You’ve started yoga and are loving the benefits it provides you mentally and physically. In fact you were just starting to see the progress your yoga teacher said would come, and then ‘boom’, something unexpected comes along and gets in the way of your practice and you find you aren’t doing as much as you’d like to be doing.
You’re busy, stressed out and you know yoga will help, but you just can’t seem to fit anything else into your day without purposely deciding to; starve the kids, not go to work, cook less and eat more crap or train the dog to use the toilet instead of taking it for a walk.
Fear not, we understand that life is sometimes busy and know you don’t want to starve your kids or dog in order to do more yoga, so we have put together 10 ways to fit yoga into your busy day. Obviously this is no substitute for attending classes with a qualified teacher (We would say that), but it is a way of not only getting your daily hit of yoga and see more progress, but it will teach you mindfulness as you start to slow down for a few moments and become more aware of your body.
So let’s start….
1 – Channel your inner dog
Let’s get back to your dog. We know teaching the dog to use the toilet is pretty impossible and time consuming, but what can your dog teach you? Have you ever watched your dog after he has had a long chill on the sofa (Ancestors of wolves my backside – very pampered wolves who love luxury more like). What’s the first thing they do after any time they’ve spent chilling? They stretch. Watch them – they stand up and pull off the most perfect downward dog and then upward dog you’ll ever see. Just perfect! And not only that – they do it after every period of sedentary activity.
Let’s face facts – who doesn’t love a good stretch after a nap?
Stretching your body after being sedentary prepares your body ready to move and for any activity that’s coming. Sitting or laying for long periods of time stiffens your body up. Downward dog and upward dog stretch the entire body in 2 easy postures so they are perfect if you have only a minute to spare.
So our challenge to you is easy – after every period of inactivity (let’s say 30 mins). When you stand up, channel your inner dog and perform the best downward dog and then upward dog you can and give your full body a good stretch to prepare it for your movement, then carry on about your day until the next one.
WARNING – expect some seriously strange looks from your dog!
2 – Do more yin and multitask
I’m sure you’ve all read our May blog on yin yoga (if not you’ve missed a treat as it talks about multitasking yin yoga with gin which is a perfect combination of hobbies in our view).
Yin is very different to our normal hatha yoga practice. There are three elements to yin yoga;
1 – Finding your edge (which should be around a 4-5 out of 10 and very passive)
2 – Time in posture (Minimum of one and a half minutes but usually between 3-5 minutes)
3 – Stillness (This is to ensure we don’t engage our muscles as yin yoga bypasses the muscles to get into the connective tissue, joints and fascia – hence why it is known as yoga for the joints)
These 3 elements make yin yoga a perfect style of yoga to use to multitask if you are short on time.
When we are short of time and need to cram in some yoga, we like to multitask by practising yin whilst listening to music or podcast, watching TV and sometimes even reading (or there are audiobooks if you’re not a reader).
This means you hit 2 birds with one stone. You get to work on the flexibility of your joints whilst chilling and watching Netflix (We don’t mean that type of chilling with Netflix by the way).
3 – Hit the snooze button
Back to yin yoga and another way to integrate yoga into your multitasking life. When your alarm sounds at 6.30am each morning, instead of hitting snooze for another 10 minutes of sleep, hit snooze and spend 2 minutes in each of the following yin postures (you can keep your eyes closed so you feel as if you’re still getting a snooze if it helps);
1 – Spinal twist (left and right).
Just to warn you, I have personally been known to fall asleep in this posture for 10-15 minutes. I’m sure that means I’m a master of that yin posture and my back is very grateful for it, but just remember in yoga what you do to one side you must do to the other side or you’ll end up walking around all day unbalanced. So just make sure you spend equal amount of time in this posture on both sides, without being late for work!
2 – Full body stretch (or pencil stretch).
Get those arms above your head and flex or point the toes, whatever feels good for you. This stretch lengthens the spine and gives a full body stretch to every part of your body (hence the name).
Maybe throw in a few yawns for good measure stretching your facial muscles and bringing more oxygen into your body.
3 – Reclined cobbler pose.
This is another one I have been known to fall asleep in, but that’s ok because it does both sides of the body at the same time. It’s very good for stretching your inner thighs and spine and if you take your hands above your head, you get a stretch down the sides of your body too. It’s blissful.
4 – Knees to chest.
We do this pose all the time in our yoga classes. It’s soothing and great for releasing the back. Have a little rock and roll and you’re set for the day.
We guarantee after this 10 minute ‘snooze yoga sequence’ you will get out of bed with a spring in your step, ready to start the day… and also with less creaks and groans from your body.
4 – Oral care
We brush our teeth for two minutes every morning and every night. Don’t waste this time – utilise it by multitasking and throwing in a yoga pose. Try working on your balance in tree pose for one minute on each side. And if you use an electric toothbrush – it actually tells you when one minute is up and when to switch sides.
Simple but genius!
Tree pose not only gets us focused and works on our balance but is an excellent leg strengthening pose which stretches the thighs and groins and to top that, it is also a fabulous remedy for flat feet and therapeutic for sciatica.
5 – Stand like a mountain
Mountain pose, or tadasana is a wonderful pose for working on and correcting our posture. As with tree pose – it is also a fabulous remedy for flat feet and therapeutic for sciatica as well as strengthening our thighs, knees and ankles. So the next time you find yourself stood in a queue, waiting for a bus or waiting for the traffic lights to change, take a moment to be mindful of your entire posture (stand tall, shoulders back and down, tummy in, tail bone tucked down and feet rooting into the ground) and stand like the strong mountain you are. But… don’t forget to watch when it’s time to cross the road or move in the queue, otherwise you may get the impatient ‘un-yogi’ people behind you tutting when you don’t move forward. Smile to yourself and move on knowing you are unmovable and strong just like a mountain….grrrrrrr!!!!
