Wouldn’t it be great if every night after work/school/[insert life obligations here] you could just mosey over to yogaland and bliss out for two hours? And you could forget (momentarily) about everything else in your life, all the household chores that ceaselessly linger overhead, and revel in your own power and presence? Riiiiiight.
Let’s be real. You have a busy life. I have a busy life. Having a daily yoga practice takes dedication, diligence, and…. the ability to improvise. There are some days when there is just too much going on to fit in a full practice. Maybe you have dinner plans with the in-laws, homework that needs to be finished, kids that need to be picked up from evening activities — or maybe you just need a night off (you do take one every now and then, don’t you?). On those nights, this is your practice.
Reset your system in 10 minutes
If, like me, you sit at a desk all day, you need to flush your system with fresh oxygen, get the blood swishing around your organs, and streeeeeeetch out those tight, cramped muscles. This practice is so simple, you can memorize it easily and make it the first thing you do when you walk in the door. Yoga pants not required!
You will need:
Something to elevate your chest. A yoga bolster is great, but a couple couch pillows or folded blankets will do the trick.
A timer or clock nearby — if you really have to stick to ten minutes.
00:00 – 01:00 Reach up, fill up
Stand in tadasana (mountain pose) with your feet firmly planted and comfortably apart. Engage the muscles in your legs, level out you pelvis by drawing your belly button in and tailbone down, and soften your shoulders down as your sternum lifts up. With your palms facing forward and fingers spread wide, take a long, deep breath in and set an intention to be fully with your body for the next 10 minutes.
On a slow, steady inhalation, reach your arms overhead so your palms face each other. Keep your shoulder blades integrated into your back body, and your shoulders as neutral as possible. Simultaneously connect the soles of your feet to the earth below you, as you energize your arms and imagine that you are filling your body from head to toe with fresh, clean prana (energy, or ‘life-force’). Stay here for a full minute, or 8-10 long, slow breaths.
01:00-02:00 Release your wrists
Exhale your arms back to your sides and pause for a breath to feel the sensation in your arms. Then, inhale them back overhead, this time lacing your fingers together and pressing you palms toward the sky. Knit your ribs into your torso and subtly draw your shoulder blades together; Relax your neck and jaw. Stay here for 4 long breaths, then switch the cross of your fingers for four more. Keep you breath full and smooth, exhaling slowly to release.
02:00-03:00 Let it all fall down…
Step your feet wider apart, as if you were straddling a chair. Put a slight bend in your knees, placing your palms on the tops of your thighs. Take a deep breath in, then as you exhale gently drape your torso over your thighs, letting the top of your head drop towards the floor.
If your hamstrings are tight, keep a bend in your knees to avoid straining your low back; if they’re really flexible, step your feet closer towards a traditional uttanasana (forward fold). With your arms hanging heavily toward the floor, let your whole upper body melt — relax your face, neck, shoulders, giving in completely to gravity. After 30 seconds, if it feels good to you, feel free to sway gently from side to side, shake your head softly, or rock back and forth from your heels to your toes. Try to remain loose and heavy for a full minute (8-10 long, slow breaths).
03:00-04:00 Sink those hips
From your forward fold, keep your feet where they are and exhale as you slowly lower your hips between your shins, coming into malasana (garland pose) — A.K.A. yoga squat.
If this is too extreme for your hips, grab your bolster/pillows/blankets and sit on your support — no need to strain! You only have a few minutes of rejuvenation, so make it feel really good. Pay attention to you center: let your tail be heavy, anchoring your spine as you sit tall and let your head rise skyward. Use the pressure of your triceps (backs of your upper arms) against your inner thighs to elongate your spine and open your chest, taking another 8-10 deep, full breaths.
04:00-05:00 Set up your bolster
That’s right, I’m allowing a full minute for you to grab your bolster or set up your pillows for the next pose! You probably won’t need that long, so jump ahead when you’re ready. If you’re using pillows or blankets, the idea is to create a flat, even support that is about as wide as your chest, as long as your torso, and about 6 inches or so off the floor. It doesn’t have to be perfect — simply adjust to what feels good.
05:00-10:00 Sweet surrender
If you do nothing else, do this one beautiful restorative pose. I am continually blown away at how good I feel after laying down, opening my heart, and breathing for five full minutes. It’s truly heaven.
Sit so that your sacrum meets your bolster, then lay back onto your cushion. Your head should be supported, but your seat, legs, and arms are on the floor. Make any adjustments you need to be comfortable here — there should be a lovely opening sensation, not discomfort, in your lower back and shoulders. One at a time, lift each shoulder and tuck the blade underneath you so that your collarbones broaden and chest opens more fully. Open your arms comfortably out to the side, and imagine heavy weights in your elbows. Let your feet splay out, and release all effort in your body. Surrender to gravity, letting your eyes close and your jaw go slack. Take 3 of the biggest breaths ever, so that your lungs fill so wide you feel your shoulders and arms shift slightly from the breadth of your lungs. Then, relax into a natural breath and stay here for at least four full minutes. Gently tether your wandering mind by doing your best to watch your breath and witness the gradual opening of this pose.
When you’re ready to resurface, deepen your breathing and open and close your palms a few times. Step one foot at a time behind your hips, then carefully roll off off the bolster, resting on your side. Come up to an easy seat (sukhasana) and close your practice with several more conscious breaths, noticing any lightness and ease in the body. If you have the time to stay in meditation for a few minutes, now is the perfect time. Otherwise, enjoy these last few moments before sealing your practice with a ‘Namaste’ to yourself. Find a sense of gratitude for taking this brief but beautiful sliver of your day to practice, and set an intention to carry what you’re feeling now into the remainder of your day.