You don’t need a big chunk of time to get all the benefits of yoga. In fact, these eight off-the-mat yoga poses take less than a minute each. By weaving them into activities you’re already doing, such as showering, cooking, and sitting at your desk, you’ll have more energy, feel less stressed, and be stronger—without taking time out of your day to attend a class or work out to a video.
[sidebar]Besides, the busier you are, the more likely you are to need yoga in your life. “Many people don’t realize they hold tension in their bodies that can contribute to back, neck, and head pain,” says physical therapist Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., author of 30 Essential Yoga Poses. “Yoga is like a speed bump that slows you down so you pay attention to your body.” And that extra attention can keep you going strong.
7 am: In the shower
This belly-breathing exercise tones and strengthens your abdominal muscles and can relieve headaches. Bonus: Doing it in a steamy shower can help clear your sinuses.
Stand tall with the water against your back. Place your palms on your abdomen, with index fingers near your navel. Relax your belly and inhale deeply through your nose so your abdomen expands against your hands. Then exhale completely, pulling in your abdominal muscles to force out all the air, and make an om sound, feeling the vibration. If you’d prefer, use another sound or a word such as “home,” “love,” or “amen.” Do three times.
8:30 am: Driving to work
A twist of yoga poses at the beginning and end of your commute can defuse road rage and prevent headaches and neck and shoulder pain. You can also try it when you’re stuck at a red light or in a traffic jam (but first shift into “park” for safety). Sit tall, pressing your buttocks into the seat and lifting the top of your head toward the sky. Keep your chin level and feet flat on the floor. Place your right hand by your right hip and your left hand on the steering wheel at the 3 o’clock position. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale, gently press your hands into the seat and against the wheel, and twist to the right as far as you comfortably can. Holding that position, inhale and lengthen. Then exhale and twist farther, but don’t strain. Inhale and return to the starting position. Do one time on each side.[pagebreak]
11 am: At your desk
If you sit at a desk all day, do this gentle backbend at least once every hour to relieve upper-back and neck tension and to give you a burst of energy.
Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your palms with fingers facing forward on the seat behind your hips. Inhale and lengthen your spine, reaching the top of your head toward the ceiling. As you exhale, press your palms into the seat and roll your shoulders back and down. Inhale and lift your chin and chest, gazing toward the ceiling. Don’t drop your head back. Hold these yoga poses for two or three deep breaths.
1:30 pm: When the phone rings
Don’t rush to the phone on the first ring. Instead, use the interruption as an opportunity to do this 6-second tranquilizer.
When the phone rings (or the computer boots up or a website loads), stop what you’re doing, lengthen your spine, and take a deep belly breath. Picture yourself at a relaxing spot, such as floating in a lake (close your eyes if it helps), and relax your upper-body muscles. Then smile and pick up the phone on the second or third ring.
4 pm: Waiting inline
Don’t just stand there. Practice your yoga poses with this modified Tree Pose, and you’ll strengthen your legs and torso and stand taller.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight evenly distributed onto the soles. Your knees should be over your ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, and ears over shoulders. Lengthen your spine by lifting from the top of your head while keeping your chin level. Drop your shoulders away from your ears and relax your face and throat. Shift your weight and balance on your right foot, resting your left foot against your right ankle. Take slow, deep breaths and hold for as long as possible. Repeat with your left leg.[pagebreak]
6:30 pm: In the kitchen
While waiting for the water to boil, this modified Downward Dog Pose will counteract all the desk time you logged and energize you for evening activities.
Place your palms shoulder-width apart on a countertop or the back of a chair. With your feet hip-width apart, bend forward at the hips and walk your feet back until your upper body is parallel to the floor and your legs are directly beneath your hips. Keep your neck in line with your spine. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you press your palms into the counter and reach your hips back, feeling the stretch from your fingertips to your shoulders to your back and down your legs. Hold these yoga poses for two or three breaths.
7:30 pm: On the go
Turn any walk into a mini-meditation that will give your mind a break from its never-ending to-do list.
While you walk, mentally count the number of steps you take as you breathe in and out—one word with each step. Make your inhalations and exhalations equal in length. You can also use phrases such as “I breathe in peace” or “I breathe out joy.”
9:30 pm: Before bed
Try these relaxing, restorative yoga poses to release the day’s tension so you’ll sleep better. It also helps relieve varicose veins and leg cramps.
Set a timer for 5 to 15 minutes. Sitting on the floor next to a wall, roll onto your back as you swing your legs up the wall. Your buttocks should be as close to the wall as comfortably possible and your legs straight but relaxed. Focus on the sensations of your breath as you inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath (closing your eyes may help you stay focused). When the timer rings, bend your knees to your chest and roll to your side to sit up. (Keep the relaxation going with 12 more yoga poses to beat insomnia.)