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Why 5 Minutes of Yoga a Day Will Change Your Outlook on Life

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Boat Pose and Bridge Pose are great beginner stretches for your abdomen.

Bound Angle Pose and Chair Pose are basic stretches that will help your legs.

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.

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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.

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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.

Photo credits

https://stocksnap.io/photo/6PLYAXTB8D - Peter Lobozzo on Stock Snap
https://unsplash.com/search/yoga - Matthew Kane on unsplash
https://unsplash.com/photos/uT0PkbAM8kg - Christopher Allison on unsplash
https://stocksnap.io/photo/VQXYE2ZEHC - Startup Stock Photos on Stock Snap
https://stocksnap.io/photo/AVMRON1NHS - Austin Neill on Stock Snap
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15 Ways to Feel as Good All Day as You Do During Yoga

Written by Shay Sinclair | @shaysinclair

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If you’re like most people, your yoga practice is one of the high points in your day.

Even when you’re juggling groceries and work and what to make for dinner, even when you struggle to let go of the day and surrender to your practice, you probably finish with a feeling of grounded peace which seemed impossible when you began.

There doesn’t need to be a barrier between your life and your yoga practice.

After a decade as a yogi, I chose to deepen my practice in an effort to chase that post-yoga high. Instead, I found that I could only achieve my goals through re-working my life.

It wasn’t difficult, and it didn’t have a high cost in time or money. (I’ve spent $100 on this project, not including food, but you can start with what you already own.)

Here’s how I did it, and how you can too.

1. Build a meditation space

Creating a meditation space makes room for mindfulness in your home and your life.

All it takes is an empty corner, somewhere to sit, and objects of delight for each of your senses.

For example, my meditation space consists of:

  • A zafu (a round Japanese buckwheat meditation pillow; you can use whatever works best for you)
  • A low table for my meditation objects
  • An African violet
  • Chimes (for the sense of hearing)
  • An aromatherapy diffuser (for the sense of smell; you can use incense or a scented candle)
  • Candles (for focus and the sense of sight)
  • Gemstone meditation beads I strung myself (for the sense of touch)
  • A screen I can put up around my space whenever I feel the need

After meditation, I also treat myself to tea as a gift to my sense of taste.

Not including tea, the set-up cost me under $100. Considering I use my space daily, it was well worth the investment.

However, it’s completely possible to set up a meditation space with what you already have to hand. Consider starting with nothing but a tea light, a bedside table, and an ordinary pillow. Add objects you already own to cultivate a sense of pleasure and peace.

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2. …And then meditate!

It’s so easy to begin with good intentions, then fail to follow through. Although having the physical space to meditate encourages action, you have to make a choice every day to embrace meditation’s benefits and gifts.

Part of the problem is sometimes finding the style of meditation which suits your spirit most.

Trāṭaka, or gazing meditation, is a good place to start if you’ve never tried before. One of the most traditional forms of meditation, it consists of gazing at an image or object (I like using candles) for an extended period before closing your eyes and continuing to hold the picture in your mind.

However, there are hundreds of meditation traditions to learn from if trāṭaka doesn’t work for you. Ask at your yoga studio; they may offer classes, or know of somewhere which does. (Meditation classes are particularly helpful if you struggle with an attention disorder, as your teacher will be able to offer personalised advice.)

For parents or anyone else who finds it difficult to incorporate meditation into their busy life, consider these tips:

  • Find “empty” moments in your life and utilize them. For some people it will be their drive to work, while others might only ever be alone for a five-minute shower every day. Work within your life, not against it. Speak with an instructor to help adapt meditation to your needs.
  • If you have older children or teenagers, invite them into your meditation practice. Help them create their own meditation spaces with their own unique mindfulness By opening your practice to them, they may be more understanding of your space.
  • Remember that meditation is a crucial part of your life. Own it, and feel no shame for these moments you “spend” on yourself.
  • However, if you’ve tried and failed to find the time to meditate, don’t hesitate to put it aside for now. It will be there to return to when you can. Focus instead on mindfulness and other practices which decrease stress in your life instead of adding to it.

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3. Stay mindful

Mindfulness is a lifelong practice and a daily choice. Think of the soft focus you reach towards during yoga practice, then try to cultivate that from moment to moment.

One option is to designate something you do regularly as your “key.” Every time you climb a set of stairs or open a door, remind yourself to take a deep breath and experience your own self, body, and life as you do.

It’s alright if you forget; it only reminds you how often you allow yourself to dwell in dreams.

4. Honour the power of ritual in your life

What are your rituals?

We all have them: what we do when we wake up, what we do before we sleep. Whether conscious or unconscious, these rituals have power over us.

Give respect to those daily repetitions which bring you peace. Ritual is one of the oldest ways of changing consciousness, moving us from stress to serenity.

Here are some examples of empowering rituals you can incorporate into your busy daily life:

  • Turning off all electronics thirty minutes before bed, then relaxing with a cup of tea in the quiet dark
  • Greeting the day with sun salutations in your pajamas each morning
  • Reciting a brief mantra, poem, or prayer before taking any supplements or medication
  • Creating call-and-response good-nights with your children or partner (these need not be complex; as a child and now as an adult, my mother and I always said goodnight with “I’ll see you in the morning,” echoed by “I know”)

Experiment with your rituals. When we have signposts set up throughout our day, we’re given the opportunity to explore.

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5. Breathe

Like many of you, I always intend to breathe properly, but as the day goes on I find myself breathing high and tight in my chest.

You can achieve proper breathing in three steps:

  • Find a comfortable posture which balances your spine and opens your chest
  • Inhale slowly through your nose, focusing on “filling your belly” first; your stomach should move before your chest does
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth, letting your body relax around it naturally instead of forcing the air out

Let go of expectation, and watch yourself with loving acceptance. Whenever you remember, try to breathe properly. Feel how it draws up prana (or breath as a life force) through your body, awakening and grounding you.

