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24-Hour Yoga Practice
by Brian J. Critchley


As I write this article it is just a few weeks into the new year. New yogis are streaming into my classes with the hope that yoga will help them get (or stay) healthy in 2011. It is also the time of year when new folks inevitably ask, "How often should I practice yoga?" or, "How long will I have to practice before I can master (insert challenging pose here)?" Those of us who have been practicing yoga for a while know that there are no hard and fast answers to these questions. When I offer a response that encourages students to practice yoga daily, even if for just a short practice, I either get a worried look that roughly translates into, "What did I get myself into by starting yoga?" or a list of excuses why daily practice is impossible. 

I understand the difficulty of finding time to practice yoga daily. Rather than argue with each individual about where yoga should fit into a priority list, making the case for daily practice, I'd like to offer an alternative - a way to make yoga as much a part of daily life as your other regular habits. Before you know it the world may be your yoga studio. Welcome to the 24 Hour Yoga Practice!

You've just awakened but haven't gotten out of bed yet:

Take a full body stretch. Lengthen your arms overhead, press out through your heels to stretch your legs. Let your shoulders relax down your back and away from your ears as you stretch. Then, come to your knees and sit your hips back toward your heels coming into balasana or child's pose. Extend your arms in front of you with palms resting on the bed, again stretching the arms while keeping your shoulders on your back. Press into your hands and keep your arm bones lifted as you lengthen your entire spine in this pose.

After letting the dog out but before your toast pops up:

Work on downward facing dog pose. If your pup is anything like mine, your canine pal will likely join you! This is an excellent pose for lengthening the backs of the legs which are often tight first thing in the morning. Just as in balasana above, work on pressing strongly into the hands and keep your arm bones lifting away from the floor. From this position of strength, allow your chest to melt forward between your shoulder blades to gently open your heart as you lengthen the back of the body in this pose.

While going nowhere in morning rush hour traffic:

Don't let your blood start to boil! Chanting in the yoga tradition can help calm and focus your mind, relax your body, and is a better use of that downtime in the car than listening to "shock jock" DJ's or "gloom and doom" newscasts. Practice whichever chant feels most comfortable and meaningful to you. There are countless to choose from, and when in doubt the simple "OM" works beautifully. I once chanted for 2 hours while stuck on the Cross Bronx Expressway attempting to get across the George Washington Bridge. I actually felt more peaceful afterward than before I got stuck in traffic. Note: While you may be accustomed to closing your eyes while you chant at your favorite neighborhood studio, please keep eyes open while driving!

Instead of reaching for donuts and coffee in the break room:

Practice Warrior II pose for a mid-morning boost of strength, stability, and stamina. Instead of the inevitable sugar rush/crash of a coffee break this pose will keep you riding high for the rest of your day. Practice the pose on both sides holding for several breaths. Allow your shoulders to relax down your back as your arms lengthen away in both directions. Engage the muscles of your inner thighs by doing the action of dragging your feet towards each other while maintaining your stance.

While waiting (for a meeting to start, in the doctor's waiting room, etc.):

Our days inevitably will contain stressful situations. No one wants to face the boss to explain why last quarter's numbers look so crummy or to head to the doctor's office for a physical. Waiting for these stressful encounters to take place can heighten our fears and anxiety about the actual event. It is also a perfect opportunity to practice pranayama (breathing) techniques. In order to allow your body and mind to relax try taking an inhale for a count of 4 and an exhale for a count of 8. By elongating your exhale you'll activate your parasympathetic nervous system and you'll counteract your body's own fight or flight reactions.

When the vending machine (or convenience store or coffee shop) calls to set up a 3pm meeting:

Just say no to unhealthy snacks and say yes to cobra pose. After spending a good portion of your day sitting at a desk and/or behind the wheel of a car this gentle backbend is the perfect way to create openness through the front of your body and keep low back pain at bay. Visit www.njnamastenews.com and check out the Summer 2010 issue for a detailed look at this great late afternoon blah buster!

Standing in line at the grocery store during the after-work rush:

You can do tadasana (mountain pose) easily and discretely at this time rather than browsing the tabloids or eyeing the candy bars. Root your feet down firmly. Press your thighbones back, rooting the heads of your thighbones into the pelvis. Then scoop your tailbone down and forward, feeling an engagement in your abdomen. Let your shoulder blades melt down your back as you lengthen your arms at your sides. Use an inhale to elongate the spine as you reach the crown of your head toward the ceiling. If you don't mind being the center of attention in the checkout line you can work on balance and turn your tadasana into vrksasana (tree pose) by bringing the sole of one foot toward the inner part of your standing leg. Don't forget to try both sides! You may get a strange look or two, but you may make a yoga buddy - you never know.

Instead of watching TV after dinner:

Get up and go to a yoga studio and take a class! OK, you're tired tonight and the latest episode of Jersey Shore is on. No worries. During the commercials, mute the sound and practice sun salutations. This full body sequence is a terrific cardiovascular and strength workout and will turn couch potatoes into "spud studs" in no time.

Before bed:

As your body prepares for sleep it is the ideal time to practice restorative yoga poses such as viparita karani (legs up the wall) or supported bridge pose. Ideally, you should turn off the TV and limit other distractions for at least an hour before bed time. Try turning on some soothing music, lighting a lavender scented candle, and adjusting the lighting in your home to promote relaxation and repose. Then practice the restorative poses of your choice. Supported bridge pose can be done easily by bringing the body into bridge pose and then placing a yoga block under the sacrum. This is a terrific passive stretch for the front of the body and is a wonderful pose in which to the close the eyes, deepen the breath, and prepare for sleep.

Try some of these ideas as a way to make yoga part of your everyday routine. You may find that you enjoy yoga so much that you'll yearn for the next time you have a few moments of downtime to check in with your practice. As with most everything in life, your yoga practice will grow and flourish as a direct relation to the amount of time and energy you put into it. So if you'd like to find yourself doing an advanced pose, taking a more challenging class, or having the stamina to take a weekend workshop or retreat -- plant the seeds of yoga during the "downtime" in your day. You'll be excited with the results!

 

Have a comment or question? Visit our Yoga Forum to start or join a conversation.

 

 


 

About the Author

 

Brian Critchley is a Yoga Alliance certified teacher who trained at Inner Light Yoga Center in North Brunswick, NJ and he currently teaches private clients through his business OM Central Jersey Massage & Yoga as well as group classes at Onsen for All Wellness Center in Princeton and at various locations throughout Central New Jersey. His journey with yoga began in 1998 when he stumbled into an Iyengar class at Princeton University with tight hamstrings and an interest in finding an oasis from the overachieving culture of the Ivy League. Over the years he has practiced with teachers in the Iyengar, Anusara, Kundalini, Ashtanga and Vinyasa traditions and prefers to teach with a strong focus on alignment and the inherent joy of movement.

 

In 2010 Brian and a fellow teacher founded New Jersey Namaste News, a yoga lifestyle and holistic health magazine for the Central New Jersey region. In addition to his role as Co-Publisher, he is also the Editor-in-Chief and Advertising/Marketing Specialist for the project. The magazine publishes quarterly and reaches 10,000 yogis and potential yogis with each issue.

 

Contact:

briancritchley@allthingshealing.com

Visit his blog: http://justbenow.wordpress.com

 

New Jersey Namaste News

(732) 659-7365(732) 659-7365 / www.njnamastenews.com

 

OM Central Jersey Massage & Yoga

(609) 306-2618(609) 306-2618 / http://omcentraljerseymassage.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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