It isn’t always easy to get to a 75 minute long yoga class, or even to roll out your mat at home. I always encourage making the time, because no matter what else is going on in your life, maintaining your practice will be of benefit to you and the people close to you. It’s your time, to check in with yourself and to ease out the kinks in your body and mind — and protecting that time will make you calmer, steadier, and more patient with everyone around you.
But there are times when there just isn’t any time at all:
Life gets big, things need to be done, everything apart from yoga is demanding all of your attention and you don’t have much choice — you have to do what you have to do!
During those times, your self-care can slide, and you can find yourself feeling tired, stressed, and burnt out. So here are three ways to do yoga even when you don’t have time to do yoga (because yoga isn’t just a 75 minute Vinyasa class!).
You might argue: “but I’m breathing all of the time anyway, obviously!” — and you’re right, of course. But conscious breathing can make a big impact on your physical and emotional state.
At least a few times each day, remind yourself to notice how your breath feels. If you’re so busy that you never remember to think about your breath, set an alarm on your phone or stick a written reminder on something you look at frequently, like your bathroom mirror or your coffee maker or your car’s steering wheel.
Notice the breath as it is for a minute or so. And then gently, softly, deepen the breath a little.
See if you can get into the habit of noticing the breath during stressful situations. When you feel anxious or overwhelmed, notice how your breath is feeling. And then by gently introducing a deeper, steady rhythm, you’ll be able to calm your body’s nervous system and feel more able to manage the situation.
Physical yoga practice makes you stronger, more flexible, and less prone to injury and muscle pain. But when you don’t have time to devote to your practice, you can still integrate stretches and strengthening exercises into your daily life to look after your body.
If you work at a desk, you can stretch right there (your colleagues might not even notice!). The neck, shoulders, back, and wrists often suffer when you spend most of the day sitting down and working at a computer. So, try these exercises a couple of times a day:
• Bring your fingertips to your shoulders and draw big circles with your elbows to release tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back.
• Lift your chin up as high as you can, and then very slowly move it in the biggest circle you can manage. Do this a couple of times in both directions.
• Stretch your arms up overheard, interlace your fingers and press your palms up and away from you; then take a deep stretch to the right, and then to the left.
• While sitting at your desk, active the uddiyana bandha (the core lock) by gently contracting and lifting the muscles in the lower abdomen. Then use these muscles to move the pelvis forwards, rounding the spine slightly; and then move the pelvis backwards, hollowing the lower back a little. Repeat a few times before settling into a neutral position. This will strengthen your core and protect you from back pain.
• Take a simple wrist stretch as often as you can: press the palms against each other with the fingertips at the wrist of the opposite hand.
3. Practise Present Moment Awareness
Yoga and mindfulness have a lot in common, and simple mindfulness practices can help to keep you calm and centred no matter what’s happening in your day. Noticing the breath, as mentioned earlier, is a really good way to bring yourself into the present moment; and you can draw in awareness of the rest of your body to go even further.
You can practise right now. Start by noticing your feet; the weight of your feet on the ground, and the temperature of the feet. Whether you’re standing or sitting or lying down, see if you can distribute your weight evenly between the feet.
Then, notice your hands. Where are they? What are they doing? Do they feel heavy; light; warm; cold?
Once you’re comfortable with the basic practice of noticing things that are happening in the present moment (and don’t worry if it takes a while; mindfulness is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!) you can extend your awareness beyond your body, too. Use the five senses to notice what you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel; or choose a particular thing to concentrate on, such as a colour or a specific sound.
By doing these simple things each day, to calm your nervous system, release tension in your muscles, and bring yourself into the present moment, you’ll give yourself opportunities to look after you in the middle of whatever whirlwind you’re caught up in.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Izzy Arcoleo is a yoga and meditation teacher and a writer, currently based in London. She specializes in the relationship between yoga and creativity, using her background in social anthropology to explore how movement and meditation practices can support creative practices, by developing confidence as well as practical methods for working through obstacles.