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When you’re juggling the demands of a career, a too-long to-do list, and squeezing in some semblance of a life outside of doing and accomplishing, it can seem impossible to find time to take yourself to the yoga studio or even commit to an online class. The irony about that? Making the time to come to your practice brings you the grounding, contentment, and knowing that you can deal with everything that’s creating your current struggle to make it to your mat.
Enter this 12-pose sequence. It’s short enough to manage in between meetings, while your little one is asleep, even before you start your day. Yet it’s comprehensive enough to open your chest and shoulders, strengthen your back, arms, and core muscles, and remind you to come back to your breath. Think of it as a physical and psychological reset.
A 30-minute yoga sequence for busy days
Take the sequence that follows at your pace. Don’t hesitate to reach for blocks and take a break. Meet yourself where they’re at rather than force yourself into submission—and then let that approach slip into the rest of your day.
Come onto your hands and knees. Separate your knees a little 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 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 a little more toward the front of your mat and lift your chest slightly and 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. Bring your hands back to center.
From Child’s Pose, 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. Root down through your knuckles and feel a lift 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. Stay in 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. Lift your navel towards your spine and firm your thigh muscles. Reach your heels toward the back of your mat.
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 down and ever so slightly forward; on each exhalation, move into Down Dog. Move with your breath and feel the strength in your arms, shoulders, and core.
From Plank Pose, slowly lower down to your belly. (It’s OK to come to your knees before lowering your chest.) Prop yourself up onto your forearms, and place your elbows under your shoulders so your forearms are parallel to one another. 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.
From Down Dog, walk your feet forward until they are hip-width apart 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’re feeling tight in the backs of your legs or if you feel any pulling on your low back, bend your knees. 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. Relax your neck.
To add a twist, bend your left knee and, keeping your left fingertips on the floor a little bit in front of you, and extend your right arm toward the ceiling. Open your shoulder and breathe across your chest. Release your right hand down and switch sides. After a few breaths here, come back to center and fold over your legs again.
From Standing Forward Bend, 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 and take your gaze straight out in front of you. Reach your arms up on a diagonal so your body looks like a “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 so your chest comes closer to your thighs. Repeat moving with the breath at least 5 times.
From Chair Pose, fall forward and come back to a Standing Forward Bend. On an inhalation, come onto your fingertips and step your left foot back and lower your knee. Bring your hands to your front thigh. Keep your hips and shoulders squared forward toward the front edge of the mat. Lift your chest to upright and extend your arms alongside your ears. Spread your fingers wide and reach your hands towards the ceiling.
To move into a side stretch, lean over to the right and bringing your right fingertips to the mat or a block. Reach your left arm up and over your ear, bending your elbow and reaching 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.
From Low Lunge, come to standing at the top of the mat. Step your right foot back and take a wide stance facing the right long side of the mat. Reach your arms straight out to shoulder height and take your feet as wide as your hands and come into Warrior II Pose with your left foot angled slightly in. On your inhalation, lift your chest and reach evenly through your arms; on an exhalation, consider bending your front knee a little more. Keep your front knee pointing toward the second toe of your right foot and stack your knee on top of your heel.
If you like, inhale and straighten your front leg, exhale and bend your knee to a 90 degree angle. Keep moving between these positions 5 times. Turn your feet in the exact opposite position so you’re in Warrior II facing the back of the mat and repeat on the second side.
Come back to Warrior II facing the front of the mat. Straighten your front leg and firm your thigh muscles. On an inhalation, lift your chest and lengthen through your back. On an exhalation, reach your left hand out over your left leg and let your hand land wherever it falls comfortably, likely on your shin or ankle or a block. Lean your upper body back slightly and broaden across your collar bones. Then, reach your right hand toward the ceiling and move into a side stretch here, rotating your upper arm bone deep in your shoulder socket until your right hand is facing the front edge of your mat.
If you like, extend your top arm arm over your ear reaching your fingers forward as far as you can. Ground down through the ball mound of your left big toe and root down through the outer edge of your back right foot. Take a few deep breaths here. On an inhalation, bend your front knee and root down through both feet and come back to standing. Switch your feet in the opposite direction to face the back of the mat and repeat on the second side.
Find Plank Pose. 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. Press down through your left hand and as you lean your body weight over to that hand, let both heels fall to the left. Press down evenly through your left hand and the side edges of both feet. Lift your hips up slightly and reach your right hand to the ceiling. Keep your gaze straight ahead. 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 right hand to the floor and repeat on the other side.
From Plank Pose, lower down to your belly. Extend your arms behind your back. 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. If you like, clasp your hands together. 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.
From lying on your belly, place your hands by the side of your chest and lift your chest. 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.