Only 5 Minutes to Spare? 3 Quick Yoga Sequences for Core, Energy, and Restoration
December can be a happy time of year reconnecting with friends and family over the holidays—but it can also be one of the busiest and most disruptive to your typical day-to-day exercise schedule. Don’t let decorating and holiday parties get in the way of your workout routine. Instead, deploy these yoga sequences when you’ve only got 5 minutes for a workout, or when you need a short reprieve from helping Santa wrap all those presents. Depending on what you most need within a particular moment, here are three 5-minute sequences for: A. a stronger core, B. more energy, and C. a peaceful mind. Who knows, once you give yourself a 5 minute break, you may find you’ve got time for even a little more yoga.
Sequence A: 5 minutes to a Stronger Core
(Sequence Summary: Half Boat Extensions --> Reverse Tabletop --> Either Full Boat or Half Boat Extensions)
1. Begin in half boat pose (ardha navasana) by planting your bum on the ground. Lift your legs so shins are parallel to the floor. Bring hands into prayer in front of your chest. Gently lean back through your upper torso but stay tall through your spine by pressing your collarbone into your thumbs.
2. On an exhale, extend arms so they are also parallel with the floor. On your next inhale, press through your feet and reach arms forward to lower body to a “hover” just a couple inches above the floor. On an exhale, come back to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times, maintaining good form.
3. After your last repetition, release feet to the floor and release palms 6-inches behind your bum. On an inhale, send hips to the sky to come into a reverse tabletop (ardha purvottanasana). Allow your head to gently rest back. Pause for a couple breaths here. Try gently shifting weight from palms to soles of feet; this open up the fronts of your shoulders.
4. On an exhale, drop your bum back to the floor to come back into your half boat. Feel free to continue with the half boat extensions as describes in step 2 OR extend your legs into full boat (navasana) only if able to remain tall through your spine. Relax your face as you pause for 3 breaths here. On an inhale, lower limbs so you again “hover” a couple inches above the floor. Exhale to rise back into your full boat. Repeat these full or half boat extensions for 4-7 rounds. Again end with your reverse tabletop as a way to relax.
Sequence B: 5 minutes to More Energy
(Sequence Summary: Warrior I --> Warrior II --> Reverse Warrior --> Reverse Triangle --> Triangle --> Low Lunge)
1. From standing, step your right foot back into Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I). Remember that hips should be squared off to the front of the mat as best you can (i.e. send your right hip forward so it meets the left). Reach through your fingertips but relax shoulderblades down your back. Back foot is out at 45-degrees with toes pointing forward. Press the outside edge of your back foot a little more into the floor for a deeper right hip and leg stretch.
2. Open your arms by sending left arm forward and right arm backwards to come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II). Back foot now opens slightly to a 60-degree angle. Send your gaze over the front fingers but keep reaching all the way through that back hand.
3. Flip your front palm open, reach forward, and “scoop the air” up and back to come into Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana). For now, maintain the bend in your front knee. Press your left elbow towards the sky and think of opening up the left side of your body. On an inhale, keep your upper body the same but now straighten your front leg to come into reverse triangle. Pause and think of reaching all the way down the left side of your body, from toes to fingertips. Breathe and stretch!
4. Now keeping legs just how they are, inhale to reach forward and down with your left palm, letting this carry your torso towards the front of your mat. Keep tilting until left palm or fingers lightly rest on your left shin. Just like in Warrior II, keep reaching through both arms. Reach through your right hand, which is now directed towards the sky—this helps take weight out of your bottom palm. This is triangle (trikonasana)! Pause and breathe here, keeping gaze neutral or looking up towards the top hand.
5. Bend front leg knee. Fluidly release left palm or fingertips to the outside edge of your front foot, then release right palm or fingertips to inside edge of front foot. Pause for a breath in your low lunge (anjaneyasana), then step back foot up to meet your front foot at the top of your mat. Relax in a forward fold with knees slightly bent. Grab opposite elbows with your hands. Keep hold of elbows as you gently roll up bottom to top of your spine. Once at standing, release hands to the sky, and step back to Warrior I, to begin repeating the sequence on your second side.
Sequence C: 5 minutes to a Peaceful Mind
This restorative sequence helps the mind to calm and relax, especially before bedtime.
(Sequence Summary: Bound Angle --> Stargazer --> Head-to-Knee Forward Bend --> Bound Angle)
1. Begin at seated. Connect soles of your feet to come into bound angle (baddha konasana). Press your palms behind you to pick up your body and move it closer to your feet. (Only move as close as is comfortable.) Grab your feet with your hands. Inhale tall. Exhale, and staying tall, press your collarbone forward. Inhale and exhale again, this time allowing your upper body to round into the pose. For extra restoration, use a yoga block under your forehead or even stack up a bunch of cushions or pillows if you need more height or do not have a block on hand. (Try this! It is wonderful!) Close your eyes and relax your face. Pause here for at least one minute.
2. Inhale to gently lift your forehead off your props and come back to seated. Extend your left leg, keeping right leg bent as it is with knee dropping to the side. Connect right sole of foot with upper left thigh. Now inhale to send right palm up and back, planting palm just behind your bum. On your next breath, reach up through your left fingertips and send hips to the sky to come into stargazer (parivrrta parighasana). Press left sole of foot and right shin into the floor.
3. Exhale to release your bum back to the floor. Inhale to reach both hands tall, and square hips towards extended leg, to set up your head-to-knee forward bend (janu sirsasana). Exhale to fold forward and reach fingertips towards extended left leg. Relax into the forward bend. Inhale to gently come back up, and switch legs for your second side of stargazer to janu sirsasana.
4. Finally, end with another long, restorative bound angle pose as in step 1.
Taking a little space of time just for yourself is a great way to make the holidays more relaxing and enjoyable, rather than stressful. Once you’ve taken your own yoga time-out, teach the sequence to a friend or family member to share the holiday yoga spirit!