Fitting Yoga into Busy Life
By Elonne Stockton
Many people struggle to fit yoga into their perpetually overflowing lives. Although finding time gets easier as you practice, it may always require effort, sometimes more effort and sometimes less.
Here are some basic tips for fitting yoga into a busy life:
- Take at least 5 minutes each morning to sit. This will set the tone for the rest of the day. If you make it a point to sit every day, you will become habituated to sit and you will naturally start to find more and more time to practice. You will also experience the benefit of sitting and you will crave the time in the morning.
- Make a practice space separate from the rest of your house/apartment, even if it is just a corner of a room. Put some flowers there, burn some incense, make it somewhere you want to go. If the space is there it will engender practice.
- If you can, do your practice before work, etc. You might find that you intend to practice later and you never do – you get busy, or you are too tired at the end of the day. If that’s the case, it is better to do your practice before the day gets busy and takes you wherever it does.
- Don’t set your expectations too high. If you can be regular about 20 or 30 minutes that is much better than trying to do an hour or more and stopping after a couple of months or after only a couple of weeks.
- Do sit every morning, at least for a few minutes. With the asana/physical postures it is enough — to see positive effects — to do them 3-5 times a week. If you like other activities, you can incorporate the asana into your regular exercise routine, either alternating days, or maybe adding in some restorative asana after a swim or a run. Nothing is contradictory.
- As Tiwariji would say, “Nothing is compulsory!” Practice because you enjoy it and because you find benefit from it. If not, don’t do it. But also give it time; give it a chance to work. Practice, but take the stress out of the practice.
- Just do it. Or as Paul would say, “Just do it . . . with awareness!” Don’t overthink things. The mind is poison, it is powerful and it always wants to sabotage you and your practice. Be mindful, i.e, never careless, do everything with your full attention. But don’t let the lower mind (emotions, likes and dislikes, distractions and imagination, etc.) get in your way. Go beyond them; stop yourself and just practice.
Some Yoga Break Ideas
It is also useful to take mini yoga breaks throughout the day.
- How’s my posture? Am I sitting tall? Is my spine hyperextended (arching), or am I collapsed in the spine? Are my shoulders relaxed? Am I leaning forward in my chair? Are my head, neck and spine in alignment? Remember, heart lifted, tailbone down. Head, neck and spine along a central axis.
- How am I breathing? Is there any tension or gripping sensation in my upper abdomen? What is the quality of my breathing? Is it short and shallow, too fast or somehow irregular? Am I holding my breath? Or is my breathing smooth, steady, deep and calm?
- Do I have “ahhh” in my mouth? In other words, is my face relaxed? Is my jaw relaxed or am I holding tension in my mouth? And I biting or tensing my lips, grinding my teeth, squinting to see the screen, etc.?
- How have my interactions been today, with myself and with others? What has the quality of my inner dialogue been, i.e., how have I treated myself? How have I reacted if others somehow mistreat me? How have I treated others, in word, action, even thought?
Reverse negative emotions and thoughts:
- If you get stuck on something someone did, or something that you did, try and offer forgiveness (towards yourself and towards others). Also try to keep things in perspective — look at what happened and its importance in terms of the week, year, etc. Is it really worth the stress?
- If you get stuck in a negative thought or emotion try to replace it with the opposite, with feelings of forgiveness, gratitude, etc. And ask for help, guidance dealing with it.
- If you feel overwhelmed with stress and tension during the day, stop. Close your eyes and take 20 deep breaths. Really focus on the exhalation. Get fully empty with each breath. If that doesn’t work, go to the bathroom, lock yourself in a toilet stall and jump up and down 20 times! Then take another 20 deep breaths, focusing on the exhale. Repeat until you feel better ;D
Compact Morning Routine
Here is a basic practice to help get you started. It takes less than a half hour, so you’ve no excuses!
- Sit down in any comfortable, cross-legged position, or in a chair (on the edge of it so you don’t lean on the back of it). Close your eyes and bring your attention to the navel/belly.
- Watch the natural flow of the breath, noticing the quality of the breath and then the quality of the thoughts. Withhold any judgment, be as much of an objective observer as possible.
- Replace any negative thoughts with positive ones, like gratitude (thinking about everything you have to be grateful for), and forgiveness (letting go of anything you are holding onto). Ask for help dealing with anything you are stressed with or worried about, with anything that is a source of concern.
- From the seated position lie down on your back and take 20 deep breaths. Place one hand on your upper abdomen and one hand on your heart. Fill your hands with each inhale (first the upper abdomen lifts and then the heart), feel that release as you exhale and get fully empty with each exhale.
- Turn over onto your belly. Take hold of your shoulders, crossing your arms, and place your forehead on your forearms. Turn your feet away from you so your whole belly is on the ground. Take another 20 deep breaths. Really press your upper abdomen into the ground with each inhale, and get fully empty with each exhale.
- 5-10 Sun Salutations of your choice.
Take Shavasana/Rest (at least 5 minutes):
- Lie down on your back, letting your feet fall out to the side and your palms face upwards.
- Close your eyes and bring your inner gaze to the navel.
- Start with at least 10 deep breaths.
- Then let your breath become passive and keep watching your breath at the navel.
- You might experience an initial anxiety and a need to get up. If that happens, stay! Take more deep breaths. The feeling will pass as you sink into relaxation. Lie down for at least 5 minutes, allowing fatigue to leave the body and mind.
“Just do it . . . with awareness!”