If you’ve no time or space for a longer yoga practice, or you just want more yoga throughout your day, try some of these suggestions.
Wake up with Lion’s Breath
Pick an energizing pranayama technique to start your day. A simple technique is to stand with your feet just wider than your hip width. Take a full inhale as you raise your arms. Then exhale strongly through your mouth with your tongue sticking out. As you exhale, fold forward from your hips so that you are sending the breath out behind you between your legs. This Lion’s Breath is energizing and clearing. Repeat this a couple of times taking a regular breath between each round.
If you’re already familiar with pranayama try either Nauli, Bhastrika, Agni Sara or Kapalabhati. Check our Pranayama program for tutorials and to find out more about each technique.
Half Sun Salutations
This is a really simple sequence to wake up your body and you don’t need a mat or a lot of space. Start in Tadasana / Mountain Pose, exhale and ground through your feet. Inhale, raise your arms up with the full breath. Exhaling, bend your knees softly and fold into a gentle forward bend. Inhale bring your fingertips to the floor or your shins and extend your spine, look forward (Ardha Uttanasana). Exhale fold back to forward bend, lifting your thigh muscles to help your hamstrings release. Inhale, root through the feet, raise your arms out to the sides as you come back up to Tadasana. Repeat three or four times.
Go slowly and mindfully and don’t be alarmed if your forward bends are not as comfortable as when you do yoga later in the day. It’s normal to feel a bit stiffer so bend your knees in forward bend and just enjoy the sensation of the stretch.
Waiting for the kettle to boil / the bus / the train
Practise your Tadasana
Tadasana is the foundation for so many other yoga poses. For example, the same actions you use to keep your spine neutral in Tadasana also come into poses like Lotus, Warrior Poses, Handstands, Triangle Pose, Twists and a host of others. Draw your lower belly in and up, keeping the slight natural arch in your lower back. Think about the tailbone pointing to the backs of the heels rather than tucking under. Soften the lower ribs. Imagine putting your thumbs under your armpits and lifting them up and back. Lift through the crown of the head.
For a great class on the neutral spine watch Esther’s class Handstands 1: Neutral Spine (you don’t need to be able to do Handstands to join in).
Now is also a great time to work on your balance
One leg balance poses create awareness of, and strengthen, the small stabiliser muscles in your feet, ankles and lower legs. They work your core especially the obliques. For me anyway, they help to still the mind, improving focus, perhaps why I find them a challenge!
A low Tree Pose is probably the most “public friendly” balance pose. Bring your left foot to just above the inside of the right ankle or cross one shin over the other. Ground through the standing foot while also lifting from the inside of the ankle and play with your balance.
During your day
Practise Samavrtti Pranayama
Samavrtti is a calming and balancing breath technique. Count your breath so that your inhalation and exhalation are of equal length. Start with a count of 4 or 6. After a few rounds start to bring in internal and external retention of the breath to the same count – For a full tutorial see Sandra’s class. You might find another style of pranayama helpful depending on your day like Buzzing Bee for releasing tension/ anxiety – or Kapalabhati if you want an energy boost, but I’ve picked one I think you can do fairly inconspicuously. Nadi Shodhana would be also great.
Decompress your spine
Do a rag doll forward bend. Stand with your feet apart and knees slightly bent. Exhale and softly fold forward. Inhale lengthen your spine and exhale to release a little more. Take hold of your opposite elbows and keep your knees bent to really decompress the spine. This brings some of the benefits of inversions, loosens your back and hamstrings – and can be done in a toilet cubicle should you need the privacy!
Standing in front of an open doorway, bring your arms out to the side with your elbows bent at 90 degrees, so that your fingers are pointing to the ceiling (Cactus arms). Place your forearms on the frame of the door and walk forward a little until you feel the stretch across your front body. Start with your elbows just under shoulder height and then repeat a few times with the elbows lower down the doorframe to work on both sets of pectoral muscles (major and minor) as well as opening up the fronts of the shoulders. You can also do Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) arms or seated twists. See more shoulder stretches.
Practise mindful eating
Ideally this requires a bit of space and time on your own, so if that’s not possible just take what you can from it. Take a few seconds to look at the food in front of you before you take your first bite. With each mouthful of food really notice the texture and taste before you chew slowly. This kind of conscious, mindful eating has been shown to reduce the amount of food you eat before you feel satisfied. Eating more slowly and chewing more also helps with digestion.
Take care of your eyes
Try these yogic eye exercises from David Lurey. Great to do at the office or after a day of looking at screens and also as general maintenance for your eyesight.
Practise your Hasta Bandha
Place your hands on a table in front of you as if you were in Downward Facing Dog – hands shoulder distance apart, middle finger pointing forward and fingers spread. Press firmly through the base of the fingers and the fingertips (as well as the heel of the hand). This creates a kind of suction cup in the palm (hasta bandha) and draws the energy up the arm to the shoulder. You’ll feel that the muscles in your arms, especially the forearms, are activated. This action takes the pressure off the base of the hands and wrists and will help with arm balances as well as poses like Downward Facing Dog.
All too often we (…I) find ourselves rushing from one thing to the next. To make a conscious break between what you’ve been doing in the day and your evening, take three minutes (longer if you can) just to be still.
Set a little alarm so you don’t need to think about the time. Sit comfortably, close your eyes and do a quick mental scan of your body from the crown of your head to your toes – sending your attention to anywhere you feel tension. Just be… don’t worry about trying to empty your head, observe any thoughts that come in and let them pass just as easily.
If you can, try this lying down with your hands on your belly and your legs in whatever position is most comfortable for you.
Unwind with Yin
At the end of the day take a few moments to do some relaxing yoga poses. Forward bends like Janu Sirsasana have a calming effect and you can do these Yin Style – holding for 3 minutes each side, working on releasing the connective tissue instead of using your muscles.
Yoga in your bed
You can do lots of poses like reclined Twists or Happy Baby once you’re in your bed. Or give your legs a treat with (my favourite) Legs up the Wall Pose.
Yoga tends to lead to more yoga, so you may find that building more in throughout your day leads to you wanting to practise for longer.
Photo of the lovely Irina Verwer by Daantje Bons