Yoga demands a total mind, body, spirit approach, so even a 10-minute ‘micro session’ can do wonders for your health
Find yourself feeling sluggish and exhausted as you go through the day? Doing small amounts of exercise can help you stay alert when you're tired as well as improve your health. The mind-body practice of yoga is especially beneficial for people who have time only for a quick workout since it offers a wide range of physical and emotional health benefits. From improving brain function, reducing stress and increasing flexibility and respiratory capacity to improving medical conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, neck and back pain, there are several advantages to doing yoga daily.
Because yoga demands a total mind, body, spirit approach, a 10-minute ‘micro session’ can do wonders for you. Unlike other forms of exercise, where you can listen music or watch TV, yoga is a mindful practice. For those 10 minutes, you immerse yourself completely. This helps build focus and leaves you feeling energetic through the day.
From people with busy jobs who don’t have time to work out to elderly people who are unable to perform any physical exercises, micro sessions of different kriyas can be designed to suit everyone’s needs. Over the Christmas-New Year break, I’ve prepared plans, for clients who are traveling, that can be done quickly, without mats, in their hotel rooms. This ensures they don’t break from their routine practice and that even while on vacation, their body remains supple and light. If you’ve never done yoga before, these quick sessions are a great way to ease yourself into the practice.
To get you started, here are some 10-minute workout plans:
A Strenuous Plan
People between the age of 20 and 40 can benefit tremendously from this micro session.
1. Surya Namaskar
Each of the 12 poses in the Surya Namaskar have a specific benefit, including boosting cardiovascular health, improving blood circulation and digestion, toning arms, strengthening the spine and enhancing flexibility. When performed 5-6 times at a fast pace, it should take you 5-6 minutes.
Technique: The 12 steps include:
- Pranamasana (Prayer pose): Stand at the edge of the mat with your feet together, your weight equally balanced on both feet. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders. As you breathe in, lift both arms up from the sides. Exhale and bring palms together in front of your chest in the namaskar position.
- Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms pose): Breathe in and lift the arms up and back, keeping biceps close to the ears. The idea is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers.
- Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot pose): Breath out and bend forward from the waist. The spine should be erect. Exhale and bring the hands down to the floor. Bend knees if needed to place your palms on the floor.
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose): Breathe in and push your right leg back as far as you can. Bring the right knee to the floor and look up. You can deepen this stretch by keeping the left foot between the palms.
- Dandasana (Stick pose): As you breathe in, push your left leg back. Bring your body in a straight line. Keep arms perpendicular to the floor to deepen the stretch.
- Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with Eight Parts or Points): Gently bring your knees down to the floor and exhale. Push your hips back slightly. Slide forward and rest the chest and chin on the floor. Raise the posterior a little bit. Eight parts of the body – two hands, two feet, two knees, chest and chin – should touch the floor.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra pose): Slide forward and raise the chest up, look up. You can keep the elbows bent, shoulders away from the ears. Make an effort to push the navel down as you exhale.
- Parvatasana (Mountain pose): Breathe out, as you lift the hips and the tail bone. Push the chest downwards in an “inverted V” pose. The heels should stay on the ground.
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose). Breathe in and push your right leg back as far as you can. Bring the left knee to the floor and look up. Try and push the hips down towards the floor to deepen the stretch.
- Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot pose): Breathe in and bring the left foot forward. Keep palms on the floor and bend knees if needed. To deepen the stretch, gently straighten the knees and try and touch your nose to the knees.
- Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms pose): Breathe in and roll the spine up. Put your hands up and bend backwards a little. The hips should be pushed slightly outwards. Ensure that the biceps are beside your ears. You should stretch up rather than stretch backwards.
- Tadasana: As you exhale, straighten the body and bring arms down. Relax in this position and try and observe the sensations in your body. Feel your breath and try and relax.
2. Anulom Vilom
Also known as Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), anulom-vilom helps normalise blood pressure, aids in blood purification, reduces the risk of heart disease and can also improve sight. Can be done for 2-3 minutes.
Technique: Close your eyes and sit in Padmasana. Use the right thumb to close the right nostril. Inhale slowly through the left nostril, taking in as much air as you can to fill your lungs. Remove the thumb from your right nostril and exhale. While exhaling, use the middle finger to close your left nostril and inhale with your right nostril. Remove the thumb from the right nostril and exhale.
Also known as the Corpse Pose, all yogic postures end with the Shavasana or the neutral position. The state helps you get into a tranquil state and the body surrenders to peace. Can be performed for 3-4 minutes.
Technique: To perform this asana correctly, be aware of your breathing. Lie down with your eyes closed and limbs loose, while you focus on the tip of your nose. Keep your body absolutely still.
A Bend And Stretch Plan
As an alternative to the Surya Namaskar, you can try this simple kriya session.
This seated forward bend pose helps blood flow, cools the mind, and relieves stress. If you struggle in this pose you can place your hands on knees and bend forward as much as possible. Ten rounds should take you 3 minutes to complete.
Technique: Sit down with legs straight side by side. Raise your hands with back aligned and slowly lower down the hands and forehead towards the knees.
2. Hasta Padasana
One of the poses that make up the Surya Namaskar, this hand to foot pose strengthens the legs, hamstrings and ankles. Ten rounds should take you 3 minutes to complete.
Technique: Breath out and bend forward from the waist. The spine should be erect. Exhale and bring the hands down to the floor. Bend knees if needed to place your palms on the floor.
3. Anulom Vilom
See technique and advantages above. Can be performed for for 2-3 minutes.
A Plan For The Elderly
Age should never stop you from exercising. Just 10 minutes of deep breathing can help maintain your fitness levels and health as compared to doing nothing at all.
If you’re at an age where physical exercise is difficult, try this micro session:
1. Anulom Vilom
See technique and advantages above. Can be performed for for 2-3 minutes.
Bhastrika is a form of Pranayam that resembles the blowing of bellows. It has several benefits, including improving heart health, blood circulation and arthritis, strengthening the lungs and relaxing the body and mind. This can be done for 2-3 minutes.
Technique: Sit comfortably. Then take a deep breath through both nostrils and fill the lungs with air and then exhale with hissing sound.
See technique and advantages above. Can be performed for 3-4 minutes.
Each of these sessions is designed to improve your health and fitness levels. But if you have an existing medical condition like high blood pressure, check with your doctor before performing Surya Namaskar and the breathing exercises.