6 – Chair yoga
If you sit at a desk most of the day, you will know that sitting has been branded the “new smoking” – i.e. – it’s very bad for us.
Sitting for long periods of time really destroys our posture.
Our legs and glutes which stabilise our bodies become weak, we develop tight hips and a bad back which can lead to compression on the discs in your spine and chronic pain, we develop stiff shoulders and neck as we hunch over a screen. Not to scare you but sitting too much has also been linked to an increase risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), varicose veins, and increases in heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer!!!!! We were not designed to sit for long periods of time, we were designed to move. However, if your job is desk based and you still want to move your body whilst seated, there are some great chair yoga postures you can do to help. These include:
1 – Seated spinal twists
One of my favourite postures. Spinal twists prevent stiffness and wear and tear of the spine. They release tension from the entire back and provide flexibility to the spine. Not only that but they are fabulous for constipation.
2 – Seated cat/cows
Who doesn’t love a cat/cow sequence? Cat/cow can be done seated at any time. They are fabulous postures for the spine, the shoulders, the chest and the neck. Earlier we talked about channelling your inner dog because they love a good stretch, now it’s now time to channel your inner cat – they LOVE a good stretch too and are agile for a very good reason.
3 – Shoulder and neck stretches
Hunching over a screen whilst seated causes all sorts of shoulder and neck tightness. Often our shoulders are so high they could be worn as earrings. Having a tight neck and shoulders can lead to headaches. Take some time not just at your desk but throughout the day to stretch your neck and shoulders using shoulder circles, dropping the shoulders, head circles to stretch your neck and dropping your head to each shoulder. Massage is also very good for a tight neck and shoulders.
4 – Raising the legs (Boat pose)
This pose is not only great for the legs and stimulating the circulation but it also strengthens the muscles in your abdomen, legs and arms and releases tension. You might feel like a weirdo doing it in the office, but you’ll have the best abs amongst your colleagues.
5 – Knee to nose pose
This pose encourages your circulation, stretches your hip flexors and is very good for bloating (It’s also a high risk pose for releasing wind in the office, so ensure you sit next to someone you can blame any smells on).
If chair yoga is something that interests you, we recommend having a look at the many books or videos out there to see what suits your needs. The key thing to remember is that some movement is better than no movement and it is important to take breaks away from your desk.
You only get one body so please look after it.
7 – Take a break.
As already mentioned, it is so important to take a break from whatever you do during the day. Taking a break gives us a chance to sharpen our saws and come back to what we were doing more productively.
At the beginning and end of a yoga class we practice a short breathing technique to connect our mind to our bodies.
Yoga breathing techniques (or pranayama), activates our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) which allows our bodies to recover and heal. Yogic breathing (pranayama) can help with; stress, anxiety, headaches, chronic illness and pain and also increases our lung capacity.
Our March blog covered yogic breathing techniques and can be found here https://www.yogatonicyorkshire.co.uk/yogic-breathing-and-how-to-stay-calm-during-the-covid-19-coronavirus-outbreak/. Take a break in your day and spend 5 minutes practicing these yogic breathing techniques. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
8 – Sunbathe or read in sphinx pose.
Here’s another way to multitask yoga into your life. The weather has been fabulous lately. So next time you’re sunbathing in the garden, why not get yourself into a sphinx pose to suntan your back at the same time? Or if you want to read a book and multitask yoga, read a book whilst in sphinx pose. Sphinx pose is a gentle back bend that lengthens your abdominal muscles, firms your bottom and strengthens your spine. It also opens your shoulders, chest and lungs. Combined with a good read or a suntan – it’s a win/win situation.
9 – Phone yoga.
Next time you set out to call your bezzy for a good old chin wag and gossip, use that time wisely by practicing a few yoga poses at the same time. Before you pick up your phone to ring them, get your headphones in so you are completely hands free and pick a yoga pose or two.
My go-to yoga poses for when I’m talking on the phone to my bezzy are any type of seated forward fold.
Depending on how long I think my conversation will be, will depend on whether I choose a two legged forward fold (paschimottanasana) or a one legged seated forward fold (janu sirsasana) on each side (Remember balance is key). But it doesn’t have to be a forward fold. This is your chance to get creative, maybe even put together your own little sequence – bridge pose, spinal twists, legs up the wall, boat pose, yoga squat…. the options are endless.
10 – Bedtime yoga sleep.
Our final tip for fitting yoga into your busy day is last thing at night with yoga nidra before bedtime. Yoga nidra, or yoga sleep is easily described as the bit between being asleep and being awake. It’s a conscious sleep for your brain which is usually encouraged using guided meditation and is amongst the deepest possible states of relaxation while still being conscious.
Some yogis believe it’s as good for your body as having eight hours sleep!
Benefits include, inducing a deep physical and mental relaxation, provides deep emotional relaxation and release, decreases stress and anxiety and promotes better sleep.
There are tonnes of guided meditations and yoga nidra classes on YouTube. Why not get comfortable and ready in your bed, plug in your headphones (unless you sleep alone then feel free to blast it out) and have a relaxing meditation session and pre-sleep before your proper sleep. I guarantee you will have a much better, well rested sleep.
As someone who has suffered with ME/CFS for over 14 years, I can also recommend yoga nidra and bedtime meditation for any other sufferers out there as well as for anyone who suffers with stress, anxiety or insomnia.
So there you have it. 10 easy ways to cram more yoga into your busy life on a daily basis. Now it’s over to you to experiment with these techniques and let us know how you get on with them. Our advice is to get creative, and if you think of any other fabulous ways to fit yoga into your busy life other than what we’ve written about, please feel free to let us know.