by Cyndi Lee: “A complete yoga practice involves
forward bending, twisting, backward bending, side bending, inverting, breath awareness, resting and meditation. This can be accomplished in five minutes.”
How often do you feel like you just do not have enough time in the day? The condition of having too little time has practically become an epidemic among my group of friends. We rush in late to dinners with each other and are relieved when the other person arrives even later. We all tend to be stressed about how much activity we cram into a day, and then waste more time comparing notes about the demands on our time. We come to the conclusion that there never seems to be enough.
Never enough time, that is, until you go down to the Caribbean islands. The folks there have plenty of time. In fact, they have a thing called “island time.” We city folks might call it being late, or not getting things done in a timely fashion, but people do show up, things do get done and there seems to be a whole lot less concern about when.
My observation is that there is a direct relationship that goes like this: thinking about what has to happen in the future equals less time available; moving slowly and mindfully now equals more time. Well-known yoga teacher Judith Lasater likes to point out in her restorative yoga workshops that we all have the same amount of time. Some of us might have more stuff we want to squish into our calendars but we each have the same allotment of 24 hours daily as the next person.
As a yoga teacher I have the frequent delight of people telling me about their positive yoga experiences. I also hear the reasons why people want to do yoga, why they keep meaning to do yoga, but why they just can’t find the time. Where did that time go? How did we lose it? Let’s face it: the time is still there, but it is filled with other things.
Gehlek Rinpoche often says there are two kinds of laziness: Eastern laziness, which takes the form of people sitting on a cushion with a cup of tea all day, and the Western form, which manifests as people being way too busy all the time.
That’s why I like yoga. It’s not only a great multitasking activity for us busy types—physical workout, meditation, cardiovascular enhancement and emotional processing all in one—but it creates time. I cannot prove this scientifically, but I know it’s true. Meditation has sometimes been described as a “gathering of energy,” and that’s what happens during yoga practice too. Even if you do not have training in mindfulness practice, the yogic activities of opening the hips or balancing on one leg are so challenging that it cuts through scattered thoughts by redirecting your attention—your mind naturally comes into focus.
Mind and body are a great team in this way. If you tend to start thinking about the future, which as we’ve discovered can make us feel anxious and pressed for time, the sensations in the back of your legs will bring you back to now. If you’re working on a standing balance and your mind strays, you’ll probably just fall over. These yoga wake-up calls bring you back to the present, where there is more space and time than in our typical future-planning mind.
Then this time begins to stretch.
Beloved meditation teacher Dipa Ma had many meditation students who were householders. She advised one very active businesswoman/mother, who said she didn’t have time to practice meditation, to simply begin with five minutes a day. The woman reported that after meeting Dipa Ma, she somehow managed to find that small amount of time after all, and the positive experience of those five minutes evolved effortlessly into longer and longer amounts of practice.
For almost everyone, the thought of an hour-and-a-half yoga session is daunting. But how about five minutes? Think of how many things you do that take five minutes, and how many of them you don’t need to do today or ever again, such as gossiping, reviewing the contents of the refrigerator or looking in the mirror.
A complete yoga practice involves the following: forward bending, twisting, backward bending, side bending, inverting, breath awareness, resting and meditation. This can be accomplished in five minutes. Once you do this yoga program a few times, I can almost guarantee that it will be less difficult to find a spare five minutes than it was before. If you still don’t think you have five minutes, just pick one of the things on the list above, and do that for five breaths. (Hey, you can even do the last two in bed!) Then later in the day, do another one. By the end of the day you will have done a complete yoga program. Who knows? Maybe those five breaths will evolve into ten breaths, which is about one minute, and then that minute will turn into five. Only time will tell.
Begin your five-minute yoga session by sitting comfortably, either on a cushion or even two, or on a chair. Close your eyes and take five full breaths, in and out, through your nose. Watch the path of the breath as it goes all the way down to your groin, and then back up and out of your nostrils.
1. Downward Dog. This pose will strengthen your arms and legs, lengthen your spine and relieve tightness in the back of your legs, shoulders and neck. Even though it is not a full headstand, your head is still lower than your hips, so the pose can be considered an inversion.
2. Hand-walking meditation into forward bend. Slowly, sensuously, walk your hands back to your feet from Downward Dog. It’s fine to bend your knees at any point. Notice how your weight shifts from four supports to just two. When you get all the way to the back of your mat hold onto your elbows to help the spine pour out of the legs even more.
3. Standing Cat and Standing Cow (forward and backward bends). Place your hands just above your knees and roll up halfway. On the inhale, drop your spine, lift your sitting bones and your chest. On the exhale, reverse the curve, lifting your navel up as you drop your head and tuck your pelvis. Repeat this at least five times.
4. Walking meditation. After your last spinal curve, round all the way up to standing. Hug your left thumb with your left fingers, and then wrap your right hand around that. Place your hands just below your navel, and rest your gaze on the floor about six feet in front of you. Slowly walk to the front of your mat or practice space. Let the texture of your feet on the floor wake you up.
5. Reverse Warrior. Step your feet about four feet apart. Turn your right toes out and your left toes in slightly. Bend your right leg and extend your arms out. Slide your left hand down your left thigh and reach your right arm up into Reverse Warrior.
6. Dancer Pose. You can do this with your leg lower than in this photograph, and you can also do it with your extended arm on a chair or on the wall.
7. Standing Twist with knee bent. You can also do this with one hand on a chair or on the wall.
Do poses five through seven for three to five breaths, and then do them on the other side. After you’re through, lay down on your back, close your eyes and rest for thirty to sixty seconds.