It would sure be lovely if you had two hours a day to practice yoga, but in this fast-paced world, you’re lucky if you can snag a minute in Downward-Facing Dog on some days. Author Gretchen Rubin says “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while,” so in that spirit, here is a short and efficient yoga sequence that you can do at home (or anywhere) when you don’t have time for a full practice. This practice is particularly efficient because it targets full range of motion of the spine, shoulders, and hips, while using your attention to breath to balance your equilibrium—all in just five minutes!
Read the descriptions of each pose below, and then move along with the video to help you keep track of the time. Once you’ve memorized the sequence, you can do it anywhere, at any time.
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable cross -legged position while you begin one minute of Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing. This breath practice quickly and effectively calms your nervous system and reduces stress. Traditionally, it is practiced with the Vishnu Mudra (the first two fingers are curled in, with your thumb, ring, and pinky finger extended) to alternate the closing of each nostril.
- Start by exhaling everything out through both nostrils, then inhale just through the right side and exhale through the left.
- Then inhale through the left and exhale through the right. An easy way to remember when to switch nostrils is by only switching when you are full of breath at the top of your inhalation.
- Practice this breathing in a slow and steady manner for one minute.
- Come to your hands and knees while pressing firmly into your fingertips.
- As you move through about five rounds of Cat and Cow, focus on the way your pelvis rocks back and forth. This action helps to loosen the muscles and attachments around the low back, which will help your posture and gait as you move throughout your day.
- Inhale as your belly drops and your shoulders draw back, then exhale as you round your spine and push your hands away from the floor.
Cat and Cow Poses will prepare you for Downward-Facing Dog Pose. A partial inversion, this pose is very rejuvenating for the mind. Physically, it will open up your chest, shoulders, and back, and strengthen and lengthen the backs of your legs.
- Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor and push your hips back.
- Press your heels into the floor and your fingers actively into the floor, straightening your arms and legs.
- Keep your head between your arms.
- Take five slow and mindful breaths to bring great harmony to your entire system.
This two-part lunge sequence will open your hips and shoulders, while simultaneously backbending and twisting the spine.
- From Downward Facing Dog, start by stepping your right foot forward and lowering down to the back knee.
- Come upright and take Eagle Arms, with the right arm under left.
- Lift your elbows and press them away from your chest to open up the upper back.
- Take three or four deep breaths and then release your arms, bring your hands back down to the floor.
- From your low lunge, lift your back knee off the ground into a more active lunge position.
- Keep your left hand down and reach your right hand up to the sky. Try bending your top arm a little bit so you can feel your shoulder blade slide onto the back body, and then curl back as you twist.
- Take three breaths, and then release your hands back down to the floor.
- Step back to Downward-Facing Dog Pose and repeat on the other side.
- After you take the Lunge Twist on the second side, step your back foot forward to a Forward Bend.
- With your feet hip-width apart, allow your knees to bend so you can decompress and lengthen your spine.
- Let your head be heavy.
- Reach your hand behind your back, and clasp them together without locking your elbows.
- Squeeze your palms together and take them away from your sacrum toward the ceiling or the front of your mat.
- If your shoulders are too tight to clasp the hands together, try holding a strap or towel between your hands to increase your mobility.
- Take a few breaths here and then release your hands back down.
- From your Forward Fold, simply widen your feet slightly and turn your toes out to a 45-degree angle.
- Sit down into a squat with your heels grounded. If your heels lift up as you squat down, widen your feet and bring your hands to your thighs.
- Take a breath or two here, and then open your chest and side-body by taking a few breaths in a variation on Garland Pose.
- Place one hand down, with the arm pressing the thigh open as you reach the other arm skyward.
- Take a few breaths as your reach, and then switch sides.
When you finish, bring your hands together in prayer, and smile! You just did something beneficial for yourself, and likely everyone you encounter from this point forward in your day. In just five minutes, you have contributed to a healthy habit that can quickly shift your body, mind, and attitude.