As you have probably already guessed from the title of this article, we will be discussing the yoga butterfly in this article. Some people love the yoga butterfly pose and almost just melts into the pose, and it seems like they could stay there for an entire yoga class. For others, this is a challenging pose that can bring up a whole range of emotions. Actually, whether or not you find this pose easily accessible or challenging it is not uncommon that emotions rise to the surface. In fact, any time we work with hip openers it is very common to have feelings arise during the pose. But remember; that just means yoga is working.
Before we dive deeper into the yoga butterfly pose we would like to take a moment to talk a bit about alignment in general, yoga teachers facilitating a space where students can tune in and listen to their bodies, and students taking responsibility for their own body and yoga practice.
If you have been practicing yoga for some time chances are you have heard at least one teacher talking about ‘good alignment’ but what is ‘good alignment’? Is it copying a picture you have seen in a book or on Instagram? Is it having every student in the room looking the exact same in any given pose? Should we all strive for the same aesthetic ideal?
No, we do not believe that is ‘good alignment’, and we don’t believe that you should ever strive to make a pose (any pose) look a certain way. There is no such thing as ‘universal alignment’. We all have unique bodies with different ranges of mobility, flexibility, and strength. We each come with our own story, and to think we can (and should) all look the same in a pose is simply delusional, and it will not lead to anything good.
Take the yoga butterfly pose for instance. Some people have very open hips, and folding forward in the pose will be like the most natural thing in the world for these people. Others, however, may have less open hips, an injury or something else that prevents them from easily folding forward. Both are doing the pose equally correct, and they are working with the body they have.
To assume we should all look the same in a pose is unintelligent, and instead of working with the body we are working against it. Now, this is not to say we should just dismiss alignment altogether. It is more about working with ‘functional alignment’ instead of ‘universal alignment’. This means we work more with each individual body and explore the pose and how it feels rather than thinking we should all have our hands and feet in the exact same place in a pose.
Start tuning into your body and explore the pose and notice how it feels. Think of your yoga teacher’s cues as mere guidelines, and remember to listen to your own body. At the end of the day you are the only one who can feel what is going on in your body, and whether something feels right or wrong. Respect and listen to your teacher’s cues but remember that ultimately you are in control, and there are many right ways to do the same pose.
Yoga butterfly pose – benefits, contraindications, modifications & getting in and out of the pose
In this part of the article we will dive into different aspects of the yoga butterfly pose so you will feel confident and safe practising this pose by yourself after reading this article. And remember; always, always, always listen to your body. If you feel any pain, slowly come out of the pose. Modify if need be, and respect your body’s limitations (both physically and mentally). Never force anything. Simply just let go.
- Yoga butterfly pose is a really nice way to stretch the lower back.
- Depending on where you place your feet your hamstrings will get more or less of a stretch. If you place your feet further away from your groin, the hamstrings will get more of a stretch. On the other hand if the feet are closer to the groin, the hamstrings will get less of a stretch.
- The pose is said to help regulate periods, ovaries function and make childbirth easier.
- As a little yin specific side note (we will not go into this in this article) we primarily work with/stimulate the kidney and urinary bladder meridians in this pose.
- The pose can aggravate sciatica. Therefore you may wish to elevate the hips by sitting on a cushion until the knees are below the hips if you have sciatica. Perhaps you also have to avoid this pose entirely.
- If you suffer from any lower back disorders that do not allow flexion of the spine, then keep the spine as straight as possible and avoid any rounding of the back. Alternatively you can do the reclined version.
- If you have suffered whiplash or you have reverse curvature avoid dropping the head down.
Getting into the pose:
This pose is a relatively easy pose to enter, and there’s not much you can do wrong. Come to a seated position and bring the soles of your feet together, and then slide the feet away from you. Depending on your hips and knees you can slide the feet further or less away from your groin. Allow your back to round, fold forward, and lightly rest your hands on your feet or on the floor in front of you depending on what feels the nicest to you. Allow your head to relax.
Coming out of the pose:
- Slowly come back to seated by rolling back up. Then slowly stretch your legs and come to a nice rebound on your back for a minute or two.
- You can elevate the hips by sitting on a bolster, cushion or blankets.
- If you feel too much stress in the neck, you may wish to support your head in your hands and then rest your elbows on your thighs or blocks.
- If for whatever reason your back is not okay with folding forward in this pose, you can do the reclined version by lying down on the floor (or on a bolster) while keeping the legs in the butterfly position.
Fun thing to do:
- You can try a Toe Zip, folding your opposite toes into each other. Great stretch for your toe joints, lots of juicy sensations to observe and it can help you to be more grounded and find anchor in your balancing poses.
- Hips and lower back/spine
Recommended hold time:
- We usually recommend students to hold the yoga butterfly pose between three and five minutes. However, please listen to your body and come out of the pose if you need to.
- If you really love this pose, and you just cannot get enough of it, you can hold it for even longer than five minutes. In fact, you can hold it for as long as you like. You can even read, talk on the phone, watch your favorite TV-show, talk to a friend, eat etc. in this position. If you start sitting in this pose while performing daily tasks you will really start opening up your hips!
