The Value of Short Practice
Do you find it difficult to develop a daily practice? Maybe there’s no time left at the end of the day to do something for you?
Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. And the things that nourish us the most are usually those that find themselves delegated to the back of the queue.
Short practice might feel like a cop-out for some, but it’s much better to do a little practice than none at all.
And that’s why I developed Mike’s Yoga Podcast. Because I, like you, struggle to fit in a full daily practice.
In this short article, we’re going to explore the value of short-duration yoga sessions.
Twenty minutes can be enough
Regardless of how busy we are, most of us can find twenty minutes to stop, breathe, and take a short holiday from the trials of the daily grind.
Those twenty minutes needn’t demand hardcore effort. Although a short burst of effort releases lots of energy for the rest of your day.
If you’re having a stressful day, it becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees. The temperature rises as we take on more and more in order meet the unrealistic demands we find ourselves accepting.
And this toil steams up the window, and we find it difficult to see through the glass.
We work through our lunch hour, devour a sandwich at our desk, and before we know it, the day has slipped by, and the task list is as long as it was at the beginning of the day.
Wipe the window clear
I often think of yoga practice as an essential part of any day: as important as eating, drinking. It’s likely to be the only time you get to yourself.
A short time on the mat provides a moment of repose: an opportunity to rejuvenate our energy and to clarify the mind; to, literally, wipe the window clean.
Like the hygge of bare feet sinking into a freshly vacuumed carpet, yoga is our momentary retreat.
Yoga is a treat
Yoga nourishes the mind and the body. It helps us stretch our stress away, to inundate our muscles with oxygen, and to revive our energy for the rest of the day. We spend our time on the mat consciously breathing, moving with consciousness, and acting with positive intention.
By focusing on our physical intention, we allow the mind to draw inward. We bring focus on the nourishing nature of the breath, and we quieten the mind (pratyahara).
By bringing attention to specific instructions, the physical body responds and we learn to observe, developing consciousness into and from the pose.
And, ultimately, away from the obstacles of the day.
You can experience the positive attributes of this quietening of the mind from a short, 20-minute intensive practice.
It needn’t even be physically impactful. Short, gentle practice - as long as it’s mind-body-breath-focused - gives you a valuable break from the stresses of the day.
The connection between mind and body, body and mind, breath and mind, mind and breath, breath and body, body and breath is significant.
If, when we practise a pose, we think “OK. I’ve done that pose, now onto the next,” we’re missing the point.
A yoga pose is a universe of actions, interactions, reactions, and observations.
In a class, maybe we focus on the turn of the thigh in trikonasana (as in episode 1 of the podcast).
We focus on that action so that the front leg hip moves forward and inward, drawing the spine in line with the front leg. This makes it possible to access the thoracic spine; opening the diaphragm region of the front chest.
When we act on an instruction, we develop the ability to feel - to feel what’s happening elsewhere. When you turn the thigh of the front leg, inevitably, the back leg thigh pushes forwards. This drives the weight of the foot into the toes, interrupting the connection between the back foot heel and the upper spine.
So, when we turn the thigh of the front leg in trikonasana, the ”mind” part becomes a focus on that learned action. That, in turn, becomes an equal observation of the reaction of the back leg. And that observation leads us to push the back leg back towards the heel; rather than accepting the forward motion incited by the turn of the front leg thigh.
This inner focus on the physical, energetic, and mental activity of the asana (dharana) becomes all-engulfing, allowing a moment of permittable indulgence and a holiday from the trials of the rest of your day (dhyana).
And you can benefit from this short moment of focus in just twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes is an investment in your day. If performed with attentiveness, those twenty minutes pay dividends in energy, positivity, and concentration; contributing to the efficiency of the rest of your day.
My latest episode of Mike‘s Yoga Podcast explores the standing leg in vrksasana (the tree).