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Whether you’re a busy professional juggling a too-long to-do list, a mom who regularly plows through your days without a break, or both (like me!), it’s probably tough to find time to make it to a yoga class, the gym, or even out for a simple walk around the block. And, as you know, exercise is so helpful when it comes to feeling more grounded, stronger, happier, and better equipped to deal with all of life’s ups and downs.
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Enter this simple, 12-pose sequence, which I designed to fit into any 30-minute window. If your child is at an age where he or she is still napping, this practice can help you get just what you need while your little one is asleep. Planning on eating lunch at your desk while you work? Find an empty conference room at the office and for the first half of your lunch hour, run through this sequence. These postures will help you open your chest and shoulders, strengthen your back, arms, and core muscles, and move with your breath, giving you an all-over physical and mental re-set.
Child’s Pose, variation
Come onto your hands and knees on your mat. Separate your knees a little bit wider then your hips and bring your toes together. Gently draw your hips to your heels, resting your forehead on the mat extend your arms out in front of you and let your elbows rest on the floor. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths here. As you settle into the space and into your breath, take a moment to tune into gratitude for yourself for taking this time for you and your practice. Walk your hands towards the front of your mat and lifting your chest up slightly, start to walk your hands to the right side of your mat. If 12 o’clock is straight in front of you, try walking your hands towards 2 o’clock. Take a few breaths here, then lift your chest up slightly and walk your hands to the left side of the mat, towards 10 o’clock. Take the same amount of breaths on this side, feeling the expansion of your side body. Mindfully walk your hands back to center, back to Child’s pose.
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Come onto your hands and knees and take your hands one full hand print in front of your shoulders, lining up your hands so they are shoulder-width distance. (If you are tighter in your shoulders, you can take your hands a bit wider and even turn them out slightly, toward the edges of your mat.) Spread your fingers wide apart. Root down through the whole of each hand and feel a lift rising through your arms. With your knees and feet hip-width distance apart, tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back. Ideally, Down Dog will look like an inverted V position, but if you are tighter in your hamstrings, you will want to keep your knees slightly bent. Push your palms down and forward and feel your shoulders lifting up and back toward your hips. Hold this pose for a minute or so. Feel free to peddle your legs, bending one knee and straightening the opposite leg a few times back and forth to warm up your hamstrings and calf muscles.
From Down Dog, shift your shoulders forward so they stack directly on top of your wrists. Keep your torso parallel to the floor. Lift your navel towards your spine and lift your chin slightly so you are looking toward the front edge of your mat. Firm your thigh muscles and as your heart reaches forward, extend your heels toward the back of your mat.
Down Dog to Plank Pose
Moving with the breath, shift back and forth between Down Dog and Plank Pose. On each inhalation, move into Plank, remembering to shift your gaze slightly forward; on each exhalation, move into Downward-Facing Dog. Move with your breath and feel the strength in your arms, shoulders, and core.
Sphynx Pose to Cobra
From Plank Pose, slowly lower down to your belly. (It’s OK to come to your knees on your way down if needed.) Prop yourself up onto your forearms, and place your elbows under your shoulders so your forearms are in two straight, parallel lines, shoulder-width distance apart. Plant your palms face down, spread your fingers, and root down from your finger tips to your elbows, feeling your forearms grounding down into your mat. Keep your feet and legs hip-distance apart and root down with all parts of your body that are in contact with the floor: hips, toes, elbows, and hands. Feel the engagement of the muscles that lengthen your spine, and see if you can now lift your heart a bit higher. After a few deep breaths here, lower your chest down, shift your hands back by the sides of your chest, and lift up and back to Down Dog.
Standing Forward Fold, variation
Walk your feet forward from Down Dog until they are hip-width distance at the front of the mat. Fold forward over your legs. Look at your feet and line them up so the inner edges of your feet are two straight, parallel lines. If you are feeling tight in the backs of your legs or if you feel any pulling on your low back, bend your knees, but make sure to keep your knees hip-distance apart. Allow your upper body to hang down over your legs and sway a little side to side, moving with your breath. You can place your fingertips on the floor or hold onto opposite elbows here. To add a twist here, bend your left knee and, keeping your left fingertips on the floor a little bit in front of you, extend your right hand up to the ceiling. Open your shoulder and breathe across your chest. Release your right hand down and move to the second side. After a few breaths here, come back to center and fold over your legs again.
