We Asked... a Yoga Instructor: What Can I do in 5 Minutes to De-Stress?
Today's world can be stressful to say the least! From stress at your job to stress in your home, sometimes you just need a few minutes to sit down and relax. One thing that JC and I have been really into lately is yoga. We have found it to be a really nice, relaxing break from some of the more intense workouts we have done in the past, and it gives us more of a calming peace of mind from our crazy days.
Luckily for us, we know a fabulous yogi, my sister-in-law, Jessica Roufus, who is a practicing yoga instructor based in Chicago. She was kind enough to run through a 5 minute flow that will leave you feeling calm and peaceful! 5 minutes guys, that's all it takes!
Also complete side note, I love that she uses yoga terms in the following because I hear them in class, but I have no idea what the instructor's talking about--- now I do!
One other side note, be sure to check out her Spotify playlist at the very end to snag some tunes for your practice!
In our “go go go” society, we spend a lot of time trying to be the best, the fastest and the strongest. When we think of a regular yoga practice, many people, including myself, tend to gravitate towards a Power Yoga practice that leads us through 20 chaturangas, with an upbeat playlist and complicated sequences, which has us basking in post yoga sweat bliss.
While I love and teach this type of practice regularly, we must remember that Asana (or postures) are only one of the 8 limbs of yoga. I don’t tell you this to give you a history lesson, or try to lead you down a Sanskrit paved path of enlightenment (unless you want to go there, then please, go, and take me with you!), but I tell you this to try and help you shift your focus on what yoga should or shouldn’t be.
Recently, due to an injury I had to make some major changes to my own practice, which felt difficult to me, and made me feel like I was not being a true “yoga practitioner.” Sometimes being a yogi means going to an hour and a half power class, but sometimes it means spending some time in meditation, practicing pranayama, or taking a mindful walk around your neighborhood. That is what makes the practice sustainable – and adaptable to your body and your lifestyle.
One of my favorite things about a yoga practice is that it can be done anywhere, with any amount of time. The 5-minute sequence I have outlined for you here can be done anywhere, with or without a yoga mat, and can be done in 5 minutes. It is a gentle sequence, with the purpose of relaxing and grounding you. Obviously, if you have any health concerns, a chance of pregnancy, or feel pain any of the postures, please speak to your doctor before you continue.
Pose 1: Child’s Pose (Balasana)
The first posture I am demonstrating in this sequence is Child’s Pose. To get into this pose you kneel on the floor with your knees together or apart (find what works for your body) and let your hips come down and back towards your heels. I often like to start my practice with Child’s Pose. It is a rest posture that helps ground you and really allows you to feel the connection between your body and your breath. Taking some deep breaths here, feel your belly expand as you inhale and then draw your navel in towards your spine as you exhale. This posture slows down your heart rate, and relaxes the muscles on the front of your body, while stretching the muscles of your back. You can see in the video I do a couple of different things while in Child’s Pose. I like to walk my hands to the top corners of my mat to get a good stretch into my side body. Sometimes I also like to prop my elbows up on blocks in front of me to really open my chest and get into those shoulders. If you find that your butt can’t comfortably rest on your heels, then it can feel nice to fold up a blanket and place it behind the knees. Stay here as long as you like, breathing and centering. Also know that you can come back to this posture as MANY times as you like throughout your practice, and that goes for if you are practicing at home, or in a Studio.
Pose 2: Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
Slowly moving out of Child’s Pose come into a seat with your legs out straight in front of you and a nice long spine. Inhale, reach up, lengthening your spine, and exhale, reaching forward hinging from the hips and reach for your feet, ankles, legs, thighs, whatever is there for you. Focus on keeping a long spine here, before you fold forward. I like to hold this posture for about ten breaths, really focusing on hinging from my hips and not my waist, keeping that nice long spine. This posture gives your back an intense stretch and provides a calming effect. You are also welcome to keep your knees bent slightly to lighten the stretch. Always know when you are doing yoga that there is a way to adapt the practice so that you can stay in the practice.
