The Lateral Shoelace Pose in Yin Yoga

The Lateral Shoelace Pose is a pose that opens your heart, sacral and grounding energy centers in your body for balance and healing. If you practice this pose, you will receive so much therapeutic value, both physical and spiritual if you fill your pose with mindfulness!

"I like the physical part, but I’m also drawn to the spiritual. For me, yoga is not just a workout—it’s about working on yourself."    ~ Mary Glover

The Lateral Shoelace Pose borrows heavily from the regular Shoelace Pose, and indeed shares the same starting position.

If you find that the hip position is too intense, as always, you may modify it to the Half Shoelace Pose as shown further below. You will still receive the same therapeutic benefits of the full Shoelace Pose!

Eventually, if you practice this pose frequently, over time you may find that your hips are ready for the full pose!

I encourage you, regardless of how this pose feels initially, to continue to practice it. You will eventually settle into the sensations of this strong hip opener and receive many benefits to your joints, ligaments, fascia and tendons. This is what we call "juicing the joints" in Yin Yoga. You will increase your joint's range of motion and age much more gracefully with the increased mobility you get from a yin practice. However, this takes time and effort. Patience and persistence is the key to great health and healing of your body, mind and soul!

If you are new to the mindfulness practice of Yin Yoga and how it differs from an active and physical practice, please visit my What is Yin Yoga page first! You will never regret learning how to apply these self-healing techniques to your life! Good luck! 

Setting Up the Lateral Shoelace Pose

Let's begin practicing the pose! Start in the full Shoelace Pose, stacking one knee on top of the other as shown below. It doesn't matter which side you chose to start. I show the left on top of the right. Whichever side you chose first, be aware that most likely, this is your most open side. When you switch to the opposite side you may find it much more difficult! We always chose our best, easiest side first!

Begin to center yourself by deeply belly breathing. Ground your hips down with your sitting bones on the bottom of your hips. When you have the breath right, you will notice a relaxation into the pose, as you release your tensions through your hips.

Lateral Shoelace Pose Starting Position, Yin Yoga, Pranang Beach, Railay, ThailandLateral Shoelace Pose Starting Position - Pranang Beach, Railay, Thailand

As you slowly settle into the hip opening part of this pose, realize that you are opening your 1st and 2nd Chakra energy centers. Opening these energy centers will ground you and may help you feel more compassion to yourself and others, by helping you open to and hopefully release strong emotions. Stay here for a minute or two and notice your body sensations and any feelings that may arise in this beginning pose.

After you have settled into the starting position, start leaning to the side, slowly sliding your hand out from your side, until you come to your first strong sensation or "edge." Don't go too deeply too soon! Your therapeutic benefit will be greater if you hold a mild edge longer, than if you only hold a strong edge for a short period of time.

You will know you are at your appropriate edge when you can still deeply belly breathe - slowly and calmly.

Make sure that you keep both hips grounded (down and contacting the ground). Do not allow your opposite hip to pop up! This is not an exercise to see how far you can go towards the ground, but in finding that place that deeply opens the side of your body.

Yin Yoga's Lateral Shoelace PoseLateral Shoelace Pose

As you hold this Lateral Shoelace Pose for several minutes, you may notice that your body desires to go deeper! You may then slide your hand farther out, and lower your upper body even more, perhaps until your elbow reaches the ground, if you have the space. You may also allow your head to follow your hand as you lean your head to the side.

Ensure that you keep your deep and conscious breath at all times. If you feel like you want to hold your breath, ease up on the pose!

You may even try the technique called ujjayi breathing or "ocean breathing" to deepen your experience even more! The exhalation phase of the ujjayi breath is very releasing, so chose this breathing technique if you feel you have a lot of emotional energy to release.

The lateral shoelace pose stretches your hips AND your side body. This is a lovely way to increase the space between your ribs for allowing more breath to reach your lungs, that will greatly energize you, nourishing your heart and lungs for more love, compassion and life force! The 4th Chakra, centered on the heart and lungs is opening and balancing when you practice this pose.

Lateral Shoelace Pose Modification (Half-Lateral)

The Lateral Half Shoelace Pose is a wonderful modification, if you find that your hips are not open enough to do the full shoelace position. Please do not judge yourself and your wonderful body, if you cannot do the full shoelace pose. This modification is a wonderful way to perform the pose and is just as therapeutic for you.

In fact, when I teach this pose in my classes, I always start with the modified leg position, to have my students assess where their body is on that day. I always give this option, because our bodies are different from day to day. If my students are comfortable with the Half Shoelace Pose, then I invite them to cross the bottom leg under themselves as well for the full shoelace position.

Lateral Half Shoelace Pose Starting Position in Yin YogaLateral Half Shoelace Pose Starting Position
Lateral Half Shoelace Pose in Yin YogaLateral Half Shoelace Pose in Yin Yoga

Some yoga teachers chose to perform the Lateral Shoelace Pose with the lean towards the foot of the upper leg. I show this in the the Lateral Half Shoelace Pose photos, above. The opposite lean is shown in the full shoelace position in the top photos (I am leaning toward the foot of the lower leg). Chose whichever direction feels the most natural to you, and then switch it up for the challenge. Remember that you always naturally migrate toward your open side, so you want to go to the opposite side to help you with your body's balance!

I recommend that you start the lean in one direction for several minutes, then come up and do the lean in the opposite direction while keeping your legs in the same position. Then, cross your legs in the opposite direction, and lean to one side for a few minutes, then the opposite for several minutes more.

If you practice this hip opener in each leg position, and lean to both sides, you will have a total of four poses. Each one is different than the other.

Turn it into a spiritual practice of mindfulness by paying attention to how each and every pose will give you very different sensations. Notice these sensations, and breathe into them, inviting your body to release even more into these areas. You may experience great emotional release along with your physical release. This is the true purpose of Yin Yoga.

By learning this one pose, you can have a very therapeutic practice of 10-20 minutes, depending on how long you hold each of the four. What an incredible bang for your buck, in just one pose!

Then, if you add the forward folding to the pose, as the regular Shoelace Pose does, then you have six poses to add to your arsenal of body, mind, soul healing techniques.

I hope you join me in doing these incredible poses, the Lateral Shoelace Pose or the Lateral Half Shoelace Pose to open your body, mind and soul for deep healing! May you always be open to your own internal processes, your emotions and those of others, to find more grounding energy and more love and compassion! Namaste!

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