Yoga for When You're Too Busy for Yoga
Time has always been sacred, but in today’s modern world—time might be the most valuable commodity.
Many of us want to do things that are good for our health. We might even prioritize activities that enhance our wellbeing. We might set our alarm to wake up early to meditate, keep a gym bag in our backseat, and print out nutritious recipes to meal-prep. But then when push comes to shove, we forgo our good intentions because, well, the demands of life beckon our attention (and consume our time).
Can you relate? I know I can. But I also know from years of practice and experience that carving out time for self-care actually gives us more time. At first glance this might seem paradoxical, but hear me out. Self-care is essentially filling up one’s fuel tank. When we run on fumes it takes more energy (and yes, more time), to complete tasks that could otherwise be done more efficiently and more ease-fully if we had filled ourselves up with sustainable energy first.
A short and comprehensive yoga practice is an effective and soothing way to do just that. There are three components to this practice: mindfulness, breath, and movement.
- The practice of mindfulness helps to clear our thinking mind from unwanted clutter. It helps to reprogram unproductive thought patterns and solicits peace.
- Breathing practices help us to detoxify and improve the flow of energy (or prana) throughout the body. Breathing exercises also train our minds to focus on one aspect of our existence verses allowing our thoughts to ping pong from one fleeting thought to the next. This has a very calming effect.
- The final component, movement, helps improve circulation, lymphatic drainage, heart and lung health, flexibility, and strength. This practice could take as little as five minutes and as long as twenty. To extend the practice, simply repeat it twice or perform each section for a longer amount of time. But remember, don’t make this one more stressful thing on your to-do list. Even five minutes a day can work wonders!
Feel free to add in your own movements. The body wants to release. Allow yourself to roll around a bit and find what feels good for you! This practice can be done at home, in a park, at a gym, or even in your office.
A Simple Yet Powerful Practice for Busy Days
- Begin with a few deep breaths. Sit up tall. Your hips should be rooted on the ground, and your spine erect. Relax your shoulders. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Repeat this three times.
- Now move into a 4–4 breath. Breathe through the nose: inhale to the count of four (1-2-3-4). Pause. Hold your breath for four counts. Now through the nose, exhale 4-3-2-1. Repeat this practice for as little as three cycles or as long as five minutes.
- Set a simple intention that illustrates the way you want to feel.
Your intention works like a magnet, bringing more of what you want into your life. It also functions as a generator, allowing this feeling to well up within you and radiate out to the world around you.State your intention in the I AM format. For example: I AM grateful, I AM accepting, or I AM energized. Allow it to echo in your mind three times.
- Now we move! Begin by standing at the top of your mat. Part your feet hips width apart. With a small bend in your knees, hinge from the hips to bend forward until your head hangs towards the ground (Uttanasana). Grab opposite elbows or forearms. Let your spine lengthen. Get heavy here. Stay 3–10 breaths.
- Bend your knees and slowly roll up. Roll your shoulders back and down three times. This will feel like a moving massage.
- Tuck your chin to your chest. Roll your right ear to your right shoulder. Chin to chest, left ear to left shoulder. Take several semicircle neck rolls. Stop where it feels good or tender, and breathe into it.
- Next, take a big step it to your right so that your legs are wide in a standing straddle, toes angled slightly in and heels slightly out. Once again, hinge from your hips and bend forward. Let your torso drop down between your legs. Place your hands on the earth and breathe into your hamstrings. Stay 3–10 breaths, then slowly bend your knees and roll up vertebrae by vertebrae.
- Come down to an all fours position with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Move through a few rounds of cat-cow (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana).
As you inhale, drop your belly and look up. As you exhale, round your entire spine and tuck your chin to chest. Repeat this 5–10 times. This movement will loosen your spine and increase the quality of your respiration.
- Lie down on your back for happy baby pose (Ananda Balasana). Bend your knees so that your feet lift off the floor. Let your thighs go wide to meet your ribs and grab your shins or the arches of your feet.
Apply some pressure to encourage the thighs to sink towards the earth. Relax your shoulders and inner thigh muscles. Stay still or rock gently side to side. Stay and enjoy for 5 breaths or until you feel complete. This pose will release your hips, spine, and shoulders.
Once you’re finished, slowly come up to a seated position. Take three more deep breaths, remind yourself of your intention, and transition into your day! This short yet comprehensive practice will revive your energy, iron out any kinks in the body, help to calm the mind, and prepare you for a wonderful day ahead, or a wonderful night’s sleep.
You see, self-care doesn’t need to be demanding or time consuming. As one of my favorite Ayurveda teachers taught me, “When life is complicated, keep it simple.”