I know firsthand that when you have an ever-mounting to-do list, taking time to go to therapy or take a yoga class can seem unrealistic. Here’s the good news – if you can set aside even 10 minutes out of your day, there are yoga therapy techniques that can help you clear your head, increase your productivity, make you more connected to your family and friends, and even make your food taste better!
What comes to mind when you hear the words “Yoga Therapy?”
The official definition from the International Association of Yoga Therapists says: “Yoga therapy is the professional application of the principles and practices of yoga to promote health and well-being within a therapeutic relationship that includes personalized assessment, goal setting, lifestyle management, and yoga practices for individuals or small groups.”
Simply put: Yoga therapy takes a holistic view of one’s overall health and happiness. Unfortunately, most yoga classes offered in the US predominantly focus on the physical limb of yoga (postures or asanas), but there is so much more to it that can improve your overall quality of life.
So, do you have 10 minutes?
Yoga therapy can be incredibly individualized, but I’ve compiled a few all-purpose exercises that have proven to be most helpful for myself and my yoga therapy clients. There are several holistic methods for approaching yoga therapy, but for this article, I’m going to use “the five sheaths” — or koshas in Sanskrit.
Physical: You’re using your brain all day long, have you tried using it less? Even if you can only do it for a few minutes, try getting out of your head and into your body with vigorous movement. Stand on your tip toes and stretch your arms over head on an inhalation. On your exhalation come into a squat: let your heels lower to the ground, stick your glutes back as if they were finding a chair behind you and fly your arms back behind you – almost like you’re ski jumping. Inhale and return to balancing on your toes with your arms over head, exhale, return to the ski jumper position, be sure to use your thigh, glute and core muscles. Go as fast as you can in a pain-free range of motion. Some other options? A brisk walk, or kick your shoes off, back away from the desk and balance on one foot for a minute before switching – because what your body might be up for one day won’t necessarily be the case every day.
Energetic: How we breathe can often reflect what we’re feeling on the inside. Simple awareness of how we’re breathing can create a major energetic shift within us. The next time you’re typing as quickly as possible or white knuckle driving from client to client, notice what your breath is doing. Is it light and easy, deep and full, or short and choppy? Is there expansiveness or constriction? Awareness is key. If it seems like your breath is not easily changed, try pausing and practicing at least five long inhales through the nose and exhales out the mouth. Another activity for high-stress days: hummingbird breath. Gently plug your ears with your fingers. Inhale through your nose. Keeping your lips closed, exhale out the nose to create a humming sound. Repeat 10-20 times. Pause and notice now.
Mental: Put down the multi-tasking. I thought I could do it all for a long time. Work emails, while on a video conference, off the video conference and onto a podcast, while plugging away at a spreadsheet, the incessant ding of my inbox. Oh look I’m on Facebook! How did that happen!? While it might seem extremely productive, you’re wasting your own time. Multi-tasking is really just fast brain-switching which creates unnecessary micro-chaos in your already hectic day. Challenge yourself to focus on just one task for 10-30 minutes. One task. Then if you want to check emails, check emails – but nothing else. If you can train yourself to focus on one thing for a few minutes at work… now imagine when you don’t have to rewind your TV show three times, or say to your spouse “what did you say again?”
Wisdom: Notice it’s called wisdom and not knowledge or ability. Yoga therapy won’t necessarily change your daily tasks, but it can change how gracefully you handle them. We’ve all experienced feeling overwhelmed at work, or maybe you’ve felt like you’re fighting your way through the day. Sometimes we just need a shift of our perspective. Take three minutes and practice a loving kindness meditation. Close your door or go out to sit in your car and say to yourself: May I be safe and free from danger. May I be healthy and free of disease. May I be happy, peaceful and content. May I be free. Take a long inhale and exhale. Then picture someone you love and admire. Picture them and say to that person, May you be safe and free from danger. May you be healthy and free of disease. May you be happy, peaceful and content. May you be free. Pause and breathe. Thirdly, picture someone that makes your life difficult. Say to that person: May you be safe and free from danger. May you be healthy and free of disease. May you be happy, peaceful and content. May you be free. Notice if you feel less reactive or stressed now.
Bliss: Do one thing a day that brings you joy. I had an interesting experience the other day. Another yoga therapist and I exchanged sessions and he asked what would make me feel better – it was simply that I wanted to get back to my daily workouts. I had realized that I was physically putting myself at the bottom of my to-do list. Productivity all day and night, until 10 PM rolled around and there was no room left for what I wanted. No fun, no bliss! So, I moved my running and yoga up to the top – first thing in the morning. Whatever it is that makes you happy – quality time with your pet, watching a movie, eating really delicious cheese – make time for it daily! If you can practice bliss with small things, chances are it will trickle into larger parts of your life, too.
Take 10 minutes, try these out, and let me know what you think! Do you have another favorite yoga therapy exercise? Drop a comment below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kaitlyn Vittozzi of Rochester, NY is a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist who specializes in chronic pain, stress-reduction, and postpartum anxiety. Teaching since 2014, her classes emphasize alignment and strength paired with body-awareness. She is a firm believer that if you can move better, you can feel better. She is a member of PRYT’s Communications Team, teaches paddle-board yoga and is the Life in Balance columnist for Rochester Woman Online. She loves spending her downtime with her dog. For more info or to schedule a free phone consultation, visit TozziYoga.com.