As we all know, keeping a regular yoga practice has a multitude of benefits mentally, physical and spiritual. Yoga is a key component to leading and honoring a balanced lifestyle. According to B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga,
“Yoga is not for him who gorges too much, nor for him who starves himself. It is not for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who stays awake. By moderation in eating and in resting, by regulation in working and by concordance in sleeping and waking, Yoga destroys all pain and sorrow.”
That being said, I find it beneficial to the body to practice a little yoga each day. There are days, however, when there simply isn’t time for a complete practice, or the body is craving rest. In those times, these four poses will alleviate congested energy, cultivate calm and stimulate agni within the body.
Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend
Begin by raising the arms above the head and then hinge forward at the waist, bending the knees generously to go easy on the hamstrings and lower back. The aim of this pose in this sequence is not to gain maximum stretch necessarily (depending on how warm/loose/flexible one’s body is) and more to reap the benefits of blood flow to the brain and the relaxing effects of the pose. Grasp opposite elbows and hang for 5-8 long, deep breaths.
As one would in Sun Salutations, lift to a flat back and then step back into plank. Check for proper alignment of wrist creases to the front edge of the mat, middle finger pointing straight ahead or slightly towards the outer edges of the mat (as my yoga mentor says, “When in doubt, turn out!”). Bring the shoulder blades down the back, engage the belly firmly, firm the quads and hold. Remain here for two minutes if you’re able, or hold for ten long breaths. This pose works the entire body and stimulates the strength of the mind.
Push back into Adho Mukha Svananasana – Downward Facing Dog before coming into the next pose.
Navasana – Boat Pose
Tipping back onto the sit bones, pulling the chest forward, extend the arms and lift the legs (either bent or straight). I have to say, once I began taking the modification of bent legs in Boat Pose I grew immensely stronger. Sometimes the ego can really hold you back, which is why the ego oughtn’t get to tag along to yoga. Bending the legs can allow you to really engage the lower abdominals, creating a straighter back and more compact pose, while protecting the lower back. Hold here for up to a minute, or eight long breaths.
Balasana – Child’s Pose
Come forward to hands and knees and sink back into child’s pose. If you’re flexible, practice this pose with your legs closer together. This can be nice as it massages the internal organs when breathing deeply, but legs hip distance apart is equally relaxing. Arms may lie straight ahead or back by the heels, whichever is more relaxing for you. Remain in child’s pose, sealing your short practice, for ten long breaths. Come up slowly and place one hand over the heart, one hand over the belly. Seal your practice with an intention for the day and a moment of gratitude.
These four poses, when infused with long, deep breaths, are enough to stimulate belly fire, circulation, warmth in the body, and a steady sense of calm to carry with you throughout the day.