By Jillian Shea
It’s a myth that to be a true yogi you have to go to a studio where you take a guided class every week. To be a true yogi, you just need to take a few principles and techniques along with you wherever you go.
I was waking up every morning feeling motionless and uninspired. The process of getting from my bed to a boardroom was absolute torture.
Until I developed a five minute yoga routine.
Yes, it was yoga that put me in a better mood when I woke up.
It was yoga that helped me speak with more clarity and confidence when working with customers.
It was yoga that finally shook the migraines out of my head.
And it’s yoga, only five minutes of it, that can change your outlook on life too.
Step 1: How to Get Yourself Started
The first step is really about effort. And effort comes more easily when you have a problem that needs solving. Start by thinking about the problem you want to solve. It can be very simple.
Are you having trouble landing a sales deal? Is your back killing you? Do you have a toxic co-worker who seems to infect your psyche every day? Really focus on the problem you want to solve and decide on a mantra that counteracts it.
Problem: I can’t seem to land this deal.
Mantra: I will land this deal by Friday, I am great at what I do.
Problem: My back is killing me.
Mantra: I am strong and flexible and my back will heal.
Problem: I have a toxic co-worker.
Mantra: Others will not slow me down.
Start to pair a visual with the solution to your problem.
What does your problem look like once it’s solved? Maybe you’re shaking hands with the partner- you’ve finally landed that deal. Maybe you’re hiking a mountain and looking limber once that back gets on track. You’re smiling at your workplace because that toxic co-worker has finally gotten out of your head. Focus on the mental image of your solution.
When creating your own daily meditation, make your mantra simple. At first, it will feel strange to repeat a phrase over and over again. You’ll find that it starts to become meditative and rhythmic, close your eyes and try to really hold onto the meaning of every single word.
Start to visualize what it means to overcome your problem.
Step 1.5: Focused Attention Using Objects
Another way to achieve this form of focused attention meditation is to focus on a still object. Sit comfortably and breathe as you stare at any object. This requires you to have no distractions, so turn off your cell phone, alarms and television.
I find this form of the meditation as one of the best ways to wake up in the morning. Let’s face it, you’re probably already staring at the ceiling for a few minutes when you wake up. Adding a slight bit of intention goes a long way.
Once you’ve chosen your object, it’s not as simple as staring blankly at it like you do with your ceiling. Choose a smell, taste or sound to associate with it.
While you’re focusing on your object, start to think about only experiencing your smell, taste or sound. This is part of a process where you turn off what is commonly called your “monkey mind”. Training the monkey mind means tuning out distractions and giving your undivided attention to your chosen focus.
Using an object and a sensory experience is the perfect way to train yourself to focus. Overtime, you will be able to achieve a heightened level of focus without any objects.
Side note, I know meditation isn’t the stretch-based yoga that is typically expected. In truth, it’s the backbone of the process and makes every stretch more meaningful. Meditation, breathing and intention are essential components of yoga.
This first step only requires a minute or two of dedication. It’s a great way to train your brain to practice waking up with more intention. It will also make it easier for your new yoga practice to become part of your daily routine.
Step 2: Don’t Stop
With any process that is out of our regular routines, we’re eager to quit halfway in.
We have to get to work, put the dog out, eat something.
This was one of the hardest parts for me. It was difficult to ignore distractions and I kept feeling the need to do something else. Something more productive. It wasn’t until I trained myself that meditating and yoga for a few minutes would actually make me more effective that I was able to keep going.
This five-minute yoga may not require extreme skill, but it does require dedication. You cannot meditate for five minutes one day and instantly see migraines wash away.
Also, when you get into a healthy practice that you really enjoy, you’ll notice the way your brain goes into hyper focus mode. Allow these first two minutes to be a jumping off point into more lengthy sessions of meditation in the future.
If you’d like, make meditation your full 5-minute yoga practice. Work at making your short meditations more and more intentional. Let the short span of time turn into a super concentrated form of your most needed healing.
To put it bluntly, meditation will make you better at what you do. It isn’t a super power that gives you an unreal fast pitch but it will take out so much of the stress that you typically feed your brain.
