A 5 Minute Yoga Practice May Be All You Need Today
02.25.14 A 5 Minute Yoga Practice May Be All You Need Today
Any Yogi will tell you - the practice of yoga isn’t really about putting your body into poses. It’s a way of living. We could spend 3 hours a day doing poses, but if we spend the rest of the day being stressed out, distracted, treating ourselves and others poorly, we would not be practicing yoga.
There’s something very seductive about stressing out. It makes us feel like we’re being productive, even when we’re just spinning our wheels. Really stop for just 5 minutes. Reset. Breathe deeply. Gently release your grasp on the to do list. It will make a difference.
In our busy lives, it’s not easy to start a new yoga practice, or maintain an existing one. Here’s the trick: you don’t have to carve an hour or more out of your day to enjoy the benefits of yoga. For the next 7 days, cut yourself some major slack and commit to doing just one pose a day. One of my favorite teachers likes to say “Do one pose and you’ve practiced.” No “buts” -- it counts! If you do more, great. If you don’t, fine. Consider it done.
The best all around yoga pose we know is Downward Facing Dog. Technically, downward dog is an inversion, which in terms of yoga simply means your head is below your heart. The benefits of inverting are many. If nothing else, being upside down shakes things up a bit. Inverting also triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, literally turning off our “flight or flight” stress response. If that isn’t reason alone to do it, I don’t know what is!
If you are only going to practice for 5 minutes, be very mindful of moving into poses when your body is cold. Move slowly, be gentle with yourself. If you don’t have a yoga mat, set yourself up on a rug or carpet for some cushion and a bit of traction. If you’d like to learn about eco-friendly options for yoga gear, check out our post on non toxic mats and more.
Start in mountain pose, and sweep your arms up reaching your fingertips toward the ceiling, then down reaching toward the floor. Bend your knees slightly, and hang in forward fold for a few breaths. Bend your knees even more, until you can place hands on the ground, then step your feet back and come down to your hands and knees. (As time, and your knowledge of yoga poses allow, feel free to add on and improvise!)
On hands and knees, move through a couple of cat/cow poses to limber up your spine. Simply let your spine dip down toward the floor on inhale, lifting the crown of your head and tailbone toward the sky. On exhale, arch your spine toward the ceiling, dropping your head and tailbone toward the floor. Now it’s time for Downward Dog.
Downward Dog: Breaking it down:
- Start on hands and knees, with your hands slightly forward of your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
- Pay close attention to your hands, spreading the fingers and pressing the base of the index fingers against the floor.
- Tuck your toes under, take a deep inhale, and on exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Raise your sitting bones toward the ceiling.
- Reach your heels toward the floor, but don’t force them. In fact, start with a slight bend in your knees and work your legs to straight before even thinking about putting your heels on the floor.
- Move your shoulder blades down your back (toward your waist) and away from each other.
- Breathe deeply and focus on your breath.
- Stay in the pose for about 1 minute. Then lower your knees to the floor and rest in child’s pose.
At this point, it will feel really good to lie on your back and take a twist. If you don’t have a favorite, try this: Bend your right knee and hug it toward the right side of your chest. Take at least 3 deep breaths, then draw the right knee toward the floor outside your left hip. There are two ways to take this particular twist, decide what feels best to you. Either take the right knee all the way to the floor, at which point your right shoulder will probably come up off the floor. Or only take your right knee over to the left as far as it can go while keeping your right shoulder on the floor. Either way, keep reaching your right arm straight out along the floor at shoulder height, palm up. After at least 5 deep breaths, do the other side
Before you hop up to resume your day, come to a seat or to your knees and rest for a final moment, embodying feelings of peace and calm. Close your eyes and bring your hands to your heart in angali (prayer) mudra, or simply place them one over another, palms facing your heart. Know that this peaceful place is always there for you to come to when you most need it.
A mudra is a seal, like a handshake, that acknowledges and locks in awareness. When combined with the sanskrit term “namaste” (which very loosely translates as “the divine in me honors the divine in you”) bringing our hands to our heart helps seal in the awareness of ourselves as a precious and loved. It gives us a beautiful place from which to go forward into the world.
Make a commitment to start with just this one pose every day for the next week. Just 5 minutes first thing in the morning, before the to do list takes over your mind. Or last thing before you go to bed, to help calm your mind and release tension from your body. This simple promise to yourself can make a big difference, and might just open the door to more mindful actions of self love and care.
Take the pledge, for peace of mind, and sign up to support your school.