Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
I am married with a toddler and another one on the way. An hour-long yoga flow is, frankly, a luxury.
I’m not alone. Most of us have only 20 or maybe 30 minutes to come to the mat on any given day. Because so many of us assume it takes a full hour to do a “complete” flow, we don’t even bother on those busy days when we need yoga the most.
Yet when I come to my mat for even a few minutes, it makes a huge difference. What if more of us came to our mats more often, if even for less time than we think we should? Let’s debunk the myth that you need a certain amount of time to practice yoga. We might even find that a 15-minute yoga flow is sufficient—it is for me.
See also: More 15-Minute Yoga Flows
A 15-minute yoga flow you can do anytime
Why you need it: Your brain works on association. Even the simple act of sitting down on your mat signals your brain and nervous system that it’s time to relax.
How to: Sit on your mat or a folded blanket. Cross your legs with your right shin in front of your left, stacking your knees over your ankles. As you inhale, reach your arms up to the ceiling and on an exhale fold over your legs. You may place your forehead on a block, the floor, or make a pillow with stacked fists. Hold for 5 full breaths. Come back up to sitting and switch sides.
Marjaryasana–Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose)
Why you need it: Having to coordinate movement with breath is a quick way to pull your awareness into the moment. This is also a fabulous sequence to warm up your spine.
How to: From sitting, come to your hands and knees in Tabletop. As you inhale, lift your sternum and open your front body into Cow. On your exhale, press your palms into the floor and round your spine in Cat. Repeat as desired.
Why you need it: If I could only do one pose per day, this would be it. Now, Downward-Facing Dog isn’t restful for everybody, so if that’s the case for you, it’s worth figuring out which pose would be that “one pose a day” pose for you.
How to: From hands and knees, curl your toes under, lift your knees off the ground, and press your thighs back, coming into Downward-Facing Dog. Straighten your upper arms and draw them toward your ears. Keep your spine long. This might mean you keep a bend in your knees rather than maintain straight legs, and that’s perfectly fine. Look between your feet and keep the back of your neck long. Stay for 10 breaths. Since we’re only here for a short amount of time, feel free to “mindfully fidget,” pedaling your legs or undulating your spine. Let your body move you. After your last breath, walk your feet to your hands at the front of your mat and come up to standing.
Why you need it: Even one round of Sun A can help you feel better as it gets you moving and breathing. The juxtaposition of opposing movements within the sequence—going between backbends and flat back and forward bends—makes this a full-body experience.
How to: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the top of your mat. On an inhalation, reach your arms up and overhead into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute). On an exhalation, bend forward and place your palms by your feet or on your outer shins in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). On an inhalation, reach your chest forward and lift halfway into Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend). On an exhalation, either step back to Plank Pose and lower halfway into Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) or jump back into Chaturanga Dandasana. Inhale and lift your chest and reach back through your legs into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose). On an exhalation, lift your hips up and back to Downward-Facing Dog for five breaths. At the end of your fifth breath, hop or step to the top of your mat. Inhale into Ardha Uttanasana. Exhale into Uttanasana. On your inhale, lift your torso coming through Utthita Hastasana and exhale your arms by your sides, back to Tadasana. Take as many rounds as you desire, depending on the time you have.
Why you need it: Our days are often spent rounded forward. This is the result of gravity as well as working on devices and spending large amounts of time sedentary and sitting. Backbends are not only naturally energizing, but they help retrain your upper chest to open and strengthen your back.
How to: Come onto your back. Separate your feet hip-width and align your knees above your ankles. On an inhale, lift your hips up. Roll your arms underneath you, until you are on your outer upper arms. Either interlace your fingers beneath you or grab the edges of your mat. You can also hold a strap. Press the back of your head gently into the floor, keeping your chin parallel to your chest. Take 8 breaths. Unclasp your hands and lower down slowly one vertebra at a time. Feel free to repeat, depending on your time constraints.
Why you need it: Twists are often thought of as the great neutralizer. They are believed to reset the spine and bring your body back into balance after any extreme movement, including backbends. On an energetic level, there can be a sense of wringing yourself out, as you would a dishcloth.
How to: Still on your back, pull your knees toward your chest or keep your feet resting on the mat. As you exhale, lower your knees over to the right, turning your head toward the left. Your arms can be wide like a “T” or bent like a cactus. Hold on this side for five breaths. Return your knees to center and on an exhale, twist the opposite way. Please note that if you are pregnant or dealing with lower back pain, keeping your feet and knees apart may be a helpful way to accommodate your body.
Why you need it: It integrates your entire practice physically and resets you psychologically, as well. Of course, you could always do Savasana for the entire 15 minutes and that would be a phenomenal practice.
How to: Lie on your back. Extend your legs out to straight or keep your knees bent and feet on the floor. Release your arms by your sides. Turn your upper arms, gently tucking your shoulders underneath you, so your palms face skyward. If it feels safe, cover your eyes with a towel or eye pillow. Wiggle around until you feel fully settled. Take a deep breath in and out. Simply rest. Just because it’s a shorter practice does not mean you need to feel rushed in this shape. Stay here for anywhere from three to seven minutes. If you are worried about the time, feel free to set a timer. Or let your body tell you when it is ready to come up.
Inhale your arms overhead and reach through your legs. Pull your knees in and pause. Roll to your side and slowly come to Easy Seat. Return to sitting in Sukhasana and observe that while outwardly, it may not appear as though much has changed, although inwardly a whole lot has, even in a relatively short amount of time.
About our contributor
Sarah Ezrin is an author, world-renowned yoga educator, popular Instagram influencer, and mama based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her willingness to be unabashedly honest and vulnerable along with her innate wisdom make her writing, yoga classes, and social media great sources of healing and inner peace for many people. Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love one person at a time. You can follow her on Instagram at @sarahezrinyoga and TikTok at @sarahezrin.