It comes as no surprise that the hardest part of a robust yoga practice is getting to the studio. Life gets busy, logistics are hard, and even when you have the time, gathering the energy is another story. Sound familiar? Fear not. We are here to remind you that there are more ways to practice than you might think, and just a little bit goes a long way.
Folks often come to yoga for the asana- the physical practice of yoga poses. We love the way it feels to move, to sweat, to stretch, and it helps build longevity, balance, and flexibility. But asana is just a tiny pixel in the bigger picture. When you boil it all down, a major reason many people practice yoga is to manage stress. Here are 5 ways you can practice yoga even on the busiest of days.
5. Watch your breath
Read this through once and then close your eyes and give it a try (right now!). Start by noticing your inhales and exhales- how high can you count as you breathe in? How high can you count as you breathe out? Don't worry about changing your breath in any way, just notice it. After 3 rounds of watching the breath, begin to find even inhales and exhales. Try to breathe in to the count of five, pause for a moment at the top, then breath out for a count of five, and pause for a moment at the bottom. Repeat 3 times.
How you speak to yourself is how you speak to anyone else. The way you describe your life is the way it takes form. Words are powerful tools to shift a mindset. Pick an affirmation and pair it with one of your daily tasks, like showering or brushing your teeth. Every time you do that task, repeat the affirmation as you do it. Some examples
I'm a good friend/partner/parent/etc
I am supported
I am a divine expression of love
I am strong enough to meet this day
I can rest when I need to
3. Quick Stretch
Okay so this one includes a bit of asana, but you don't need a mat or even a private space to do it. At your desk, in your kitchen, in line at the grocery store, wherever you have some space take a moment to roll your shoulders up, down, and back a few times. Stretch your arms up to the sky and reach from side to side like a long drawn out yawn (and maybe let one out!). Roll your neck in gentle circles, pausing anywhere sticky or stuck. Stand up if you can and twist a few times from side to side. Bounce on your toes and accentuate gravity as you let your shoulders bounce and drop. Take an audible exhale if you can and then get back to your day
2. Body Scan
This one pairs beautifully with #3 if you have an extra minute after. Close your eyes and let your awareness settle sequentially through the body, from head to toe and back- the top of your head, your eyes, your mouth, your head, your neck, your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands, your torso, lungs, hips, legs, ankles, feet, right leg, left leg, both legs, right arm, left arm, both arms, arms + legs, arms, legs, and head. Some folks like to imagine cracking an egg on the crown of the head and visualizing it run down the body, relaxing each body part as you go.
1. Adopt a Yoga Mindset
Understand that this is easier said than done, but think of yoga as the way to approach anything. The Yamas and Niyamas are a set of moral code in yoga philosophy that help us live a life with more connection. When you practice asana, you focus on the connection of mind, body, and breath. When you practice the Yamas and Niyamas, you focus on the connection with others. While each of the Yamas and Niyamas are deserving of their own separate discussion, a few tips are as follows:
Be mindful with your words. Does what you are saying (or not saying) cause harm to others, regardless if they hear it? When we engage in gossip, we steal the opportunity to hear the person's point of view. Is what you are saying truthful- wholly truthful? Notice when you use small lies to save face and make an effort to be truthful at all times (ie: changing from I didn't see your message to Thanks for your patience with my response)
Take time to assess whether something is truly serving your best self. Notice the things that give you a quick return, followed by debt of happiness, and assess if it is worth it today (re: staying up late to watch a movie might help de-stress now, but cause more fatigue tomorrow....sometimes its worth it, but check in first).
Give yourself a break from the need to accumulate things. Our world is full of experts who will make you think you need something to be happy. Sometimes we need things, but *sensing a theme* check in first. Consider keeping a list of items you'd like to purchase, then wait a few weeks....even if they go on sale, wait. A lot of the things that are marketed to us on a daily basis will go on sale again, so rather than jumping to get it, give it time.
Yoga is a practice of awareness, a means of self-development. The physical practice of yoga asana is a fantastic tool for applying these practice of self care and growth, but it is incomplete on its own. To borrow from a good friend and great therapist, everything is yoga. The way we do anything is the way we do everything, and taking the time to be attentive to our actions, words, and self is part of a life long practice off the mat. Remember, just because you didn't get to the studio doesn't mean you didn't do yoga today- count the ways in which you've practiced and rest knowing you've done the perfect amount today, setting the stage for even more tomorrow.