Less is more! My favourite mantra. This week we are looking at how to do yoga and functional movement more often but in simple and beneficial bite-sized pieces. You could say this is yoga for the real world; for those with full lives, full-time jobs, family and a myriad of other responsibilities. Not for those free-wheeling youngsters, that don't have three year old's that don't nap. Sigh. Lucky for you though, my non-napping three year old has reminded me that less is so much more. Let's find out how to become realistic in our yoga practice!
It begins something like this... somewhere along the way, someone decided that the average yoga class should be an hour and a half long. Yup, pretty sure this was never mentioned in the Yoga Sutras or Hatha Yoga Pradikipa. Whatever the reasons are or how ever it came about, this seems to be the standard. Or at least, anywhere between one hour to ninety minutes. I will say that as a teacher, I enjoy teaching ninety minute classes as it can provide lots of time to create a well-rounded practice for people.
BUT... for most of us, getting to a yoga class or doing ninety minutes or even an hour of yoga at home is not always realistic. And because of this made up ninety minute standard, it has created an expectation in many people that if you are not on your mat for X amount of time, then you are simply not doing enough.
Please, oh please, let that thought out of your mind right now. Because, as if we are not all doing enough already and then adding extra pressure on ourself because we can't get onto the yoga mat often enough! How much more stress does that create?! Well, good news, I am here to relieve you from added pressure and stress. We are going to reframe how we approach yoga and the ebbs and flows of our life. Repeat after me: Less is more. Less is more.
I will use myself as an example. As a working mama to a young kid that isn't school aged, this means life is full. Very full. There are times when I look wistfully back to my pre-mother self and see all that free time stretched out bountifully in front of me. Do yoga whenever I want, for as long as I want? Sure why not? But of course the grass is always greener and that actually wasn't the case. Yet it can feel like it now as there seems to be little time during the day for me to enjoy that elusive ninety minute or one hour practice. And I know this is the case for many people, whatever your life situation right now. Luckily though, as I continue to dive deeper into the wonder that is biomechanics and our body, I am reminded that the more we do functional movements throughout the day, the more long-lasting our health and vitality will be.
More Movement = More Happiness. (ok, at the very least a happier body)
Take a moment and imagine with me... You are practicing yoga 3-4 times a week after work. You feel great, your body is getting stronger and more flexible. But your job requires you to sit at a desk for most of the day. So for most of the day your hips are in flexion. (ie- creating tight hips and psoas.) Very likely you are sitting at your desk with the shoulders curved forward and chin jutting forward and slouched on your sacrum. (Notice how you are sitting at the computer right now as you read this.) Then you go to yoga, stretch those muscles, breathe and feel better. Then you go home, make some dinner, eat it sitting in that same flexed hip position and then sit on the couch in another version of the hip flexion/sacrum slouch. While you might be doing yoga (or any other activity like jogging, going to the gym, etc) a couple times a week and feel good, do you notice how much more of the time you are sitting than not?
If your job requires you to be on your feet you are a little bit better off because you are moving around. But if you stand in one place or move, is the way you stand or move in proper alignment? If you come home from your day and you have aches and pains, then that will give you a clue that something needs to be tweaked a bit.
The new way of looking at how we move (and breaking out of the pressure of a once a day yoga practice)
It is important to look at the big picture. How much are you actually moving in comparison to how much you are sitting? More movement, more often. If your schedule and life right now allows you to go to yoga classes, keep it up. If you get regular bodywork such as massage or chiropractic care, keep it going. But to maximize the benefits of the yoga and bodywork and to re-pattern our bodies out of unhealthy alignment habits, we need to make the little changes more often.
Do your yoga. And then do little bits of it more often.
And now a handy-dandy guide to some simple movements that you can do throughout your day to keep your circulation flowing, to keep you more alert and awake, to keep your muscles happy, keep the stress at bay and feel more of a sense of balance. These are just a few suggestions, add anything else that your body/mind loves. Your mantra for the week (and the rest of your life) Less is more and do little things more often!
Stretch those feet!
Often overlooked, foot health is vital for the rest of your body's health. Do these few things throughout the day.
- Wear shoes that you can move your toes around in and ideally without a heel.
- Wear toe spacers or do it yourself with your fingers. Get your fingers in-between each toe so that you are essentially holding hands with your foot. It hurts so good.
- Massage your feet with a ball. (Tennis ball or other firm ball like the one pictured.)
Stretch your legs and back!
Here is a super simple stretch that will address your hamstrings, low back and shoulders all in one shot. Or check out the best leg stretch you will ever do for more leg and back love.
So good for us and yet most of don't do it. I have a little foam half-dome that floats around my house. Because if I don't see it, I'll forget to use it. As a result, it sometimes lives in the kitchen, living room and even the bathroom so I can stretch those calves as I brush my teeth. Clean teeth and happy calves. Hurrah! A simple alternative to the half-dome is to use a rolled up towel, thick rolled up yoga mat or the edge of a bolster.
How about the ultimate less is more? Take 5- 10 minutes to lie down and 'do' nothing. Move away from external stimulus and rest in stillness. Relax your body, relax your mind. What could be better?
Now stop reading this and move your body!