As a last little note before we move into the sequence, this pose is usually very nice for pregnant women as it allows the hips to open up and it can help release lower back pain. Both things that many pregnant ladies find very lovely.
60 minute sequence with the yoga butterfly pose
While the butterfly pose is a wonderful pose to do on its own either when you need a little work break, you feel like opening up your hips, or you simply just like sitting in this wonderful pose while chatting to a friend, the pose is also wonderful in yin yoga sequence.
This 60 minute sequence is specifically made for the kidney and urinary bladder meridians (as mentioned earlier the butterfly pose targets both the kidney and urinary bladder meridians). The sequence is lovely for opening up the hips and releasing lower back pain.
You can do this sequence on its own or after a yang practice. Whatever you feel like. Yin yoga can be done any time of the day but we personally love practicing yin yoga in the afternoon or evening as you don’t always feel like working or being super active (both physically and mentally) after yin yoga. Actually, yin yoga is a lovely way to decompress after a long day. It helps calm down the nervous system, and it helps you unwind and get ready for bed.
We have already mentioned it but we cannot stress this enough. Listen to your body while practicing, and if something feels off it probably is off. Pain is always a one-way ticket out of any pose. Respect, listen and honor your body.
Always come in and out of the poses slowly and mindfully, and remember to do a rebound in between the poses where you just relax and refrain from moving. Simply just observe any sensations, feelings and thoughts that have arisen after the pose.
Lastly, you can do savasana for as long as you like but we recommend you spend at least five to ten minutes in savasana. Savasana is just as important as any other pose so don’t skip it.
Now, let’s get to the sequence and we hope you will have a beautiful practice.
Note: you can always refer to yinyoga.com if you have any doubts about any of the poses.
60 minute sequence:
5 min. Meditation + Dan Tien breathing
Start in a comfortable seated position, close your eyes and notice your breath. Just sit here for a couple of minutes while observing your breath, without looking to change it. Now start deeping your breath and breathe all the way into your belly. Exhale fully. This is called the Dan Tien breathing. If possible, see if you can continue to do this deep belly breathing throughout your practice. It will help you relax, let go and just melt into the poses.
After 5 minutes, slowly open your eyes and prepare for the first pose.
3 min. Toe Squat
If possible, stay in Toe Squat (sometimes referred to as Tugged Toe) for two minutes. This pose can be rather intense so if you need to modify the pose by all means do so. If it gets too intense during the pose you can always shift your weight forward while keeping the toes tugged. The Anjali Mudra on the back as seen in the picture is quite intense and optional, but a perfect way to activate upper body meridians as well.
Rebound – on the back
Now, come into a rebound on your back. It’s very important that this rebound is on the back and not on the belly.
4 min. Caterpillar
Again, modify if need be but otherwise simply just enter the pose and stay here for 4 minutes. Surrender to gravity and just let go.
Time for rebound again. Simply just roll onto your back.
4 min. Butterfly
Now it’s time for Butterfly.
Once again, slowly roll back so you lie on your back and come into your rebound.
4 min. Dragonfly
Now come into the Dragonfly pose. Again, if you need to modify the pose, please do so. Stay here for 4 minutes. Again, see if you can just let go and surrender to gravity. Don’t force anything. Simply just breathe and let go. Here in the pictures you can see different variations if you like to explore, but a simple forward fold is perfect.
Slowly roll onto your back again and come into rebound. Just observe anything that has arisen during the pose.
3 min. Happy Baby
This time stay on your back and come into Happy Baby, and stay here for 3 minutes. This pose usually feels a little bit more intense after a bit of time in the pose. See if you can just relax and breathe deeply.
Again come into rebound lying on your back.
3 min. Sphinx + 2 min. Seal
Start by coming into Sphinx on your elbow and stay here for 3 minutes. Relax the space between your shoulder blades, and if possible relax your head and neck too.
If it’s accessible to you, transition from Sphinx into Seal by stretching your elbows. Stay for 2 minutes. If Seal is too much for your lower back, you can stay in Sphinx for another 2 minutes.
This time you can do a rebound on your belly. You are also welcome to do the rebound on your back if that is more comfortable for you.
5 min. Back Bend over Bolster
Place the bolster so you can place your back on it and lie down. You can stretch out your legs, but you are also welcome to place your legs in Butterfly position so you are in Reclined Butterfly since this is the theme of this article.
If you are looking for a more physically balanced version of this sequence for your hips, now would be the time right to move to a hip inward rotation after all the previous outward rotations. Try the triangle legs! Simply bend your knees and bring the feet outside of your mat, now let the knees lean into each other.
Place your arms wherever it feels best for you.
Come into a rebound on your back.
4 min. Twisted Roots (each side)
Start by twisting to your left side and stay there for 4 minutes. If you need to you can do a ‘mini rebound’ before moving to the right side where you will also stay for 4 minutes.
Come into your last rebound for today.
9 min. Extended Savasana / Starfish
Relax, chill out and simply just enjoy an extended Savasana / Starfish to let all your meridians flow freely!
We hope you have enjoyed both this article and the sequence. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment, and we will get back to you.
Interested in learning more and becoming a yin yoga therapy teacher? See what Yin Yoga Therapy Ambassador Jorunn Lavonius from Finland shares about her experience.