In a previous post we talked about Yoga as a practice. The reason to practice is simple, to feel more at ease, energized, relaxed and in peace, or as Diane Cesa puts it, to become intimate with yourself.
One of the canonical texts of Yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, states that reaching the state of Yoga requires both consistent practice and detachment from the results of the practice(I,12). Consistent practice gradually deepens our understanding of ourselves while detachment prevents us from reaching beyond our ability.
However, practicing regularly is challenging for many of us. I like the 3 recommendations that Eugene offers: setting aside Yoga time, taking baby steps and relaxing. A common excuse for not practicing is that we don’t have enough time. So, here is my suggestion, find 5 minutes a day to move mindfully and with breath awareness and see if it makes any difference to how you feel.
This is a 5 minute simple Yoga practice suitable for most people. (If you have not read the disclaimer yet, please do. )
Keep in mind the 10 guidelines to start practicing.
You can do this simple practice standing, sitting on a chair or sitting on the floor. Choose one of the three options and see how it works for you and remember to make sure that you do not feel any discomfort. You can also alternate between the three different options, paying attention to any differences in how the practice feels.
Standing – Mountain pose
Stand straight, with your feet firmly planted on the floor, keeping the body weight equally balanced between the front of the feet and the heels. Also, balance the body weight between the left foot and the right foot and allow your pelvis to be level, that is, not tipping forward or back. Soften the shoulders and roll them back and down.
You can read an excellent and thorough set of instructions on mountain pose written by Erich Schiffmann.
Sitting on a chair
Use a firm chair and sit on the forward part of the chair, resting your hands on your thighs. Rest your feet flat on the floor, hip width apart, with the knees directly above the heels. Soften the shoulders and roll them back and down.
Sittting on the floor – Easy pose
Feel the clear contact between the sitting bones and the floor, cross your legs and rest your hands on the thighs.Make the sitting bones heavy and reach up through the crown of the head to lengthen the spine. Soften the shoulders and roll them back and down. If you are not used to sitting on the floor, use a folded blanket under the sitting bones to make the pose more comfortable.
Read the instructions below at least one time, then print the diagrams to use as a guide.
Centering – 1 min.
Always start your practice by centering. The time in centering is a time where you set the tone for the practice. In other words, let go of whatever is not in the present moment by focusing on the natural rhtyhm of the breath and noticing your level of energy, and paying attention to any sensations that emerge. After one minute, switch from natural breath to deep inhalation (IN) and deep exhalation (EX) without forcing.
Arch and Round – 4x
IN tilting your pelvis forward, rolling your shoulders back and down, arching your spine and expanding your chest. EX tilting the pelvis back, rounding your spine and allowing the shoulders to round forward.
Repeat 4 times.
Arms Up and down – 4x
IN lifting your arms forward and up. EX floating your arms forward and down.
Repeat 4 times. Change the crossing of the legs.
Side Stretch – 4x
IN lifting your arms to the sides and up. EX stretch to the right side, floating the right arm down while lifting the left arm up and over your head. IN return to center with both arms lifted, and EX stretch to the opposite side.
Repeat 4 times.
Gentle Twist – 4x
IN lift the arms up, on EX turn your upper body gently to the right bringing the arms down with the left hand moving towards the right sitting bone and the right hand moving to the right and back. IN lift the arms up and return to center and twist to the opposite side on EX.
Repeat 4 times.
Forward Fold – 4x
If you are sitting on a chair, IN make your spine long by pressing the sitting bones down. EX slide your hands down along the legs and fold forward moving the torso down towards your thighs. Stop when you find the first sign of resistance. IN return the spine to vertical sliding the hands on the thighs.
Repeat 4 times.
The last time you fold forward, melt your torso on the thighs and stay there in a passive and relaxed position for 4 rounds of IN and EX. This should feel very comfortable and restful.
If you are standing or sitting on the floor, come to your hands and knees (table pose) placing your hands directly under your shoulder joints and your knees directly under your hip joints so your thighs and arms are parallel. IN stretching your spine along a straight line that connects the crown of your head to your chin to your breastbone to your tailbone. EX bringing the sitting bones toward the heels, separating the knees if necessary, moving into child’s pose. IN pressing your hands and knees down on the floor returning to table pose.
Repeat 4 times.
The last time you are in child’s pose, stay there in a passive and relaxed position for 4 rounds of IN and EX. This should feel quite comfortable and restful.
Corpse pose – 1 min
Lie on your back with legs straight and heels 2-3 feet apart and your arms resting on the floor, each hand a foot away from the body and the palms facing up.
You can also lie on the floor with your knees bent and the arms to the sides and the palms facing up.
In corpse pose, you let go of any control over breath and body. You can enlist the help of your mind to witness the soft and smooth flow of your breath at a natural, effortless pace allowing yourself to loosen more and more. There is no need to think about anything, just observe your breath quietly.
After you are done relaxing, roll to one side and take one deep breath, slowly moving towards sitting. Sit comfortably for a couple of breaths and notice the effects of your practice on your breath, body and mind.
Pay attention to the effects
If you do a 5 minute practice every day or several times a week, you might find that each day the practice is different. Some days you might feel more energetic so you may move faster or you might make your muscles more active. Other days you might feel like moving very slowly. Or, perhaps there are days when you feel like staying in the relaxation pose for a long while. The idea is for you to adapt your practice to your needs by adding, substituting and/or modifying the movements suggested here. This is how your practice evolves, by doing it, observing the effects and making it work for you, so it is perfect for what you need.
Chair Yoga – 5 minute Yoga practice
Standing – Mountain pose – 5 minute Yoga practice
Sitting – Easy pose – 5 minute Yoga practice
Enjoy your practice!