I have many clients and friends that want to start practicing yoga, meditating, or exercising more, but find the process daunting or unapproachable. Even though I have been practicing and teaching yoga for many years, I can relate and often find it challenging to simply get on the mat. One thing I find extremely helpful with this yoga/exercise quandary, is to simply commit to five postures. That’s right FIVE POSTURES or simple exercises. We can all make time to do five poses and by setting the intention to just do five, we usually end up wanting more and extending the practice. Doing five poses a day is not overwhelming and only takes fifteen to twenty five minutes, depending on how fast you work through the sequence and how many variations you add.
Today is a new moon and a new time to commit to taking care of your body, mind, and spirit. Here’s a sequence that can help you jump start your day and motivate your self-care practice.
Pose 1: PLANK 10-20 breaths if done without variations. With variations, 5-10 breaths each
(Variation 1 and 2 Pictured below)
Additional Pose/Rest: Child’s Pose or Wide Knee Child’s Pose
POSE 2: Low Lunge with Rhomboid Squeeze
5-10 breaths holding lunge. 10-20 shoulder/rhomboid squeeze reps (pulse and squeeze shoulder blades together behind you, keeping hands active)
Variation 1: Gentle twisting low lunge (left arm not visible in photo and can reach above head to activate psoas/hip flexor stretch)
Pose 3: Side Stretch with Hip Opener; keep feet and arms active (both sides, 5-15 breaths)
Variation 1: Side Stretch with Hip Opener and Neck Release
Speaking of resolutions and new years and all that….I felt inspired to bust out a little fitness inspiration this evening because WE ALL NEED IT. It is fascinating how this thing (exercise) that makes us feel so amazing (dopamine, yay!) is also something some individuals are fervently resistant to. When students or friends ask me questions about having a strong core, or having the “toned abs” thing, here is what I say… Be consistent. You don’t have to do a lot of exercise to be healthy and in shape. You DO need a CONSISTENT PRACTICE that involves strong blasts of exercise, almost every day.
Yoga doesn’t have to be a 90 minute class. Your gym stint, hike or run doesn’t have to be a hour to be effective, but do KEEP YOUR PACE UP to see better results and improved cardio vascular health. Although there are a lot of gimmicks out there, the “7 minute” Ab thing can work, if you do it 4-7 times a week (ideally mixed with cross-training). Ride your bike to the store, a meeting, or your friend’s party. You should do that anyway to reduce your carbon footprint, and you might meet an attractive eco-hipster along the way. Just remember to not act so cool you forget your helmet like this guy…
Just do SOMETHING, almost every day. I promise you’ll be feeling so good and so into it, you will start extending those 7-20 minute time windows to 60-90 minutes.
And first and foremost, do your best to love your body and tell your inner critic to take a hike, he or she doesn’t help your progress or confidence. The incisive, less-than-elegant prose of the inner critic is deeply saturated with environmental conditioning or self-deprecating hoo-haw most likely projected onto us when we were young, vulnerable, and impressionable. Which is why it is even MORE IMPORTANT to..
“Yoga chitta vritti nirodha” – Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations (whirlpool) of the mind (thought)
-Patangali’s Yoga Sutra
Calming the mind via meditation and yoga supports us to feel more spacious inside and out. A mindfulness practice is like a Zen slayer, who unhooks the insolent talons of chitta (mental chatter) and reminds our inner waters to flow quietly, sans whirlpool (vritti). It may take some time, but a true Yogi tirelessly attempts to peacefully slay that darn chitta like some kind of Hunger Games apparition. If you are a beginner or busy, try meditating for ten minutes 3-7x per week and slowly progress to 20-30 minutes. Practicing in the morning will support you to feel clear, empowered and sparkly for your day.
Take it from me, I am a masterful procrastinator, and will find every reason to stay on my computer or organize things until I have to run out the door, only to feel disappointed with myself or self-critical that I didn’t do something active. One thing that helps me, is looking at the clock about a hour before I have to leave and committing to take at least 10-30 of those minutes for myself; to sweat, move, sit, or find a hill somewhere. When I can carve out 2 hours and hit the mountains, gym or a class even better. The point is, it’s OK to take only 10-20 minutes to be active. It’s better than sitting on your bum, or getting drained by Facecrack, a project, or the news.
Speaking of Abs, here are a few core-strengthening options you can do which also strengthen the arms and legs (especially if you do them all). Lately I have been into this 15 minute workout my busy Ph.D candidate friend recommended. If he can do it and write a 1000 page dissertation, so can we! It’s even more effective when mixed with other activities, or practiced on off-cardio days.
Have a beautiful 2014 and remember to MOVE YOUR BODY and CALM YOUR MIND. You will be handsomely rewarded.