No Time to Practice Yoga: Take it in Small Bites

Mimm Patterson
Written by
Mimm Patterson Yoga Therapist

As Zoom fatigue sets in your yoga practice may be suffering. Or forgotten. The thing about a yoga practice is it’s just that – a practice. It’s something we want to have in our lives – especially during these extraordinary times – to calm our nervous system, to release stress, reduce pain and to maintain strength and flexibility. And yet it’s quite understandable why our practice has been forgotten. 

Even when many of us have been ‘confined to quarters’ throughout the past year, our lives have inexplicably become more busy. How is it even possible to find the time for an hour’s yoga practice – or even thirty minutes – when we’re teaching our kids and taking care of the home? All while dealing with chronic pain?

What if we break our practice into small moments throughout the day?

I’ve created three yoga ‘moments’ for you to try. Each should take no more than five to ten minutes. Rather than practicing every movement listed you are free to choose those movements that are comfortable for you and that resonate with you – and know that your choices might change every time you pull up a chair or roll out your mat to practice. So choose what feels good in that moment. Stop if it feels bad. Don’t rush.

What makes these movements yoga? Your mindset. Your intention. Your focus on breath. If you can, find a quiet space in your home – away from your desk, your computer, your phone. Give yourself five or ten minutes of peace and movement a few times each day. It doesn’t cost a thing and it pays dividends.

Equipment:  Yoga mat or a large towel, a chair (optimally one with no arms), bolster or a firmly rolled blanket, a yoga strap or long belt (like from a housecoat).  Anything else you may need for support.

“Wake Up – The Morning Routine”

 Begin Supine on Floor. Take your time. Move in a way that is appropriate for you.

Pelvic Rolls: 

  • Inhale – draw your tailbone toward floor 
  • Exhale – draw your tailbone toward the ceiling
  • Your hips remain on the floor. After the fourth or fifth round you might choose to add your arms to the movement
  • Inhale – draw your tailbone toward the floor and stretch your arms up and back behind you
  • Exhale – draw your tailbone toward the ceiling and lower your arms back down to your side

Single Knee to the Chest

Begin with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 

  • As you exhale – draw your right knee to the chest, holding either at your shins or the back of your thighs 
  • If comfortable, extend your left leg along the floor 
  • Repeat on both sides three or four times 

Double Knees to Chest: 

  • As you exhale – draw both of your knees to the chest 
  • Hold either at your shin or behind both of your thighs 
  • Inhale – allow your knees to ‘float’ away from your chest 
  • Exhale – draw them toward your chest 
  • Repeat at least ten times 
  • Enjoy the meditative quality of repetition

Windshield Wipers

Knees are bent and the feet are on the floor about hip distance apart.  

  • Drop the legs gently from one side to another
  • Repeat as long as you like – once again enjoying the meditative quality of the movement

Dynamic Bridge: 

Begin with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Walk your feet closer to the hips – it may be possible for your middle fingers to brush the back of your heels. 

  • Inhale – press through the soles of the feet to lift the hips from the floor 
  • At the same time extend your arms up and back 
  • Exhale – slowly lower your hips and bring the arms back down by your side 
  • Start where you are and do what you can 
  • Repeat five to ten times
  • When finished bring the knees back to the chest. Add some movement if you like. This could be drawing circles with the knees or rocking side to side. You do you!

Reclining Twist: 

  • Continuing with both of your knees tucked toward your chest
  • Gently take both of your knees to the left
  • Your knees may be comfortable on the floor or you can support your knees with a bolster or rolled blanket
  • Rest here up to a minute
  • Repeat on the other side

Table Top & Cat/Cow: 

When ready, move to your hands and knees, keeping your wrists in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips

  • Inhale – lift your tailbone and chest
  • Exhale – round your spine, tuck your chin and tailbone
  • Repeat five to ten times

Downward Dog: 

  • From Table Top, exhale and bring your hips toward your heels 
  • Keep the arms extended in front of you, with your hands placed a little wider than your shoulders 
  • Inhale – lift your hips toward the ceiling and straighten your legs 
  • Press through the finger tips to engage your arms 
  • Keep the knees soft until you can extend through your spine 
  • Hold for five breaths 
  • When ready, walk your feet toward your hands into a standing forward fold 
  • Soften your knees 
  • Engage abdominal muscles 
  • Slowly curl up to a standing position 
  • Stretch the arms toward the ceiling 
  • Exhale – bring the palms together at your heart

“Focus for the Afternoon”

We begin seated in a chair. Move with mindfulness, slowly and with care. 

