Since our country has been hit by the COVID pandemic, many of us have had to adjust to the new norm of working from home or learning from home.
Now we are more sedentary than ever and more stressed than ever. That's why it's important to keep your body moving and the mind quiet throughout the day with a few easy yogic practices you can do everyday in between classes or meetings.
As a remote worker myself, I spend countless hours at my computer captioning for the hearing-impaired. I keep my mat out as a reminder to get on it whenever I have a break.
Here's six easy steps of a basic routine I do every day to calm my mind, loosen my shoulders, neck and back and stretch my legs and strengthen my core. This can be done in 10 minutes or an hour, depending on your schedule and your needs. Typically, if you need more grounding, you should take your practice slow, like you're moving through honey. On the other hand, if you need some motivation focus on more quick but steady movements.
EASY SEATED POSE (SUKHASANA) WITH BREATH WORK (PRANAYAMA)
Begin seated in an upright position. Eyes closed or a soft gaze. Practice pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). Center yourself with these two pranayama breathing exercises that present no contraindications and is safe for all: Using a FULL YOGIC BREATH , inhaling through your nose starting the breath from the pit of your belly all the way up into your chest Slight pause at the top. Then slowly release the breath through your nose. You can do 5-10 rounds or however long time permits. Second pranayama is NADI SHODHANA (alternate nostril breathing). Begin by placing your hand in Vishnu Mudra by folding down your index and middle finger. Close off your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril using a full yogic breath. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger. Then exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through right nostril. Then close off right nostril with thumb and exhale through left nostril. This completes one round of Nadi shodhana. Do 5-10 rounds or however long time permits.
2. Cat Cow Pose (Bitilasana Marjaryasana) with thread the needle. Begin with your wrists directly underneath your shoulders and knees about hip-width apart. As you inhale, let your belly expand towards the floor as you allow your back to gently arch in a downward fashion as you take your gaze up. Notice if you feel tension in your lumbar spine (low back). Then exhale arching your spine in an upward fashion as you take your gaze towards your belly. Now notice if you feel tension in your thoracic spine (upper back). Do this up to 8 rounds. One breath. One movement. Notice the expansion and contraction of your ribs, front, back, side to side, all the way around. To thread the needle, reach your right hand towards the sky and thread it behind your left arm, resting your right shoulder and right side of your face on the mat. Repeat with the left arm.
3. Plank (phalakasana), Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Cobra (bhujangasana) or Up Dog (urdhva Svansana) Child's Pose (balasana)
Begin in a plank position by lining up your shoulders over your wrists, creating a long line of energy from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. Engage your core by pulling in your belly gently towards your spine. This also protects your back. Then bring your bottom up towards the sky as your head comes between your arms so you look like an upside down letter V to a down dog* position. Slowly shift yourself back and forth from plank to down dog to give you energy and increase your strength and flexibility in arms, shoulders, back, and hamstrings. Then from plank position gently place your knees on the mat, lifting up your chest as you gently bring your shoulders back for cobra pose, or for up dog (knees and thighs can remain off the matt). Then bring your bottom back, knees wide, as you sit back on your heels for child's pose. *Note: If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, glaucoma, or easily get dizzy, skip down dog, as it is an inversion, and you should avoid any inversions.
4. Standing pose variations (Tadasana)
Come to kneeling and curl toes under and gentle sit back on heels for a little yoga for your toes. If this is too much, you can sit on a block or simply just uncurl your toes. Loosen shoulders and neck by clasping your hands behind your back, bring your chin to your chest. Take a few breaths. Draw your knuckles towards the floor as you gently bring your shoulders back. Then bring your chin up, lift up through your thoracic spine (chest) while bringing the shoulders back. And then relax and shake your arms out. Lift your knees off the ground so that you find yourself balancing on your toes. This is fun! Bring your hands to heart center and see if you can stand without falling over and remain on your tippy toes the whole time. Extend your arms to the sky. See how tall you can get. Then firmly place your feet on the ground. Balancing on your right foot, bend your left knee and bring it in towards your chest. *Use your right hand and grab hold of the outside edge of your left foot and extend your left leg straight out in front of you. It's okay if your knee is bent. Taking a slight twist in your thoracic spine, upper chest by drawing the left shoulder back and extending your left arm back. Repeat on the other side. *Note: feel free to use a chair or wall as a modification or leave out the twist.
5. Foward fold (uttanasana) and seated pose variations. Begin from standing bending at the hip joint, keeping knees soft or generously bent coming to a forward fold*. Wrap your hands behind your legs and give yourself a big hug for taking time for a little self-care. *Note: if you are not inverting, do not come to a full forward fold. Instead, place hands on thighs or shins and look forward maintain a nice neutral spine, keeping your head in line with your hips and not below the hips. Then come to seated. Legs extended in front of you. Bending at the hip joint taking a seated forward fold. Focus on your breath and focus on lengthening the upper body. Then just as we did in our standing version, take your right hand, grab hold of the outside edge of your left foot or ankle and place your left hand behind you as you gentle draw your left shoulder back. Repeat on the other side.
Yes, we all know this one, "I'm just here for the Savasana." This is really the most important part of your practice. It helps to allow all the work you did to really absorb into your body. So don't skip out on this. Ten minutes is suggested, especially if you're feeling you can't sit still. But I understand the busy world we all live in. So just do what you can. Don't judge yourself. Whether your practice is 10 minutes or an hour, you will benefit by preventing injury to your body from sitting for long periods of time and you will keep your mind focused and fresh. With a daily, diligent practice, you will also begin to discover an understanding and awareness within yourself that you are in fact a unique and maybe sometimes imperfect individual but one who has the ability work towards perfecting radiating the beauty that is already innately within you.