Making time to practice yoga every day doesn’t work for all of us. Sometime finding more than five minutes of uninterrupted time can be an impossible task. Especially if your house is inhabited by the under 10 crowd as mine is. So we need to get creative. We need to sneak in the yoga. One way to do this is by moving with intention. By paying attention to what goes on below our necks. Most of us spend a great deal of our day in our brains. One of the reasons our bodies crave yoga is because it takes our awareness away from the thoughts that race through our heads and down into our bodies. You don’t need an hour long class every day to get to that place. Here are a few ways that I get sneaky about incorporating my yoga practice into my day:
3 Minute Meditation - Fill a laundry basket and tell your people that you are going to your room to fold laundry and, if they follow you, they have to help. Ok, so maybe it isn’t 100% truthful, but it is in the best interest of everyone in your household. Once safely in your room, close the door, sit on the floor, close your eyes, and tell yourself that you are breathing in and breathing out. All it takes is a few minutes of this to feel like a whole new person. I find this to be a particularly helpful tool when my brain is overwhelmed and gearing up for an anxiety attack.
Check in with your feet - Each time you find yourself standing in one place for any extended period of time (like washing dishes) , check in with your feet. For most of us our toes point out to the sides when we aren‘t paying attention. Turn them so they face forward. This small change will travel up your legs and knees and into your hips. Now, take it a step further, if you’d like, and think Mountain Pose with those legs. Use your core muscles too and washing the dishes is a whole new event.
And speaking of feet...use your whole foot - Each time you are getting up from a seated position or climbing stairs place your whole foot on the floor or step. No more running on the stairs on tip toes. This will again engage more muscles in your legs and bottom. When these muscles are working you are also taking some of the stress off your knees. Think of all the work your legs can get while you run upstairs to tuck your child back into bed seventeen times.
Sit on the floor - Skip chairs whenever you can. Sitting on the floor requires your hips to stretch, creating flexibility. The more opportunities you give your hips to stretch, the happier they become. Happy hips, happy body.
Picking things up - How many times a day do you bend over to pick things up? Every time you bend over think about putting some yoga into action. Fold over into a forward bend with intention instead of just reaching and grabbing. Pull in those core muscles and try it with your legs together (Uttanasana), legs apart (Prasarita Padottanasana), one leg up in a standing split, over to the side on one leg (Ardha Chandrasana - Half moon), you get the idea.
Find a little balance - Any time you find yourself standing in one place for any period of time, take a leg up off the floor and find your tree pose. Maybe it won’t build your focus the same way it will in a yoga class, but it will work your feet and strengthen your ankles. Remember to do both sides.
Use your tummy wisely - Engage your core muscles often. These muscles support your spine. By toning your core you are helping to prevent back injuries, as well as allowing your spine to elongate itself. This creates more space on the sides of your body, which in turn creates a slimmer appearance. So, sitting at your desk, driving in your car, taking a walk, wherever, pull in your core. It’s like a stomach crunch without all the fuss. Think about your core muscles wrapping around from the sides of your body to the center and then draw them up towards your rib cage. In and up, baby, in and up.
Butterflies in Bed - Baddhakonasana, Butterfly pose, is super easy to sink into while lying in bed or watching TV. Lie down in bed, or prop your back up on some pillows on the floor, bring your feet together and draw them in towards your groin. Use blankets or pillows under your knees for a little extra support if you’d like. Ahhh…..yummy.
Be thankful - Show gratitude for all that you have. We all have things we want, but sometimes its hard to remember to be grateful for what we already have. When we can begin to appreciate all that we do have our perspective begins to shift. We begin to see that often times we have what we need, and all the rest is just gravy.
I am overwhelmed. There is simply too much to do at the moment. After the last of the four foot deep snow melted from our yard and I meandered around reveling in the awakening wonders of nature around me, a list began to form in my head. Trim, mow, weed, rake, pluck, repair. Battle back nature and reclaim the yard. It’s like a commercial from Home Depot is going on in my brain. Of course the more time spent working outside means that the inside of my home has fallen apart. I keep walking over the same sticky spot on the floor. Furry clumps of dog hair roll like tumbleweeds under my tables. And the bathrooms…..well lets not even go there. The laundry is done and the dishes are clean (for now) and I’ve pretty much given up on the rest for now.
The problem with the list in my head is that I don’t really want to do any of it. I have no desire to weed flower beds or haul brush. I don’t want to pick up the rocks that the snow-blower used to decorated my lawn. In the three years we have lived here I have successfully avoided applying a coat of much needed stain to my deck, and it REALLY needs to happen. Mowing the grass I can do. I love mowing the grass. It’s a bit meditative for me. But the rest, pah! I’d rather creep to the edge of the pond and see how long before the frogs hop away. Or, hunt through the woods for interesting rocks to relocate to interesting places. Or, sit on a grassy patch with a good book, feeling the sun and breeze wipe that list of things that need doing from my mind. Or, throw down a mat on the deck that needs staining and get my yoga on.
Spring brings out the anxiety that I work to keep at bay. I grapple with the things that have to be done and the things that I’d rather do. The result is usually doing something in the middle and feeling like I have accomplished nothing. The list of what to do grows longer and I feel like I haven’t done anything enjoyable which does nothing for a positive attitude. Procrastination has always been my nemesis. A few years ago I read an article in a parenting magazine that suggested turning on a kitchen timer for 15 minutes and cleaning like a crazy person until the time beeped and then walking away. It works well. When you remember to do it. A friend of mine recently mentioned using the same method for making time in her day to exercise. Five minutes a pop. Times up and you move on to whatever comes next. The problem is that for some things five or fifteen minutes just doesn’t cut it. You can’t stain a deck in fifteen minutes. And that’s where the feeling of being overwhelmed begins. So instead of doing anything on the list, I, we, do nothing at all. We fall to our time-wasting activities like facebook, television, wandering about the house thinking about all we need to do.
It isn’t a horrible thing to waste time once in awhile. It’s when it begins to feed our anxiety that it begins to pose a problem. When we can’t find our way to the work that needs to be done. When we let all of it get in the way of our relationships with our families, friends, and kids. I know I’m not the only person to procrastinate cleaning my house and then telling my kids I’m too busy to play. We have to come back to the balancing act of it all. For me, getting outside is important in keeping my panic demons at bay. A long walk in the fresh air has a magical effect on the ‘too much to do and not enough time to do it in’ dilemma. It doesn’t diminish my list but it gives me time to re-group before I face it. It gives me time to appreciate the beauty around me and makes me breathe deeply. And sometimes a deep breath is all we need to keep on keeping on. Sometimes an hour spent playing with the kids makes the next hour of work that much more bearable (for everyone).
So, I’m not giving up on my lists. The trimming and raking and weeding and deck staining will happen. The sticky spot will eventually get mopped away and the fur-balls will be rounded up. But before it does, I will take a walk and have a little yoga time outside. I will count the turtles in the pond and eagerly await the opening buds on my tulips. Spring is a blessing. Its our chance to start fresh again. To experience the magic of nature waking up after a long winter’s sleep. No wonder it’s overwhelming.