Sunday, May 3, 2015

Butterfly Pose - Yin Yoga

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." - Rabindranath Tagore

In Yin Yoga one of my favorite poses in Butterfly pose.  I come to it over and over again.  It can be done sitting, laying on the back or against the wall.  They butterfly is an incredible hip opener an the pose is filled with symbolism which makes it a very powerful and transformation poses,

This is one of my favorite quotes about the butterfly:

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.

Benefits of Butterfly Pose

"The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets the publicity." - George Carlin

Butterfly pose is great way to stretch the lower back without requiring loose hamstrings.  When
the legs are straighter and the feet are farther away from the groin (making a wide diamond), the hamstrings will get more of a stretch. If the feet are in closer to the groin, the adductor muscles get stretched more.

Butterfly pose is good for the kidneys and prostate gland; and is highly recommended for people suffering from urinary problems.  It also removes heaviness in the testicles and regulates periods, helps ovaries function properly, and makes childbirth easier

Getting Into the Pose:

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." Richad Buckminister Fuller

From a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together and then slide them away from you. I cue a wide diamond shape with the feet away from the groin as more restorative and a tight diamond shape with the feet close to the groin as more aggressive way to practice the pose.

I usually start the butterfly series with hands and prayer and twist side to side in what Paulie Zink calls metal triangle.  I think Paulie calls it the arms make a coat hanger shape.

I then move to more fluid water motions by doing a sufi ground with the legs in butterfly.  (I call this movement sexy and serious circles or Butterfly Variations in Water Element).

I also enjoy arching and doming the spine in seated butterfly as a variation in Water Element. Similar to the movement made in Cat/Cow

I also like to flutter the lips (I call this silly sounds).

I also enjoy placing the arms behind the back to form a wing shape with the tops of the hands to the back.  This is similar to the wing shape Paulie Zink uses for dragonfly.  When flapping the wings or using the hands to move the legs quickly I suggest that now we are moving into the Butterfly Variations in  Fire Element.

Sometimes I cue moving the legs up and down in a springy as a Butterfly Variation in Wood Element.

In Chaos theory the Butterfly Effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. For example, details of a hurricane can be influenced by minor peturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

A butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even preclude the occurrence of a tornado in another location  This reminds us that what we do does make a difference.  We are not invisible but what we do, our actions matter.  We can remember this while we are holding butterfly pose.

Contra-indications of Butterfly Pose:

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you." - Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Butterfly pose can aggravate sciatica. If you have sciatica, elevate the hips by sitting on a bolster/block/blanket and/or placing several folded blankets/pillows until the knees are below the hips. If you cannot get comfortable may need to or avoid this pose entirely or try it on the back.

Beware of hips rotating backward while seated; we want them to rotate forward

If you have any lower back problems which do not allow flexion of the spine, then do not allow the spine to round: keep the back as straight as you can or do the reclining version

Avoid dropping the head down if the neck has suffered whiplash or has reverse curvature

Variations and Other Options:

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."

Elevate the hips with a bolster or cushion.

If the neck is too stressed, support the head in the hands, resting elbows on thighs or a block

You can also secure the pose with a strap

You could rest your chest on a bolster positioned across the thighs

Various hand/arm positions are possible: hold feet, hands on floor in fron, or arms relaxed behind the body

One leg can stay in butterfly and the other leg outstretched straight for half butterfly

Various Side Stretches can be performed in butterfly pose

You can also interlace the toes.

If the back doesn’t like this pose, you can do the reclining variation; lie down, keeping legs in butterfly.

You can also bring your legs in butterfly and do handstand.

Butterfly and also be performed on chairs

or with the legs against the wall.

The pose can become very difficult and aggressive with the toes on the floor in a toe stand variation

At the Iyengar Studio on La Cienega I have often practiced an inversion form of butterfly

Butterfly pose can be performed with lots of props to make it a heart/ throat and abdomen opening pose.

Coming Out of the Pose:

"The fluttering of a butterfly's wings can effect climate changes on the other side of the planet." Paul Erlich

I always cue to engage the abs, close the knees like a book, roll over on your side in a fetal position (irregardless of the props) and when you are ready roll up one vertebrae at a time.


"In nature a repulsive caterpillar turns into a lovely butterfly. But with humans it is the other way around: a lovely butterfly turns into a repulsive caterpillar." Anton Chekhov

Sitting up, or a gentle sitting back bend
Lying on stomach, which is also a gentle back bend
Could do a spinal lift flow on the back or flow into Tabletop (aka Hammock)
A seated twist.

Meridians and Organs Affected:

The Gall Bladder lines on the outside of the legs as well as the Urinary Bladder lines[2] running along the spine in the lower back

If the feet are in close to the groin and a stretch is felt in the inner thighs, the Kidney and Liver lines are being stimulated.

Joints Affected:

"Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time.: - Deborah Chaskin

Hips and lower spine

Recommended Hold Times:

"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever/"  - Carl Sagan

Three to five minutes
Can hold much longer, if desired … or you may do this while reading, or talking on phone ...

Similar Yang Asanas:

"Love is like a butterfly: It goes where it pleases and it pleases wherever it goes." - Unknown

Baddha Konasana, but without the emphasis on a straight spine or the feet in tight to groin.

Symbolism of the Butterfly

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." - Richard Bach

The butterfly animal totem is primarily associated with symbolism of change and transformation. This can be exhibited by

a) Powerful transformation, metamorphosis in your life, personality
b) Moving through different life cycles
c) Renewal, rebirth
d) Lightness of being, playfulness
e) Elevation from earthly matters, tuning into emotional or spiritual
f) The world of the soul, the psyche

Another meaning of the butterfly is finding joy in life and lightness of being.

In many traditions around the world, the butterfly is a symbol of the soul or soul world. For example, in Chinese symbolism, it can represent immortality. For the Japanese, a white butterfly symbolizes the soul the departed ones.

In Ancient Greece, butterflies represent the psyche or soul, and its attribute of immortality

Other Notes:

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower/" Hand Christian Andersen

Butterfly pose can be done after meals, as long as head does not touch the floor (which would place too much pressure in the abdomen)

If the feet are closer in, tight adductors or lower back tightness may prevent student from folding forward. Move the feet farther away

Many yogis will automatically go into a tight butterfly, because of their vinyasa training, but, in yin class, they should be encouraged to move the feet away from the pelivs, forming a diamond shape with the legs

This pose is nice for pregnant women because the legs are abducted, providing space for the belly

Other Quotes:

"And what's a butterfly? At best, he's but a caterpillar, at rest." - John Grey

"I only ask to be free. the butterflies are free." - Charles Dickens

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