Yes, You Do Have Time for Yoga

There’s a common notion that we need to do a 60- or 90-minute practice in order to reap the benefits of yoga. Sure, longer is great if you have the time, but a shorter practice, done with intent and focus, is equally effective. Even five minutes of yoga can bring us into a place of ease and presence. What’s most important is consistency—doing a little bit every day is more beneficial than a longer practice several times a week. 

Here’s a sequence that will take you about 30 minutes if you do the whole thing—but, if you only have five or 15 minutes, you can stop there and still have a well-rounded experience. You can adjust the sequence to suit your needs and personalize it to make it your own.

Begin by setting an intention for your practice: What compels you to your mat today? This might be a word, a dedication, or a certain quality you want to call forth from within yourself.

Five-Minute Practice

Easy Pose
Come to sit in Easy (cross-legged) pose, with the hips elevated over the knees. Move into Dirgha pranayama, the Complete or Three-Part Yogic Breath. Take about 10 Dirgha breaths.

Table
Come onto all fours, stacking your shoulders under your wrists, knees aligned with hips.

Cat and Dog
Inhale into Dog, lifting the chin and the tailbone, and exhale into Cat, rounding the spine.

Thread the Needle
From Table position, inhale the right arm up; then slide it under the left arm. Repeat five times and move to the other side, finally coming back to Table.

Sun Bird
Extend the right arm forward and the left leg back on an inhale, keeping the hips level. On your exhale, draw the right elbow and the left knee together underneath you, rounding the upper spine and contracting the abdomen. Do this about 10 times per side.

Gate
Releasing the left leg to the floor, turn the outside edge of the left foot parallel to the short edge of your mat, adjusting the right shin so that the ankle is behind the knee. The torso is at a right angle to the floor, facing the long edge of your mat. Keep the hips and ankles in line with the knees. Inhale the right arm up and overhead, lengthening the side body. Repeat four times.

Child’s Pose
Come to rest in Child’s pose after completing the sequence on both sides.

15-Minute Practice

Continue the sequence above by adding the following poses.

Hero Pose
From Child’s pose, come up to sit with your legs folded under the sitting bones. Take several rounds of Dirgha breath and clarify your intention.

Downward-Facing Dog
Keep the shoulder blades wide and the neck long as you press down through your hands and lift your hips up and back. Reach out through the heels to lengthen your legs, keeping your knees softly bent if you need to.

Three-Legged Dog
From Downward-Facing Dog, lift the right leg up and back, keeping the hips square. Stay for a few breaths. Switch sides and then return to Downward-Facing Dog.

Mountain
Come to the top of your mat and inhale your arms up into a V-position. Keep the weight even on both feet. Lengthen your spine on the inhale. Soften the shoulders, face, and jaw as you exhale. 

Standing Half Moon
Bring your palms together into Steeple. Press firmly into the feet and keep the shoulders soft, chin moving away from chest. Press your hips to the right and lengthen your torso to the left. Stay for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Standing Squat
Keeping the spine long, bend the knees and sink the hips. Move the knees back over the ankles to a degree that works for you. Reach the arms forward at shoulder height, engaging the arms but keeping the neck and shoulders relaxed. 

Standing Yoga Mudra
Reach your arms behind you and interlace your fingers. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Inhale, and as you exhale, fold forward, bending at the hips, with legs straight. Widen your legs as needed, keeping the knees soft. Relax the neck and jaw. 

Plank
Bring your arms perpendicular to the mat, wrists under shoulders, torso parallel to the floor. Tailbone and heels reach back. Widen the shoulder blades and engage your core and legs.

Modified Chaturanga Dandasana
From Plank, release the knees and place the tops of the feet on the mat. Keep the elbows at your sides as you bend them, maintaining a straight line from the knees to the top of head as you lower down.

Cobra
Lower your torso to floor. On an inhale, rise up to Cobra; on the exhale, release the chin or forehead to the floor. Repeat this fluid motion four times, pausing and holding the backbend on the fourth lift. Press the hips and toes into the mat, and send the sternum forward and up, keeping the neck long as you open the front body.

Downward-Facing Dog

Three-Legged Dog

High Lunge

Step your right foot forward. Frame your front foot with your fingertips and make sure that your front knee directly above your ankle. Keep your back leg buoyant, pressing through the heel.

Warrior

Lengthen the spine as you lift your torso upright, placing your hands on your hips for support, or sweeping the arms overheard, framing your ears with your biceps. Keep the front knee bent. Square the right hip forward as you press back through the right heel. 

Warrior Twist
Bring your palms together in front of your heart. Inhale; on the exhale, twist to the right, placing the left elbow against the outside of the right knee or thigh. Soften the shoulders away from the ears. Stay strong in the back leg.

Side Warrior
Bring the torso upright, keeping the spine long. Open the hips to the side and press evenly through the feet. Bend the front knee over the ankle, keeping the hips level. Turn the back foot in slightly. Extend the arms outward at shoulder height. Gaze out over the right fingertips.

Triangle
Straighten the right leg, engaging the quad and lengthening the torso over the right leg. Bend at the hip, aligning the kneecap with the right ankle. Keep the back leg strong, pressing into the outer edge of the back foot. The bottom hand can rest on the shin or on the floor. Maintain the head in a neutral position, gaze down at the big toe, or—if the neck allows—gaze upward at the top thumb.

Side Warrior

Reverse Warrior

Bend the right knee and come up through Side Warrior into Reverse Warrior. Keep the front knee bent as you reach the left arm down the left leg and stretch the right arm to the ceiling, opening the side body.

Plank

Modified Chaturanga Dandasana

Cobra

Downward-Facing Dog

Child’s Pose

30-Minute Practice

For a longer practice, continue with the following poses.

Hero Pose

Bow
From Hero, come to rest on your belly. Bend your knees and reach behind to grasp your ankles. Inhale, and press down into the pubic bone as you lift your legs away from the floor. Keep the knees hip-distance apart or closer. Reach the sternum up and press the shins back.

Camel
Sit back into a kneeling position, knees hip-width apart and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Keep your thighs and buttocks firm without clenching. Press the shins and tops of the feet into the floor, or keep the heels elevated. Place your hands on your low back, fingers pointing down.  Inhale, and soften the shoulder blades while lifting the sternum, coming into a backbend. Keep the head up. Stay here, or bring one hand at a time to the heels or onto blocks, if you have them.

Hero Pose

Child’s Pose

Seated Spinal Twist
Come to sit with the right leg extended and the left knee bent, with the foot placed either on the inside or the outside of the straight leg. Lengthen the spine and, as you exhale, twist to the left, rotating from the waist. Wrap your right arm around the left knee. Keep the weight even on the sitting bones. Release on the exhale; repeat on the other side.

Bound Angle
Place the soles of the feet together and bring the knees apart. Root down evenly into the sitting bones. Inhale, and lengthen your spine; exhale, and fold forward at the hips. Keep the shoulders soft and the back of the neck long.

Easy Pose

Savasana
Come to rest on the floor. Arms are by your sides, palms facing up. The legs are relaxed and wider than hip-width. Support your head as needed with a pillow or folded blanket. Place a cushion or a blanket under your knees, and an eye pillow or a small towel over your eyes. Rest and receive the benefits of your practice. If you have time, you can also include a brief Savasana after the five- and 15-minute practice.

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