Incidental Yoga

How to sneak some yoga into your day, even when you think you don’t have time. Some tips to help you graze on yoga.

If you aspire to establish a regular yoga practice, but struggle to schedule time to attend a class, incidental yoga may be a good approach.

Incidental yoga is yoga that you slip into your day with minimal effort, by identifying a few minutes here or there, or by weaving yoga into other activities you may already be doing.

By doing ‘a little, often’ you will be grazing on yoga, rather than bingeing. Much like making small changes to your eating habits, it may not seem like much at the time, but incidental yoga can have a great cumulative effect on your wellbeing.

Here are five simple examples of how you can fit some incidental yoga into your day. None of these take more than five minutes, and some don’t require any extra time at all – just a bit more mindfulness.

1. Ready, set…pause.
If you do regular exercise or sports training, take two minutes before you get started to bring greater awareness to your activity.

Yoga is not just a physical practice – it is centred on the breath and on being mindful. So before you get into your activity, pause and take some deep, centering breaths and bring your awareness to the present moment. Observe any tension in your body and feel where you can relax more.

Next set an intention for the activity you are about to undertake. What is your purpose for doing this? Add a simple visualisation to support your intention. This two-minute pause will get you centred and help you practise ‘being present’, which is a key principle of practising yoga.

2. Breathe yoga into your activities
Doing any kind of sport or exercise presents an opportunity to work on your breath awareness and control (another key aspect of yoga).

There are several ways you can do this. Taking running as an example, you can observe how your breath synchronises with your strides. How many paces do you take while inhaling, and exhaling?

Can you vary that? How fully do you breathe into your lungs? Can you use your breath to help you become more efficient and relaxed in your running?

There are all sorts of patterns to look for and variations to work with. Doing so will bring some crossover from yoga into your regular exercise.

You don’t have to be exercising to do this. You could incorporate similar breath awareness into everyday activities like driving, doing the dishes or gardening.

3. Make your stretching mindful
Stretching is beneficial to everyone, and is always a good idea at the end of a sports or training session. But there is a big difference between ‘stretching’ and practising yoga. You can certainly bridge that gap substantially by focusing on stretching more mindfully.

This includes turning your awareness inwards (not chattering away to a group as you do a couple of calf stretches), being particular about your alignment and the purpose of each stretch (or pose) and keeping focused on your breath and how you can create more ease in your body.

Doing this can transform your cool-down stretches into a mini yoga session.

4. Practise TV yoga
Whenever you find yourself on the couch watching TV, you have the perfect opportunity for some incidental yoga. Do your spine and hips a favour and get off that couch (aka ‘slouch’) and onto the floor.

Among my top ‘TV yoga’ poses are sphinx pose (a gentle back extension) and a simple crossed-leg pose to stretch the glutes – perfect for stretching out during TV time. And there are many more too.

There’s no reason not to switch position from the couch to the floor, at least for a few minutes, and add to your yoga tally for the week.

5. Take five – am and pm
Adding just five minutes to your morning or evening routine really is very doable, and can help get you in a good mind-set for the day ahead, or wind down for sleeping.

In the morning get out of bed and do some gentle spinal movements, including ‘cat and cow’, a simple twist, and lengthen out sideways. Then sit for a minute or two to find a connection with your breath and set a positive intention for your day.

In the evening, one or two simple restorative poses can help relax your body and mind in preparation for sleeping. A couple of favourites are ‘caterpillar’ (a yin yoga pose) and ‘legs up the wall’.

You will find making this extra five minutes at each end of your day to be well worth the effort.

None of these suggestions are demanding or difficult. But before you know it, you could easily add half an hour or more of yoga, in some form, to your day. Let this be just the beginning, and look for other opportunities in your day to practise incidental yoga.

By |2017-05-03T16:56:11+00:00May 3rd, 2017|Sarah MacDonald, Yoga for athletes|