Pose 3: Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Coming up slowly from your seated forward fold, make your way down onto your back, bend your
knees, keeping them hip width apart, and try to stack your knees right over your ankles. Press into your feet and lift your hips up high, coming onto your shoulders. If it is comfortable for you, walk your shoulder blades underneath of you and clasp your hands. Bridge Pose opens your heart and strengthens your chest along with working the nervous system. If you decide to support the lower back and tailbone with a block as I demonstrate in the video, it results in an amazing restorative version of this posture. 3 poses into this 5-minute flow and you could easily begin to lose your presence. Breath and be Present. Stay here for about 5 breaths, come down and take a few breaths, then repeat this posture once more.
Pose 4: Supta Baddha Konasana
Ahhh, I love this pose. This is a wonderful posture to help reset your spine following any type of
backbend. It also just feels awesome. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and bring the soles of your
feet together, letting your knees open to a butterfly type of position. If it feels like a lot on your inner
thighs or your groin, you can use yoga blocks (or giant books – dig out that thesaurus you never use)
under your knees, like I demo in the video. You have lots of options with your hands here. You can put them down by your body, palms up. Or, you can do as I do in the video and place one hand on your belly, and one hand on your heart. I like to do this to help me bring some awareness to my breathing and my heartbeat. Relax.
Pose(s) 5: Waterfall Pose, Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana), and/or Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
I give three different options here. You can do all three, or you can decide which one works best for you. The goal here is to get your feet up above your heart. Let’s start with Waterfall Pose – I like this inversion because it is very easy to come into without needing to move around on your mat. You can stick a block under your lower back, raise your legs up above your heart and you are in the pose. Stay here as long as feels comfortable. Shoulder Stand was the next option here. I would not advise practicing this until you feel comfortable with this posture. To get into this posture you need to firm your abdominal muscles and lift your legs up overhead, rolling back onto your shoulders. You are bringing your hands to your lower back for support and walking your elbows in towards each other. Keep your chin in line with your spine in this posture. Do not look around once you are in this pose, as it has great potential to cause neck injury (speaking from experience on this one… ouch). Start with 5 breaths in this posture, and see how that feels. Legs Up the Wall Pose is another posture that always gives me an “ahhh” moment. Scooch your butt close to the wall and just extend the legs up the wall. All three of these postures increase the return of blood to the heart, activate the nervous system, and bring fresh blood to the endocrine system. These postures are great for your immune system, so think about these when flu seasons comes a calling.
Pose 6: Supine Twist
To get into this posture, lay down onto your back, take a moment to draw your knees into your chest, let your arms come out to a T shape, and then let your knees drop to the right while turning head and looking to your left. Stay here for 5 breaths and then switch sides. Twists in general are good for your range of motion, digestive system, and pushing out blood filled with toxins. B.K.S. Iyengar calls twists a “squeeze and soak” action. You squeeze out all the junk and then let the good stuff in.
Pose 7: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Yes! You made it here. Lie down on your back and just let your legs come out wide and your feet flop opened. Let your arms come out wide too, palms up to receive the benefits you have just reaped over the past few minutes. There are a lot of modifications you can make here to make this more comfortable, if laying with your legs flat on the ground doesn’t work for your body, you can bend your knees or place a rolled-up blanket under your knees to make it more comfortable. This seems like it would be the easiest pose of all, but don’t be surprised if you find it difficult to lay still here. We have busy minds, but with practice we can train them to relax and settle down.
There you go. If you have around 5 minutes and enough floor space for your body, you can do some yoga. Throughout this whole practice remember that it isn’t about how the postures look (as long as
you are doing them safely) but it is about how the postures make you feel. One of my favorite Yoga authors Max Strom says, “Remember, it doesn’t matter how deep into a posture you go – what does matter is who you are when you get there.”
Thanks for listening and practicing!
Jessica Roufus, Yoga Instructor, RYT 200 Yoga Alliance, Certified Rainbow Kids Yoga, jessicaroufusyoga.com
Resources I used for this post and also just great reads – The Key Poses of Yoga By Dr. Ray Long, A Life Worth Breathing By Max Strom, Journey into Power By Baron Baptiste, and The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown.
Spotify Playlist – There are plenty of great relaxing playlists out there for yoga, but if you want to check out some of my favorite songs for relaxing yoga, I created a playlist titled 5 Minute Relax Flow, my username is roufus312. It is longer than 5 minutes, just in case that relaxation is just calling to ya.