Short on time but still want to release aches and tension? These three simple yoga stretches are expert-recommended and so easy you can do them in just five minutes.
Wanting to move your body but just not having the time or motivation to do so is a feeling that will be familiar for most people. Whether you’re too busy, or just not quite up for it, a few quick stretches are the perfect low maintenance way to get your body moving and help relieve tension.
Because despite what you may think, you really don’t need a lot of time, space or access to a fancy mat to fit some yoga into your day – and you don’t need to be a yogi to reap the many benefits. Whatever your age or fitness levels, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body.
But it’s not just your physique that benefits. A 2018 study found that practicing yoga regularly was associated with better eating and physical activity habits, such as greater mindfulness, motivation to participate in other forms of activity, and eating healthier.
Because a flowing series of movements is so much easier to commit to than a strength building session or 5km run, yoga is the perfect way to stretch your muscles even when you really don’t feel like being active.
“Doing just five minutes of yoga when you wake up sends a signal to your body and your nervous system that you are listening to it and taking care of it,” explains Stacey Lawrence, yoga teacher and founder of Bamboo Wellness.
“It’s not about body contortion, handstands or abs of steel, although if that’s what makes you feel good then absolutely roll with it. Yoga is about maintaining a connection between body and mind and checking in with your energy levels regularly. Practising little and often is more beneficial than taking just one class whenever you have time, think of it like little soothing love letters to yourself.”
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Here are three of her favourite yoga stretches for when you’re short on time, or struggling to motivate yourself to work out.
1. Come into a tabletop position on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
2. As you inhale, drop the belly, press the chest forward and look up.
3. Allow your tailbone to tilt towards the ceiling (anterior tilt) and draw the breastbone forward whilst lifting the chin away from the collarbones.
4. Then exhale and tuck the chin towards the chest, tucking under your tailbone (posterior tilt) and reach down through the hands to arch the space between the shoulder blades, rounding the spine.
5. Move fluidly between the two poses and attach movement to breath in a natural way for you.
Benefit: This yoga essential is a wonderful check-in for body, breath and mind, says Lawrence. “It is both grounding and energising as you stay in contact with the floor whilst opening out the spine and awakening your energy. Do this on grass or in nature for extra feel benefits.”
Recommended time: 1-3 minutes
Add on: Intuitive movement in tabletop. Move the body in a way that feels good and gets into any sticky parts. “This is a great way of mindfully checking in first thing in the morning before going into ‘action / auto mode’, and will be a good reminder of the benefits of checking in throughout the day,” she adds.
1. From the tabletop position, step your right foot between the hands and come up into a lunge position.
2. Either straighten your left leg or stay on your back knee.
3. Check that your hips are squared off before sinking deeper.
4. Take the left hand to just above the right knee and the right hand to the lower back, as you inhale lengthen the spine, feeling the space between the pelvis and ribs opening up, on the exhale slowly deepen the twist.
5. You can look back over the right shoulder if it is comfortable to do so.
6. Repeat on the other side
Benefit: “This pose is great for both strength, flexibility and increasing energy in the body,” says Lawrence. “It targets many areas including the lower back, shoulders, arms, abdomen, upper thighs and psoas.”
Recommended time: 1-3 minutes each side
Add on: Option to bring left elbow to right knee and hands together, use gentle pressure from top hand reaching into the bottom to deepen the twist. Tuck back toes, lift back knee. “If practising in the evening, go easy on the twist as they are energising, perhaps add a side body stretch instead,” adds Lawrence.
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1. Start in your tabletop position with your hands shoulder-distance apart and your knees under your hips, toes tucked.
2. Check in the hands – it should be like you are sliding the fingers underneath a rug, rather than dumping body weight into the hands.
3. Raise your knees off the ground and lift your hips up and back, working to lengthen your spine with tailbone lifting up.
4. Bend in the knees as much as you need to – it is fine to have heals lifted but reach them towards the ground.
5. Exhale as you begin to straighten your legs as much as possible – if your heels are down, you can peel your toes back towards the shins for added sensation.
6. Then ‘walk out the dog’ bending one knee after the other – again be intuitive and listen in to your body.
Benefit: This is one of the most common yoga poses – it’s great for strengthening the body and stretching the backline, from ankles to the back of the legs, all the way along the spine and neck. It also calms the mind and stimulates circulation.
Recommended time: 1-3 minutes
Add on: Adding on some fluid rolls through the spine from Downward Dog to Plank, will fire up through the core, says Lawrence.
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