by Steph Creaturo
Do you ever sit on your yoga mat at home or in the gym and wonder what to do next? Or, not have time for a 60 or 90 minute class, but want to practice with the limited time you do have?
I’m with you. As modern life places demands on my time, some days I just can’t practice for longer than a few minutes. And I’ve come to believe a few minutes of yoga – getting centered, breathing, connecting to my body and heart – are better than nothing at all.
Today I’m sharing the five poses I go back to again and again when I only have a few moments to step on my mat.
Plank: I always – always – do plank. If I had to pick one active pose to do every day, it would be plank. One of the best bang for your buck poses. Plank strengthens the core, the shoulders, legs and arms, and your mental focus. It is very easy to know if you are doing plank “wrong” as something will sound the warning alarm, most likely your wrists or low back.
For more of a challenge, drop to your forearms. Or, go to forearms if you have wrist stuff. Put those knees on the floor if you’re just learning the pose.
Warrior 2: Warrior 2 creates a platform for most of the standing poses. It trains the front thighbone to externally rotate at the hip joint and the back leg to anchor a pose. The inner thigh muscles stretch, and the arms are thrown into the mix because they’re forced to work them against gravity.
Warrior 2 also introduces our bodies to the concept of being – and moving – in three-dimensions. And since our life doesn’t happen in one-dimensions, neither should our yoga practice.
Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose: The most common gateway to therapeutic yoga, reclined hand-to-big-toe pose is the control-alt-delete for the low back. It resets misalignments and provides relief from back and hip pain with consistent practice. It’s also great for athletes because it can help unstick that gnarly corridor of the outer leg along the IT band. (You know what gnarly feels like if you’ve ever had IT band stuff. And if you haven’t, I hope you never know what gnarly feels like.) Use a strap – even if you can reach your big toe, it feels lovely to elongate the arms and work a bit less.
Locust Pose: The ultimate back body strengthener! There are also so many different and cool ways to change the arms and legs in Locust pose. This pose has the same versatility on your yoga mat that olive oil has in your kitchen. These days, I like working my arms out to the sides of my body in the shape of a goalpost.
Seated Twist: Maybe my favorite pose these days. A seated twist is the control – alt – delete for my brain. It is grounding and uplifting at the same time. It opens the outer hips and shoulders, and nothing feels quite as good as a long, deep twist.
Bonus Sequence: Here’s one that’s super easy to practice at home. Hold everything for three to five breaths:
1. Start with reclined hand to big toe pose with a strap. Do both sides.
2. Pull your knees into your chest, rock along the length of your spine. Rock up to plank pose.
3. Lower from plank to locus pose.
4. Push back to plank (or half plank)
5. Step to Warrior 2 (yep, from plank, just sneaking in a little core work). Do both sides, either by pivoting your feet or through plank.
6. Transition back to plank and lower to locus pose again.
7. From locus pose, push to half-plank, and then tuck your legs into a seated twist.
8. No matter how busy I am, or if I just do one plank on my yoga mat, I always end with an easy seat and a few mindful breaths.
Even if it is one breath with my eyes closed, it connects me to the intention behind the practice, even as the realities of daily life beckon. Sometimes it’s that one mindful breath that makes all the difference in how I move throughout my day!