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A 5-Minute Yoga Practice for When You’re Overwhelmed and There’s Just No Time

Sometimes just five minutes can change everything.

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You know those days when you’d rather be anywhere else than where you actually are?

Curiously, those moments when you desperately need to slip away to yoga class–an essential hour of stretching, breathing, vibing, calming, sweating, and coming back to you—are typically the times when making it to class simply isn’t able to happen. (Expletive.)

When you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed, it can be incredibly easy to let frustration, resentment, despair, even self-pity creep in. These emotions tend to wreak havoc with your psyche as well as your physical state. You start to slouch. Feel restless. Or listless. Or simply out of sorts.

These moments when you desperately need to remind yourself that you still possess some measure of strength and grace. That you are capable of difficult and beautiful things. That you exist to do more than the task at hand. Even a 5-minute yoga practice can allow you to lose yourself in the moment at hand. In so doing, you may just happen to find yourself.

A 5-minute yoga practice for crazy days when you forget your grace

The following 5-minute yoga practice allows the rest of life to recede while you find yourself in some shapes, breathe, and feel. Don’t rush yourself or the poses. You gave yourself five minutes to come to your practice. Allow yourself to have them.

(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Come to kneeling on the mat. Bring your knees wide or together and allow your big toes to touch. Let your hips sink toward your heels as you lean your chest forward in Child’s Pose. Bring your arms alongside your body, palms up, and let your forehead rest on the mat. As you exhale, release your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Notice if you’re holding tension in your thighs, abs, or glutes, and release it. Take a long slow exhale out. Let your inhalations and exhalations fall into a steady rhythm.

When you’re ready, extend your arms alongside your ears and relax them. Pause here.

Keep your chest close to the mat as you slowly walk your hands to the left, keeping them shoulder-distance apart. Release your right shoulder toward the mat and draw your right hip toward the wall behind you. Stay here for several breaths. Let the shape hold you rather than you trying to hold the shape. Slowly walk your hands back through center and over to the right. Let your left shoulder be heavy. Be here and breathe.

Walk your arms back to center. Slowly rock your head ever so slightly from side to side, keeping your forehead on the mat.

+ 30 seconds If you can spare a little more time, bring your palms to touch in the center of the mat, bend your elbows, and bring your thumbs toward the back of your neck. Press your elbows down, draw your shoulder blades away from one another, and breathe into that space along your back that you created. Remain here as long as you like. When you’re ready, extend your arms once again in Child’s Pose.

(Photo: Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)


From Child’s Pose, engage your arms, reach through your palms, and draw yourself forward to hands and knees. Ground down through your first fingers and thumbs and draw your navel toward your spine. Move in any way that feels good here: Sway side to side, rock yourself slightly forward and back, make figure eights, come through Cat and Cow, or circle your hips back toward your right ankle and then over your left ankle before bringing your shoulders forward over your left wrist followed by your right wrist. Whatever feels good, do that.

Man performing a Downward-Facing Dog modification with bent knees
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

From Tabletop, inhale and tuck your toes, then exhale and press through your first fingers and thumbs as you lift your hips up and back to Down Dog. Keep your knees slightly bent and walk it out if you like. Let your breath be as slow and easy as it was in Child’s Pose. Lift your hips toward the place on the wall behind you where it meets the ceiling. Let your heels be heavy. Release your shoulders and let your head hang. Find stillness. Stay here and breathe.

Eventually, inhale and reach your right leg up and back into Three-Legged Dog. Pause and reach through your right heel. Keep pressing through both palms as you bend your right knee and stack your right hip over your left. Let your right foot hang back, almost as if you had started to come into Wild Thing and stopped, suspended above the mat. You’ll feel a stretch along your right side from your arm through your hip. Notice if your right shoulder lifts and, if so, lower it in line with your left. Stay still or circle your knee as if you’re drawing a circle on the ceiling, then reverse your circling. Straighten your right leg and come back to Three-Legged Dog.

Woman demonstrating Low Lunge
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

From Three-Legged Dog, exhale and quietly step your right foot forward and place it alongside your right hand. Linger here in a lunge with your back knee lifted. Press through your back heel and reach your head toward the wall in front of you, keeping your gaze down and lengthening through all sides of your neck.

Lower your back knee and untuck your back toes. Press through the top of your back foot and inhale as you lift your arms alongside your ears and bring your chest away from your hips in Low Lunge. Feel like you’re drawing your right heel toward the back of the mat without actually moving it.

Turn your palms to face away from you, sweep your arms down, and interlace your fingers behind your back. Keep lifting your chest as you reach your knuckles toward the wall behind you where it meets the floor and come into a slight backbend. Be careful not to collapse in your lower back. If it’s comfortable, tilt your neck slightly back. Breathe.

Exhale and release your hands to the mat on either side of your right foot.

+ 1 minute: Keep your back knee down, inch your right foot a little closer to the long side of the mat, and angle your toes slightly outward. Ground through the ball of your right foot as you lean your right knee way from you in Crooked or Twisted Monkey. Breathe and feel your way into whatever stretch you most need: You can press your right hand against your thigh, sink your left hip a little toward the mat to stretch your hip flexors, or if you prefer more of a backbend, sweep your right arm alongside your right ear, turn your palm to face the ceiling, and rotate your chest toward the ceiling. Stay here and breathe. Exhale and bring your hands to each side of your right foot. Lift your back knee.

+30 seconds: Stay in a runner’s lunge with your gaze down and reach through your back heel. Alternate bending and straightening your front knee. Keep drawing your hips toward the wall behind you.

Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia

Camatkarasana (Wild Thing)

From runner’s lunge, tuck your back toes and straighten your back leg. Inhale and reach your right leg behind you as if you were coming into Three-Legged Dog again but keep your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Start to shift your weight into your left hand and roll onto the outer edge of your left foot. Bend your right knee and, with as much ease and grace as you can muster, bring your right foot behind you onto the floor and sweep your right arm alongside your ear to come into Wild Thing. Press through the ball of your right foot, straighten your left leg, and lift your left hip as you lean your head slightly back. Stay here and breathe.

When you’re ready, slowly reverse your way out of Wild Thing by coming through Three-Legged Dog and back to Down Dog. You can pause here or, if you like, lower yourself to Child’s Pose. Stay here and breathe.

Repeat the sequence on your left side. If you have time for more than a 5-minute yoga practice, linger a little in each pose. After you’ve completed the sequence, try to pause for a few moments in Child’s Pose, Sukhasana (Easy Seat), or Savasana. Bring whatever found on your mat back with you to your situation.

About our contributor

Renee Marie Schettler is a senior editor at Yoga Journal. She began studying yoga in Manhattan with teachers who emphasized precise alignment. Her understanding of yoga expanded when she began to practice in Phoenix under teachers who believe the practice is less about how a pose looks and more about what happens when we surrender into a balance of effort and ease. Renee has been teaching yoga since 2017.