Living in NYC, busyness is ubiquitous. Everything moves at a quick pace and everyone has packed schedules (or a least says they do), bouncing around from one place or task to the next. But this frenetic lifestyle can be detrimental to mental health, leading to increased levels of stress and fatigue and decreased levels of happiness and relationships. ‘Downtime’ is considered a break from being busy— a hiatus from the more physically and mentally demanding tasks. Brain downtime like meditation and yoga has shown to increase creativity, productivity, attention, and motivation. So for optimal performance, we should be scheduling in some downtime tasks like a 'movement break' to boost physical, mental, and emotional states.
Busy bodies usually need some TLC in target areas such as the jaw, neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, and mind. By slowing down and moving mindfully, you’ll get present, refreshed, and ready to more efficiently tackle that next task. Connecting the breath with the body, this quick sequence of yoga poses will stretch and tone to reverse negative effects of work-related stress.
Let’s begin in an easy pose to melt stress away…
Child’s Pose + Yogi’s Breath
Child’s pose is a great way to start your quick practice since it’s grounding, introspective, and calming. This pose will help set a solid foundation mentally for the rest of your practice as you bring your attention to the present and let go of anything else. Stay here for about 1 minute, soaking in all of the relaxing properties and gentle stretch of this pose. Remember to loosen the jaw from clenching, letting tension from the day dissolve.
Tune into your breath with a slow deep inhale followed by a slow deep exhale. Remain aware of your breath and keep with this yogi breath throughout the rest of the sequence. Slow controlled breathing has the ability to lower stress levels even further and this meditative state will help let go of any distractions or stressors from the day.
Target areas: Hips, Shoulders, Lower Back, Knees, Mind, Nervous System
Cat // Cow
Transitioning through Cat & Cow Poses should feel great for those used to sitting at a desk all day. These poses help to relieve the pain associated with “tech neck”. Make sure to align shoulders right above wrists, and hips right above knees. Keep flowing through the two poses for about 10 rounds.
Target areas: Chest, Shoulders, Neck, Wrists, Upper back
Downward Dog // Down Dog Split
Downward Dog Pose is considered an inversion and it is great for centering the mind and for energizing and rejuvenating the whole body. Spread the fingers wide to activate the hands and release any tension. Stay in Downward Dog for about 10 deep breaths before lifting one leg towards the sky with the foot flexed into Down Dog Split (aka 3-Legged Dog). These poses will gently strengthen and stretch the shoulders, arms, wrists, calves, hamstrings, ankles, back, and neck.
Target areas: Entire Body
Low Lunge // Low Lunge Twist
On an inhale in Low Lunge, lift the arms up overhead and find length through the side-body. Let the hips naturally gravitate towards the ground to open deeper through the hip flexor.
To enter the rejuvenating spinal twist, use an exhale to guide your torso open to the right side. Hook the left hand to outside of the right knee and reach the right arm back behind you as you gently gaze past the right fingertips. Stay here for about 6 deep rounds of breath.
Target areas: Back, abdomen, hips
High Lunge (interlacing hands behind back)
From High Lunge (aka Crescent Lunge), interlace the hands behind the back and reach the hands down then away from the body. As the shoulders and chest open, work on letting the shoulders relax downwards (away from the ears) and gaze slightly upwards. This pose is an ultimate counter to sitting in a chair all day as it strengthens the legs while stretching the shoulders and hips.
Target areas: Shoulders, chest, back, hips, legs
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Wide Legged Forward Fold gently stretches the back as you find length from the base of the spine and the crown of the head extends towards the ground. This action will also help relax the neck and the pose will provide a hamstring and back stretch. Hold here, deeply inhaling and exhaling for about 10 rounds of breath.
Target areas: Legs, hips, back, neck
Remember to repeat direction-specific poses on both sides. Feel free to end your practice in a bound angle savasana (as shown in title image) by simply bringing the soles of the feet to touch, letting the knees splay open, and lying back for the few last moments of bliss to soak in your practice benefits. And if you happen to have more than 5 minutes, try this guided 15 minute yoga flow crafted specifically for busy people. Your body and mind will thank you— happy practicing!
Extra Reading & Interesting Info:
You would be better off taking a break for health reasons, and chances are you actually do have the time to practice yoga for 5 minutes. One of the most common excuses from people that want to practice yoga but can’t is, “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time”. Interestingly though, research suggests that we aren’t always as busy as we claim. The fact that we tend to perpetuate busyness even when we’re not is partly due to appearance. In the U.S., busyness has come to be viewed as a status symbol because time holds value (i.e., "time is money"). If an individual is in demand with less available time, that seemingly affects their significance with higher perceived busyness equating to higher perceived importance. In other words, without even knowing it, we have a tendency to try to portray ourselves as being busier to subconsciously (and in some cases consciously) seem more important. So hone your philosophical yoga practice by laying down the ego and take that break for a little self-care.