sitting upright, if knee pain continues, come out of the pose and try the Half-Saddle Alternative or skip altogether.
We never want to cause harm – do not stay where there is discomfort.
LOW BACK: If you have lower back issues, arching back (coming into extension of the spine) may not be a good idea. If this is this case, stay more upright in a modified Saddle position, without leaning back into hands or lowering down , (see Gentle Saddle below). As always, listen to and honor your bodies signals.
Listen to your body, if a pose doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. Slowly back out of the pose and come to a variation that feels right for your body.
How To Get Into Saddle Pose
- Start by sitting on your heels, with the feet under the buttocks and notice how you feel. You can take Saddle Pose sitting on the heels or instead you can sit between your heels (which offers internal rotation of the hips) – either way, toes will be pointing backwards and knees can come apart.
- Once you have chosen your foot position, if there is no pain, place your hands just behind your hips and lean back on them.
- If you are comfortable and breathing calmly and deeply, lower your torso so you are resting onto your elbows. You may start to feel a gentle tugging through the quadriceps and hip flexors here. If you are at a mild edge here, stay here breathing evenly and deeply in this half-way position.
- If you have not reached your edge and feel you can open more, proceed to the lying-down position. Re-assess how your knees, hip flexors and now lower back feel. If there is more than mild discomfort, return to the half-way position.
- Wherever you are, stay conscious of your breath, send new energy and relaxation to the areas of the body receiving the stretch. Remember it is more therapeutic and beneficial for you to hold a pose longer at a mild edge than to hold a pose at the most intensity for only a few moments. If your edge is too intense after a few breaths, you need to come back up to a milder position that you can hold.
Play around with props! If you have a bolster or folded blankets/cushions, try placing them under your shoulders or torso, where they will be supportive and allow you to relax deeper. For the deepest relaxation, place the bolster lengthwise under your torso starting at your lower back and slowly recline. For many this feels wonderfully relaxing!! Another option (though not shown) is to make a ‘ramp’ using two blocks; one tall, one shorter and the bolster resting on top! Reclining onto a ‘ramp’ means you will not need to lower so far down – it will lesson the intensity and make the pose more restorative. You can also use a block under the head if you do not want to drop the head back.
The Half-Saddle Pose Alternative
Come to a sitting position with your legs extended in front of you. Temporarily lean to the left so you can bend your right leg and bring your right foot alongside your right hip, toes pointing back. As before, check in with knee and ankle and add support as needed (a folded blanket under the ankle, or more height, sitting up onto something.) Place your hands just behind your hips and lean back on them. You are welcome to stay here in an upright position. If you do not feel that you are at your edge, start to explore the layers. To begin, lower to a half-way position, resting onto your forearms, if you want more, lower all the way down to the ground or to the support of a bolster placed lengthwise under the torso or widthwise under the shoulders. To make the pose even more comfortable, option to bend the straight leg and place the foot flat on the floor (shown below). If you want more from the stretch as you hold the pose, gently pull that leg in towards your chest.
Just as with Full Saddle, there is also a more restorative variation using a ‘ramp’ (not shown here) made of two blocks; one tall, one shorter and the bolster resting on top! As you lean back, the support will be at an angle so you will not have to lower so far. 🙂
The Gentle Saddle Pose Alternative
For this variation you can have both legs bent or chose the Half-Saddle variation with one leg bent at a time. As always, check ankles and knees and use the appropriate support where needed. Walk your hands a little way behind you, lean into your arms and hang out here (the body will be more upright.) In Gentle Saddle you will still get some stimulation to the ankles and knees and a bit of an extension to the low back so you are still receiving lots of benefits! This is a good place to start, over time as your body opens, more layers will become available to you. 🙂
How To Get Out of Saddle Pose!
Slowly reverse the steps you took to come into the pose; prop yourself up onto your forearms and then come back onto your hands. Once upright we need to straighten the legs!
FROM FULL SADDLE:
- “Face-dive” forward into a forward fold similar to Child’s Pose then straighten one leg behind you, then the next. (Option to come to a low plank position (Crocodile) if it feels good to stretch the backs of the knees).
FROM HALF SADDLE:
- Once upright, lean into the straight-leg side and straighten the bent leg, take some movement here bending and straightening the leg and rolling the ankle if it feels good. 🙂
** Allow your focus to be on the practice of mindfulness, not in the perfection of the pose, it is not about what the pose looks like in the body, it is how it feels and the benefits you receive. Be content with yourself and with your body wherever it lands. Notice if you want to push harder or judge yourself, this is a pretty normal response to this pose! So much of Yin Yoga is about the inner practice and staying mindful. Rather than judge yourself, be curious about the thoughts and feelings that arise, sit with them for a while without trying to change them, just notice what comes up and watch it pass. 🙂
Yin Yoga is a very mediative practice that often crosses over into other aspects of our lives. As we learn to become more accepting of ourselves and more present to each changing moment, we start to bring this awareness and wisdom into our day-to-day lives. Yin Yoga can change your life, positively impacting any reactive tendencies and bringing in more calmness to body, mind and soul!
Let me know how you get on!