Try as we might, let’s face it—we don’t always have time for yoga. But what we sometimes forget is that no matter how dedicated a yogi we may be, we don’t always have to do a full 60–90 minute class in order to maintain our daily practice. Despite how crazy our busy schedules may seem, a little yoga can in fact go a long way.
Here are seven “practice hacks” that prove that no matter what, there is always time for yoga.
Rise and Shine
This may seem obvious, but did you know if you set your alarm just five minutes earlier you could squeeze some necessary practice into your jam-packed schedule? Better yet, committing to just 20 minutes of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A) a day is all you need for optimal well-being, according to a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Yoga. Alternatively, beginning your day in meditation with just a few moments of deep, focused breathing can bring plenty of focus and clarity to your work day and help combat stress.
Early morning time is so precious—simply sneak in a few poses, and notice how you feel more grounded throughout the day.
Taking a brisk walk on your lunch or afternoon coffee/tea break can not only help break up your over-scheduled day, but it’s also great for your health. Vinyasa is often referred to as a “moving meditation” in a yoga class, so why not try applying that same concept to a breath of well-deserved fresh air?
Pay attention to what’s around you—beauty, grime, and all—whether your amid the hustle and bustle of a big city, or have the opportunity to quietly reflect in nature in a neighboring park. Walking can actually be just as meditative as our practice itself… because isn’t it our practice that cultivates that sense of moving meditation off the mat and into our lives? And as a bonus, a recent study found that people who spend time walking or even cycling outdoors are better equipped to handle the harmful effects of air pollution.
Corporate yoga classes are on the rise all over the nine-to-five world, but still, not everyone has access to these benefits, or worse, even has time to break up their work day for a full hour. But there are many simple yoga-inspired neck and shoulder stretches you can do right at your desk, or, if you’re shy, in a private room.
Take five, or even ten, and place one hand on one side of your head to draw your head gently toward your shoulder. Breathe deeply and then switch sides. Or, place your knees hips-width distance apart and your palms over your kneecaps for a seated Cat/Cow. Inhale to let your belly drop, collar bones broaden and gaze lift; exhale to round the spine and tuck your chin. Better yet, a gentle inversion like Downward Facing Dog can give you an energy boost to help alleviate the dreaded afternoon slump. For that one, or any other physical postures, some privacy may be required, depending on your work environment, of course.
Our yoga practice heightens our sense of self-awareness, and therefore, can make us better at multitasking. Juggling the many demands of our job and our lives can often seem more overwhelming than it needs to. Our practice helps to keep us grounded in the present moment, and therefore, out of our heads in order to give the task at hand our full attention. So here’s an idea: Try balancing on one foot at your standing desk, while you’re waiting in the checkout line, or even cooking dinner for yourself or your family. Be sure to switch sides often and maintain your breath. For an extra challenge, place the other foot into Tree Pose. And who says there’s no time for yoga?!
Turn off the television—your favorite Netflix or HBO series can wait, especially if you’re recovering from an insanely busy day. Numbing ourselves to alleviate stress or exhaustion is often tempting, but in the end it does little to serve our overall well-being. Instead, try stretching out after dinner with some simple restorative postures. Make it a family affair by inviting your loved ones, roommate, partner, cat or dog, to join in. A little after-dinner stretching will do wonders to facilitate your digestion and promote a better night’s rest. Try Cat/Cow, Happy Baby, Pigeon Pose, Figure-4 stretch, Seated or Supine Spinal Twists, Legs Up the Wall… You get the idea.
Why is it that when we are at our most stressed and exhausted it can be impossible to sleep. We toss and turn, we fret and worry over our mounting to-do list, we replay a workplace conflict over and over in our mind, only to do it all over again the next day. Yoga nidra is an effective technique that’s been scientifically studied and proven to promote a deep, restful sleep—especially for those who suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety.
A guided yoga nidra can vary widely—from an imaginative story of riding on a magic carpet through the cosmos, to bringing your attention to the colors of light of each of your chakras. Here is a 10-minute yoga nidra from Elena Brower, a beloved yoga and meditation teacher and Wanderlust presenter, that focuses on soothing the mind through effortless awareness, by focusing on various ‘points of light’ throughout the body. The best part? You can perform yoga nidra right from the comforts of your own bed. Sweet dreams!
Andrea Rice is a writer and yoga teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, NY Yoga + Life, SONIMA, mindbodygreen and other online publications. Connect with Andrea on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and her website.