Modified Chair Pose
Keep your feet and knees hip-width distance apart and start to bend your knees, shifting more of your weight toward your heels. Lift your chest up and take your gaze straight out in front of you. Then, extend your arms up on a diagonal so your body looks like a capital Z. Moving with the breath, keep your knees bent, as if you’re continuing to sit on a chair. On an inhalation, lift your arms and chest a little higher; on an exhalation, swing your arms back and down by your sides. Repeat this movement with breath at least 5 times.
Low Lunge with cactus arms
Start in a forward fold at the top of your mat. On an inhalation, rise up onto your finger tips and step your left foot to the back edge of your mat. Place your knee to the floor and lunge forward into your front knee. Walk your hands onto your front thigh. Keep your hips and shoulders squared forward toward the front edge of your mat. Lift your torso so that it’s in an upright, vertical position and then extend your arms over head. Spread your fingers wide and reach your hands towards the ceiling. Moving to a side stretch in this low lunge, start to lean over to the right extending your right hand towards the floor. If you can’t touch the floor, place your elbow onto your knee or place your right hand onto a block on the outside of your right leg. Reach your left arm up and over your ear, extending your left fingertips toward the right side of the room. Lift your chin slightly and keep your gaze and jaw soft. Take a few breaths here and then come back to center before moving on to the second side.
Front the top of your mat, take a wide stance so that you are facing the side edge of your mat. Reach your arms out to shoulder height and take your feet as wide as your hands. Rotate your right leg out 90 degrees and rotate your left foot in about 10 to 15 degrees. On your inhalation, lift your chest up and extend out evenly through your arms; on an exhalation, bend your right knee to a 90 degree angle. Keep the center of your right knee pointing toward the second toe of your right foot and stack your knee on top of your heel. Move back and forth between these two positions. Inhale to straighten your front leg, exhale to bend your knee to a 90 degree angle. Do this 5 times, then rotate your feet in the exact opposite position and repeat on the second side.
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Start with the same foot position that you had in Warrior II. Keep both legs straight and firm your thigh muscles. On an inhalation, lift your chest up. On an exhalation, reach your right hand out over your right leg and let your hand land wherever it falls comfortably, likely on your shin or ankle. If you tend to hyperextend your knees, place a block just outside your right leg and push your hand into the block. Lean your upper body back slightly and broaden across your collar bones. Then, reach your left hand high toward the ceiling and moving into a side stretch here, rotating your upper arm bone deep in your shoulder socket until your left hand is facing the front edge of your mat. Extend your arm over your ear reaching your fingers forward as far as you can. Ground down through the ball mound of your right big toe and root down through the outer edge of your back foot. Take a few deep breaths here. On an inhalation, bend your front knee and root down through both feet to come out of the posture. Switch your feet in the opposite direction and try the second side.
Find Plank Pose again. Look at your hands and make sure your fingers are spread wide apart and the creases of your wrists are parallel to the front edge of your mat. Look at your feet and line them up so they are slightly wider then hip-distance apart. Root down through your right hand and as you lean your body weight over to your right hand, let both heels fall to the right side. Press down evenly through your right hand and the side edges of both feet. Lift your hips up slightly and reach your left hand to the ceiling. Keep your gaze to the side wall and if you have no neck issues, lift your gaze toward your top hand. If this feels easy, see if you can stack your left foot on top of your right. Draw your navel toward your spine and feel strength in your arms, legs, and core. With control, lower your left hand to the floor and repeat on the second side.
Locust Pose, variation
From Plank Pose, lower down to your belly. Extend your arms behind your back and clasp your hands together. If this is difficult, place a strap or a towel between your hands. On an inhalation, lift your chest and legs up, push your hips into the floor, and take your gaze slightly forward without crunching your neck. Reach your knuckles towards your heels and lift your arms up slightly. Hold here for 5 breaths, and release this effort on an exhalation. Rest your ear to one side with your arms by your sides, then repeat twice more.
To return to Child’s pose, place your hands by the side of your chest and lift up so you’re on your hands and knees. Take your knees a little wider then hip-distance apart and bring your toes together. Draw your hips back toward your heels and let your forehead rest on the floor. Either keep your arms extended in front of you with your elbows resting down on your mat or bring your arms back by your sides. If it feels like your nose is smooshing into the mat, bring your knees a little closer together. Take 5 deep breaths here, feeling a moment of gratitude for yourself and your practice today.
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