Neck Stretches:

  • Exhale – bring your right ear toward the right shoulder
  • Hold for several breaths – a bit of movement is helpful in order to discover your best position of ease and comfort 
  • Exhale – gently move your right ear toward your right shoulder blade – you’ll have sensation toward the left side of your throat
  • Hold for several breaths
  • Exhale – move the right ear toward the right armpit – you’ll have sensation at the back of the left neck where we tend to hold tension
  • Hold for several breaths
  • Repeat on left side

Chin to chest:  

  • Exhale – from a neutral position lower your chin toward your chest 
  • Hold for several breaths 
  • Inhale – lift face back to neutral 
  • Tilt the head back (not too far – avoid compression on the cervical spine) and stretch the chin toward the ceiling – as if you have an underbite
  • Exhale – bring the face back to neutral
  • Repeat several times 

Shoulder Shrug:  

  • Inhale – draw your shoulders up to your earlobes and hold 
  • Don’t forget to breath 
  • Exhale – lower your shoulders 
  • Repeat three or four times

For Your Ankles and Feet:

  • Cross your right knee over the left knee
  • Circle your ankle ten times in each direction
  • Point and flex the foot three or four times
  • Repeat on the left side

Figure Four Stretch:

  • Sit close to the edge of your chair
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee
  • Hinge gently from the hip until you have some sensation in the right hip
  • Hold for a several breaths – as your hip begins to ‘open’ you might choose to fold forward a bit more
  • Repeat on left side

Seated Cat/Cow:

  • With your hips toward the edge of the chair rest your hands on your knees
  • Inhale – tip your pelvis forward slightly and lift your heart toward the ceiling. Take care to avoid compression in the lower back or neck
  • Exhale – Round your spine and lean back, tucking your chin toward your chest
  • Repeat several times, keeping the movement fluid and breath aligned

Dynamic Lateral Stretch:

  • Place your right hand on the seat of the chair next to your hip
  • Inhale – stretch your left arm up
  • Exhale – stretch your left arm to the right, creating a stretch in your left ribcage
  • Inhale – return to center
  • Repeat on the left and continue a slow, intentional flow from side to side for five or six rounds

Seated Twist:

  • Place your right hand on your left leg, your left hand behind your left hip
  • Inhale – lengthen the torso
  • Exhale – gently twist to your left
  • Resist the urge to ‘crank’ into the twist – engage the core and take several cycles of lengthening on the inhale and exhaling into the twist 
  • Repeat on the other side
  • Inhale – move back to center, extending the arms toward the ceiling
  • Exhale – bring the palms together at your heart

“Standing Practice”

Standing Stretch with Flat Back (modified Downward Dog):  

  • Use the back of a chair or the edge of a table or desk for support
  • Stand a leg length away from your support
  • Inhale – extend your arms toward the ceiling
  • Exhale – hinge at the hips, allowing your hands to rest on your support
  • Keep your arms straight and your legs perpendicular to the floor
  • Avoid tipping the pelvis forward by stretching your tailbone toward the wall behind you. You’ll fee your lower abdominal muscles engage.
  • Extend your head toward the wall in front of you
  • ‘Walk the Dog’ by keeping your feet flat on the floor
  • Bend your right knee and drop your right hip. You’ll have some sensation in the left hip. 
  • Go back and forth, ‘walking’, bending one knee and then the other 

Hamstring and Calf Stretch:

  • Continue to stand behind your support
  • Step your right foot forward
  • Step your left foot back – there might be about a leg’s length between the feet
  • Hinge at the hips
  • Rest your hands on your support
  • Keep the hips level – when the right foot is forward your left hip may ‘hike up’ – roll it back down
  • Press down through the base of the right big toe
  • Anchor through your left heel
  • Hold for several breaths
  • Repeat on the other side

Shoulders:

  • Standing with feet hip distance and the arms by your side, turn the palms out
  • Inhale – extend your arms toward the ceiling
  • If comfortable, look up toward your fingers
  • Exhale – bring the arms down, your palms together at your heart
  • Repeat three to five times
  • Inhale – stretch the arms out from your sides
  • Exhale – wrap your arms around your chest in a hug, right arm resting on left
  • Roll the upper back forward to move the shoulder blades away from one another
  • Repeat with the left arm resting on the right
  • Roll the shoulders up and back
  • Begin with the right shoulder, then the left
  • Follow that by alternating the right and left shoulder
  • Finish by rolling both shoulders up and back again

Follow each short practice with a period rest, sitting quietly with the eyes closed with focus on the breath. Notice the qualities of the breath – the texture, the temperature, the depth of your breath and how quickly you’re breathing. As you relax, notice how the breath supports the relaxation by softening and becoming more shallow. You may notice the exhalation lengthening until it’s longer than the breath you take in.

Rest in this way for five minutes.

If you would like to explore additional yoga resources, check out our weekly virtual events.

Mimm Patterson
Written by
Mimm Patterson Yoga Therapist

Mimm is a yoga therapist and transformational life coach with a passion for supporting personal journeys toward a more creative engagement with life through self-discovery, movement, writing and contemplative craft. She weaves a gentle and relaxed approach to both yoga and coaching with good humor and joy. Certifications: C-IAYT E-RYT500 MATP, Member ICF, Soul Collage® and Guided Autobiography Facilitator You can find Mimm at www.practicallytwisted.me or email her at mimmpatterson@gmail.com.

This article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your physician or health provider for your specific needs.

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