When your brain isn’t feeding on the junk food of stress, it’s able to run more efficiently. Look at Karen Gifford who was able to turn her high pressure legal job into a more manageable practice with mediation.
See the way that even those who are incarcerated are alternating their mindset, lowering their rate of violent behavior and transforming their lives thanks to a steady meditation practice.
One simple practice will make all the difference, and having a consistent routine is the only way it can be truly effective. Keep going!
Step 3: Get to Stretching
Start from the top. Whether or not you have migraines, it’s great to start with “stretching” your head.
When you’re going into work everyday, you’re using your head. When you pick up your children from school, your head is spinning. When you have to pull off dinner, your head is scheduling a time and a place and a…you get the idea. Give your brain the moment it deserves with a few stretches that are designed to help migraines.
Downward dog is an easy pose that you can do in just about any space. If you have an open area to lay out, alternate with Upward Facing Dog for great relief. Add in a few simple bridge poses, twists and Savasana to help with any tension you’re holding in.
Move your way down to your neck and arms. Even if your arms don’t feel sore, they’re an essential part of your overall strength. Dolphin Plank Pose and Dolphin Pose will strengthen your arms and core. They’re also easy moves to do anywhere.
All of these stretches have multiple unstated benefits, too, like opening your hips and diaphragm. All of them will increase your overall flexibility.
See Step 5 on choosing your focus to find more involved stretches for areas of the body that need special attention. There are poses for every specific part of the body and any ailment you may be having.
Tip: Anytime you’re feeling sick, try to do a few simple yoga poses and breathing exercises to improve circulation. You’ll feel more invigorated despite being under the weather.
Step 4:Share the Wealth
If you find yourself immobile at work, like being confined to a desk, take a moment to close your eyes and do some gentle shoulder rolls and head rolls. This is simple stretching that turns into yoga when you combine them with meditation and breathing.
Meditate for a few minutes while you’re at work. If you want to do a focused object meditation, focus on something other than your computer screen (and your co-worker, you don’t want anyone giving you the crazy eye). Actually, if a co-worker notices, explain what you’re doing and encourage them to do the same. Afterall, having a good attitude at work isn’t always enough.
Having a whole team who is benefitting from yoga and meditation would really mean a happy workplace. Maybe you could create that positive change with a few simple shoulder rolls.
Step 5: Choose your Focus
Get to know which parts of your body feel less flexible. Is your back always aching at the end of the day? Does dropping a pen on the floor fill you with dread because bending over is impossible?
Getting to know your body’s weaknesses is where you should spend the last part of your routine. Find stretches that specifically nurture the part of the body you feel isn’t functioning at its best.
Go deeper than my legs hurt. Is the pain in your knees, in your calf, in your hips? Yoga is amazing for pinpointing specific areas. Relieving a specific area of pain contributes to your overall comfort.
Remember, this is just two minutes of your life. And remember those two minutes can offer your body a much-needed boost.
Step 6: Acknowledge your Progress
At the end of your first week of 5-minute yoga every day, sit down to write out how you felt during the week.
Did you see yourself react to a situation differently? Are you laughing more or feeling more clear about a previously confusing situation?
Write down all that you accomplished. Write a few one-word descriptions of how you felt all week. You can also do this after a practice. Maybe after meditating you felt frustrated. That will happen.
It’s good to acknowledge where you’re succeeding and where you feel stuck. Next week, start with one part of the practice that felt easy and transition into what was more difficult. Focus on making the difficult part more intentional, spend a little extra time with it. You may find that it’s easier this week.
It’s also important to observe that your back pain has eased up, or that your landed a deal with more confidence because this week may bring about new challenges. Your mantra may change, your focused stretching may differ. Maybe you purchased a new incense that you want to try during your focused meditation.
Let your simple routine evolve with you. It won’t be as meaningful if it’s another stagnant requirement. Keep the practice engaging and keep evaluating how it is helping you in different ways.
At the end of the day, 5-minute yoga is about progress and pause. It’s a more meaningful and beneficial way to break up your routine than, say, running out to get a Red Bull. Bringing a few minutes of yoga with you wherever you go will ultimately mean a better you.