In the Yoga Blaze Ask the Teacher section, the questions was asked:

“If I only have 5 minutes a day to practice, what are the best things to do?”

I’ll try not to get too esoteric, but a little context is necessary so bear with me.

Everybody these days knows that the gross translation of yoga is “union.” It comes from the sanskrit word “yuj,” or to yoke. The yoke is that log that joins two beasts of burden to one another so they can work together more efficiently. In our case as human beings, we can say that it is simply the act of bringing subject and object together so there is nothing left but one pointed attention on our chosen object of meditation. This falls right in line with Patanjali’s classical definition: Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of the mind.

This is good news, since we can now see yoga more clearly as a lifestyle and use this big word as an umbrella term to understand that there are myriad ways to practice. Some of the main ways are Gnana Yoga (intellect), Mantra Yoga (chanting), Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Karma Yoga (work), Hatha Yoga (the yoga of the body), and Raja Yoga (the royal path which combines all these forms). This means that you probably practice yoga in some form or another throughout the day. Any time we drop into the “zone,” distraction, fear, and anxiety all fall away and leave us in a timeless and mystical state.

All that being said, I have to say that if I got to the point where I only had five minutes to do a physical practice I would wonder about my priorities. It is really difficult in these current times of nearly infinite access to information and connectivity not to succumb to the crush of responsibilities and desires. Yet I believe that it is a critical, if not a moral, obligation to make time to take care of our bodies. When we take care of our bodies we become invigorated and able to act effectively and fully in the world.

So, five minutes.

If I was tired, tense, or generally strung out, I would take that five minutes and put my legs up the wall, let all the blood drain out of them, and actively let gravity do what it does best, suck me right down into the ground. This is harder than it sounds at first. There are many tensions in the body that we are unaware of and it takes mindfulness to seek them out and let them go. The more you do it the easier it becomes.

If I had energy to spare, I would do five poses in five minutes. Choose your favorite ones or the ones you think you need. It doesn’t really matter if you only have five minutes. Doing them is what counts. Set a repeating timer if you have one, and change your pose at each minute. You will be surprised at how time slows down when you hold a pose for a whole minute.

The poses that hover around my top five favorites are:

Fierce pose – It is not a “chair” pose. Chairs are comfortable. Keep your heels down and bend your knees enough to make it “interesting.”

Tree pose (one minute each side) – Unless it is the first time you’ve ever tried the pose, do not “pick a point and stare at it.” Allow your vestibular system to get a work out and challenge yourself by looking around and not letting your eyes focus on any one point. It is difficult. This will strengthen your balance way more than staring at a fixed point. Try taking it to the next step by closing your eyes.

Handstand – Study the way your feet operate and apply the same strategies to your hands. After all, our feet used to be way more like our hands and are taking the lead when it comes to keeping us upright. Remember, the Downward Dog is a supported handstand if you are yet unable to do a full handstand.

Child’s pose – This is a very gentle, calming, and internal pose that is also good for joint mobility.

Now go carve out some time to take care of your body. It will ease your mind.