March 14, 2011

Ten Tips & Tricks To Fit Yoga Into Your Super-Busy Cram-Packed Day.

A year or so ago, my life was insanely busy.

I had a fascinating job as speechwriter for the Minister of Social Development here in New Zealand, I was publishing a regular yoga blog, I was teaching six yoga classes a week, plus my partner and I were renovating our house. While living in it. Oh, and I was pregnant.

Yep, I was rockin’ it.

In the midst of all this busy—ness, I was also maintaining my home yoga practice – just not quite in ways that you may think. Getting in a home practice was crucial so I could keep that teaching well of goodness full to over—flowing, but it didn’t just mean rolling out my yoga mat.

Nope, I got real good at embedding my yoga into everyday life, wherever, however and whenever I could.

And even when my life started slowing down somewhat… I found I still looked for ways to embed yoga into every moment possible because somehow it just made life more vibrant, more powerful and just plain more.

So here’s how I did it, and here’s how you can do it too.

1. Get up close and personal with your breath, all the time.

You’re breathing every single minute, so you might as well notice that you’re breathing. And while you’re noticing, you might as well make it a good breath. And if it’s going to be a noticed, good breath then hey! You’re doing yoga.

Don’t be fooled though. It may sound easy, but mastering this simple technique of constant breath awareness during your daily life takes practice.

Like, are you aware of your breath right now?

2. Grab the opportunity to practice asana whenever it arises.

My office was opposite the Beehive (New Zealand’s parliamentary buildings), and that meant manicured, mowed, green grass lawns just begging to be played on.

So I did.

I kept a spare yoga mat at work, and in my lunch break, would do a fast change out of office wear into yoga pants, grab a lift down eight floors and stroll across to a nice shady spot. Forty minutes was enough to get in a solid asana practice, and still eat a relaxed lunch before hussling back up to the office.

Sure, I was the only one practicing yoga on the grassy lawns as politicians and their minions strolled by… but who cares? Getting all self—conscious about where I practice would seriously limit my life, and I ain’t having that.

So keep your mat handy, plus clothes you can bend in, and don’t be shy about grabbing whatever space and moment shows up.

3. Use public transport as a time to meditate

On the days when I had to go into the office, it was forty minutes each way on a bus. Perfect for mantra meditation – silently of course! I wasn’t quite gung—ho to be breaking out So Hum on a crowded city bus. Although I reckon in a few years time, you’ll probably be able to lead a chorus of Om Shantis with no shame, so popular is yoga becoming.

Until then, it’s easy to be circumspect about good posture on a bus, to keep the eyes focused straight ahead, and to become aware of your breath while silently chanting. Plus by the time I got to work, I was sufficiently blissed out to waltz into the office ready to tackle whatever gnarly speech revisions were waiting for me.

4. Combine daily grooming with asana and meditation

No, really! During our renovation, we had… oh about seven months without a shower. That meant a bath was the only option for getting clean, and often I’d have one at night because it meant I could take half an hour or so. You’d be surprised how many different asana you can practice in a bath.

Mostly I’d connect with my breath and just bring full presence into every single cell in the body, noticing any dark or silent spots. That simple practice would often unfold into arm and leg movements, and also neck movements. Once I’d awoken the body into total presence, I’d sink down into stillness and meditation – kinda like being in the womb I imagine. Candles helped. As did bath salts. And essential oils.  What a place to practice!

5. Shakti it up in the kitchen

Gotta be one of my favourite ways to practice – throw on some uplifting, dancy type music while cooking, and Prana Flow my way around the room. Something like Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor always worked well.

As always, this practice began with breath awareness, and usually some type of squat to create grounding and connection to the earth. From there all kinds of things would evolve, from Warrior series to standing forward bends and Flashdance—style leaps and twirls.

In the midst of all this, I cooked, and did dishes. Really. Might have taken a bit longer, but it never failed to lift my spirits and get the energy moving through the body.

6. Connect at the computer

Hands up who doesn’t sit at a computer at least once a day? I thought so… perfect opportunity to do a short shoulder opening practice. It’s so simple to place both feet flat on the ground, to feel the sitting bones on your chair, to breathe up the spine… and to see where it takes you. Eagle arms maybe? Interlaced hands behind and above. Cat spine while seated?

And who cares if you’ve got co—workers looking at you all funny? We’re so past giving a rat’s arse* about what people think of us right? Got past that in Tip #2 right?

Just taking five minutes once an hour adds up pretty fast and damned if it doesn’t make your body feel good. You might even get inspired to stand up and do a few more standing and bending asana using your desk as a prop… which brings us to…

7. Use furniture as props and improvise

Doorframes are one of my favorites for this kind of practice – perfect for all kinds of nuanced alignment in Warrior Series. Just getting those hands onto the top or sides of the frame was so helpful in releasing into Warrior One. Door frames also rock for standing back bends – great to wrap the fingers around the outside and pull the hips in close to the frame while lifting up and curling back from the sternum.

Benches rock for leg extensions and assisted forward bends. Walls for handstands and legs up the wall and… well I could go on and on. Point is, it doesn’t have to be a long practice. It’s more like, oh, wonder how many asana this piece of furniture could help me experience?

Don’t forget about floors for savasana either. If you’re home alone, who cares if you lie down in the hallway, or the kitchen?

8. Use mantra to lullaby your kids to sleep

I’ve now got a beautiful 13—month—old boy, and when he’s having trouble getting to sleep, I’ll often sing mantra to him – particularly Om Shanti.

There’s something just so lovely about cradling your child, feeling his heart beat next to yours, his breathe whispering into your neck as you feel the resonance of Om Shanti envelop the two of you. Magical.

If you don’t have kids, try mantra while driving. That’s out loud mantra. Long drives are the best – you can make a commitment to Om Shanti all the way from LA to Vegas. Does wonders for road rage.

9. Listening as meditation

Yep, another real obvious one right up there with breathing that makes a massive difference to your life. Master this and you’re well on your way to Yoga Guru status – I’m expecting my certificate in the mail any day now.

Here’s how it works. Every time someone speaks to you, practice the art of truly listening. That is, use your meditation skills to still your own thoughts and focus your awareness completely on whatever it is that they’re saying. And when you notice you’ve drifted make into your own thoughts again, extend your awareness back onto the person you’re listening to.

Awesome huh! Who would’ve thought we’d have such a rich opportunity to become yoga gurus every single day? And just from listening.

10. Practice response, not reaction

This is another goodie they teach in Yoga Guru school. After doing the masterful listening thing, extend that awareness just a moment or two longer and in the gap that arises, ask yourself ‘…..?’.

That’s it.

Just ‘…..?’.

You’ll be amazed to discover that often what floats up inside that gap of silence isn’t the usual hackneyed reaction you’ve spent your whole life trotting out in such circumstances.

No, what floats up may be something different entirely. It may even be a response born of the moment.

Fancy that eh?

You’ve just turned into a yogi, without even stepping onto a yoga mat.

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