Gently remind yourself of how good it feels, and what a difference it makes to your mood. You might not always remember, but as time goes on you may find yourself breathing with deep calm more often than before.

Before you move onto the next step, try this exercise while implementing the proper breathing described above:

  • Inhale for a count of six
  • Hold your breath for a count of six
  • Exhale for a count of six
  • Hold your breath for a count of six

If you find a six-count too difficult or easy, adjust for your personal needs. The important aspect of this “square breath” is to keep all parts of it in harmony. This breath exercise can be utilized at any time you need to quiet your thoughts and anxiety.

 

6. Seek out sunlight

Modern life shuts us inside, and fear of sun damage keeps us safely in the shade.

We were born to live in the sun. Stay safe, but make sure that you step out into the light at least once a day, or more often during autumn and winter.

Sunlight aligns your sleeping patterns, provides vitamin D, and raises your mood. Bathe in it.

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7. Connect with nature

If you’ve never practiced yoga in a natural setting, go out and do it now. (Right now, if the weather holds. This article will still be here when you return.)

For the same reason that outdoor yoga offers something to us which is unavailable indoors, experiencing nature in our daily lives is a critical step in our journey towards a deeper practice and a more rewarding life.

Hiking and walking in natural settings – particularly mindfulness walks done in silence – are excellent if you have the time, but you can start smaller than that. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Learn the names of the birds and the plants in your neighborhood
  • Grow a plant outdoors, even if it’s just a pot of lavender on your balcony
  • Recognize the signals of the changing seasons
  • Walk, don’t drive, if your destination is close enough

We are a part of nature. You don’t have to explore the wilderness to experience it.

8. Follow your natural rhythms

Just as you learn the rhythms of the plants and animals around you, you must also learn your rhythms.

When do you need to sleep? Eat? Rest? Work? Play?

These are vital questions, and ones which our culture attempts to fit into a routine: eight hours of sleep, then working from 9 until 5.

Begin with a log of your sleep habits, recording your hours of sleep and how you felt the next day. Once you get into that routine, also make similar notes on when you eat, as well as when you feel most and least energized to work.

Take these notes for a month, then analyze them.

Create space to understand what works best for you, and try to integrate those rhythms into your life.

9. Drink water

It’s that simple.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty before you reach for a glass, but don’t force yourself to drink more than is comfortable either.

Just keep a glass close to you, and gently remind yourself of it often. You’ll naturally begin to keep yourself properly hydrated.

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10. Eat the way your body needs

Like the other rhythms of our body, it takes time and space to understand what way of eating our body desires.

If listening to your body is new to you, keeping a journal might help. (You might want to incorporate it into your daily rhythms journal.)

How do you feel when you eat certain foods? Do you do better with three solid meals a day, or eating more often in smaller portions?

Educating yourself on nutrition is never a bad idea, but don’t surrender your needs to someone else’s advice. Eat in a way which leaves you feeling satisfied, energetic, and at peace.

11. Eat unprocessed food

Real, unprocessed food nourishes us. No matter what your diet looks like, real food (the kind that is still recognizable as something natural) should form the bulk of it.

If you’re unable to make it to a farmer’s market (few people are!), try shopping the edge of your supermarket while avoiding most of the isles: this is where you’ll find what is right for your body. (Frozen vegetables and fruits are also excellent and unprocessed, particularly for foods which are out of season.)

There isn’t room here to go into detail about nutrition, but a focus on unprocessed food constitutes the backbone of every healthy diet.

As Michael Pollan wrote: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. (By “food” he means “real food” in this context.)

If you follow these rules, everything else you do with your diet is just a garnish.

12. Feed your mind

Do you nourish your mind as often as you feed your belly?

All the mindfulness and yogic breathing in the world will do little for your life if you only fill your thoughts with your Facebook feed.

As children, we are excited to learn about the world around us. It’s possible to return to this vital place of being.

Here are some ways to achieve this even in a busy life:

  • Visit your local library regularly, visiting a new section each time
  • Download non-fiction books onto your phone and dip into them when you’re standing in line or waiting at the doctor’s office
  • Subscribe to a magazine or blog which suits your interests
  • Sign up for a community class on a subject you know next-to-nothing about

13.  Create

Abhasan is the power of creation or the feeling of having formed something which can be touched or experienced.

If you’re already a creator of some kind, if you’re a crafter or a poet, you’ve experienced this already.

If you don’t think you’re capable of creation, you’ve experience this feeling anyway. Think about the first time you were going about your daily life and noticed the difference your yoga practice had made in your strength, flexibility, or peace of mind: that was a form of abhasan.

Do something with your mind and your hands: write, knit, garden, draw, or colour. Create, and grow to see yourself as a creator. Understand that perfection isn’t the goal, but the act of creation itself.

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14. Find your drishti

You may have heard the term drishti in your yoga practice: it means a focused gaze. Nabi Chakra Drishti, for example, is focusing your gaze on the navel as seen in downward facing dog.

It’s possible to take the concept of drishti from your practice and apply it to all areas of your being.

Where is your focus in life?

Where are you looking today? Tomorrow?

I know that my focus regularly wanders, often towards subjects which do not improve my life. Yours probably does too.

That’s okay! It’s natural to lose focus sometimes, but we have to be brave enough to acknowledge that before we begin to look back towards what matters to us.

15. Surround yourself only with what brings you joy

In the 19th century, William Morris wrote: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

In the 21st century, Marie Kondō wrote: “Keep only those things that speak to your heart."

These ideas are equally valid in our homes and our lives.

Filling your life with joy is a lifelong process. Begin it today.

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Photo credits:
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