I totally understand how, at this time of year, finding time to hit the mat can be challenging. If this is a busy time for you, chances are an hour or more of yoga will sound like a distant dream.
Don’t fret! Even 10 minutes of yoga can have a positive affect and can help you stay balanced, energised and connected.
Here’s a really simple standing sequence that I practice when time is a precious commodity. It works the spine in all six directions plus there’s the opportunity to take your focus inward, which is perfect for the start of a new year.
If you have time (I know, I know), it’s a good idea to warm up with a few rounds of Surya Namaskar first.
DISCLAIMER: There is risk involved with any physical activity (including yoga) so please practice mindfully and respectfully as you are responsible for your own safety and well-being. Know that not all poses are suitable for everyone. This is a general sequence that is suitable for people in good health, so if you have an injury, illness or condition then you should check with a medical professional before practicing.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose) - Set A Positive Intention.
Start standing with the big toes kissing, a little space between the heels. Take a moment to evenly distribute your weight and find neutral balance.
Take your hands together in prayer at the heart centre, close your eyes and plant a positive seed of intention for the rest of your day. Choose something that uplifts and inspires you. I like to use simple intentions like “I am happy” or “I feel connected.”
Tadasana (Mountain Pose) With Side Stretch
Ground down through both feet and raise your arms up overhead. Lengthen your tailbone down to the ground and lightly draw the lower belly in and up for stability. Take your left wrist with your right hand (or if your shoulders prefer, keep the arms separate) and lean your torso to the right.
Find a depth that allows you to feel the space through the left side of your body without causing any strain. Stay for a few breaths then repeat on the other side.
Most people find this stronger with the feet together, so take the feet apart (approximately hip-width) if you feel you need to.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
Take your arms up overhead and with your core muscles switched on, hinge from the hips and allow your upper body to fold forward. Release tension from your neck and shoulders and feel the crown of your head lengthen towards the mat. Take hold of each elbow and find a smooth and steady breath.
Bend the knees as much as you need to, particularly if your hammies are tight, and shift some of your weight out of your heels and on to the balls of your feet.
If you have any tension or stress lurking around in your mind, then this is the ideal chance to let it go. You can feel as if stress literally melts off the crown of your head into the floor beneath you with every exhalation. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Place your hands on the mat shoulder distance apart and walk your feet back so your body is in an upside down V. Feet are hip distance apart with the heels very slightly turned out and again, if your hamstrings are tight you can bend the knees as much as you need to.
Make sure your shoulder blades are firmly on your back. The upper arms rotate outwards and your lower arms rotate in. Draw the lower ribs and belly in as you send your tail up and back, creating length in your beautiful spine. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
Tip: do the next 4 poses consecutively on the right side, and then repeat on the left side.
Float the right leg back behind and lengthen through the ball of the foot. Bend the knee and move the heel towards the butt, then yawn the hip open to the right.
Aim to keep your chest square to the front of the mat. If the back of your left leg is happy you can extend the left heel down towards the mat. After a few breaths, square up the hips and return to Downward Dog.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
Step your right foot forward to the inside of your right hand and place your left knee on the mat. The top of the back foot can press into the mat, or if you prefer, you can tuck the toes.
Lengthen your tail towards the mat and draw the belly and lower ribs in as you lift your heart up towards the sky and mindfully raise your arms up overhead.
If your body is open for it and you want to go into a deeper backbend, feel as if you’re leaning up and back over a giant beach ball. Keep your tail lengthening down to the ground to avoiding crunching in the lower back.
Return your focus to your intention and stay for 5 breaths.
Place the hands on either side of the right foot. Tuck the back toes and raise the back knee off the mat, coming up to a high lunge. Mindfully reach your arms up overhead, palms facing each other, fingers energised.
Right knee is directly over the right ankle and the back leg should be strong. Feel energy flowing in and out through the sole of your back foot. As with Anjaneyasana, keep the lower belly switched on, and your tailbone lengthening down for stability. Stay for 3-5 breaths.
Crescent Lunge with Twist
Take the arms out wide at shoulder height. Lengthen the crown up and draw the lower belly and lower ribs in for stability. From the navel, twist the upper body towards the right keeping the arms open wide.
Stay for 3-5 breaths then return to centre and then through to Downward Dog
Note: After you’ve completed the previous 4 poses on both sides, return to Tadasana.
Natarajasana (Dancer Pose)
Evenly distribute your weight on your right foot and bend your left knee with the heel heading towards the butt. Take your left foot with your left hand, reaching for the foot from the inside. Your right leg should be strong and straight, anchoring your pose.
Slowly press your left foot into the hand which will start to create a small backbend. As you do this, lengthen your tail towards the ground to create space in the lower back. Fix your gaze on a non-moving point (Dristhi) and start to tip the torso forward as you continue to press the left foot back into the hand.
Find your balance, take a moment to feel light and open around your heart, and replant the seed of your intention within your heart centre, creating space for both an amazing day and year ahead. Stay for 5-7 breaths then slowly return to Tadasana and repeat on the other side.
Note: Dancer Pose can be quite an energising pose. If you want to calm your nervous system down a little more, you can always take Uttanasana or Child’s Pose for a few breaths before returning to Tadasana.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Return to your steady mountain pose with your palms together at the heart space. Close your eyes and spend a few moments cultivating gratitude for all that have and all that you are.
Really feel that gratitude at the place behind your palms, and if you want to take it further then mentally run through all the things you feel really blessed to have in your life. Notice how that process affects your energy and mood.
This is something you can do every day for the rest of the year! I hope this year brings you an abundance of balance, connection, breath, love, laughter and of course, YOGA.