When we hear the word yoga, we tend to think of asanas: tree pose, sun salutations, balancing on our hands…
In essence, the yoga postures.
Practicing these poses generally makes us feel calm, balanced, and energized. But we don’t always have time for a full blown yoga practice. However, we can fit yoga into a busy schedule by expanding our personal definition of “yoga.”
We first have to understand that yoga is not only the asanas. In fact, the asanas are only a teeny tiny smidgen of the greater “practice” of yoga. They come low on the totem pole, guiding us toward a healthy body and a more focused mind. This is all done in pursuit of the higher practices of yoga like pranayama and meditation. Even these practices have yet another higher goal: enlightenment.
Yoga is actually a lifestyle — not a workout. It’s the practice of making mindful choices that help us become our most evolved selves.
This means that restricting our idea of “yoga” to asana is selling the practice short. An hour long class isn’t a daily or maybe even a weekly possibility for all of us. But we can still work on being yogis in the truest sense. We have infinite opportunities each day to evolve both mentally and spiritually. And they take little time at all.
This is how we can fit yoga into a busy schedule.
1. Give Thanks And Praises
Yogis seek to connect with the higher consciousness: “God” as some may call it, “the Universe,” “Mother Nature,”or a greater “Energy.” There’s even an entire system of yoga built on devotion to the divine. B
There’s even an entire system of yoga built on devotion to the divine. Bhakti yoga encourages us to remember this higher consciousness in everything that we do.
We may not want to go full bhakti yogi, but bhakti yogis have much to teach us. The power of prayer is one such lesson and it can not be overemphasized. Taking a split second to remember the greater force at work when we wake up in the morning, before each meal, and before we go to bed each night is very much a practice of yoga. Even if we’re not comfortable with prayer, a simple “thank you” brings the right effect.
Prayer or giving gratitude reconnects us to the divine. It brings the “union” that is yoga.
This is ever important if our busy lifestyle is trying to lead us astray from our spiritual core. It reminds us that there’s a higher power at work who wants nothing but our spiritual growth. It relieves some of the stress and pressure that we bring upon ourselves by reminding us that the universe has our back. And it keeps our ego in check, reinstating that we are more than our physical bodies and mind.
Prayer takes but a second, and it is yoga in the utmost sense.
2. Embrace Non-Violence
Yoga offers the yamas and niyamas to guide us toward a harmonious and conscious life. These are ten moral and ethical codes that teach us how to behave in a yogic way both at home and within society. They purify and stabilize the mind.
The first of these moral codes is the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence. Embracing ahimsa is a very yogic practice for yogis with busy schedules.
Ahimsa doesn’t just mean non-violence in the strictest sense, like not physically hurting someone. It includes not hurting others with our words as well as not hurting ourselves. It’s the practice of non-hurtful thinking, too.
Let’s look at how we interact with others. Do we treat people kindly? Or do we speak harshly to our family members when they annoy us? Do we insult our coworkers and staff when they mess up? Or do we honor that there is divine in everyone? Hopefully, our interactions are always guided by this principle of non-violence.
The same goes for our thoughts. Do we pass judgement, are we jealous of others’ success, or do we have ill-will for a frenemy? If so we should keep in mind this principle of ahimsa, continually reminding ourselves that there is divine in everyone.
And as for ourselves, how do we treat our own bodies and minds? Do we choose nourishing foods or do we fill our bodies with processed, prana-less junk? Do we choose our sensory input with care, avoiding watching or listening to violent dateline tales and horror movies? We always have choices, and we should do our best to make choices which support a life of non-violence.
This is yoga, and this is yoga that we can fit into a busy schedule.
And lastly, as busy yogis, we can simply just breathe. In fact, especially being busy yogis we must put an emphasis on the breath.
Those of us who are stressed and under a lot of pressure often stifle our breath. We grip our stomachs and hold our breath, or we breathe shallowly into our chest.
This kind of breath activates the sympathetic nervous system, sending our bodies into a state of fight or flight. The body thinks it’s under threat. It sends secondary physiological processes to the back burner so that it can focus on fighting. But of course, no threat exists. There’s nothing to overcome except for our own stress.
Improper breathing is an extremely common bad habit. Periodically checking in with the breath is the best way to get over it. If we time this practice of mindfulness with our meals, it will become a healthy habit.
Just before eating, we can close our eyes and observe. Are we breathing? Are we clenching our belly? Are our breaths rhythmic with each inhalation matching each exhalation, or are we forcing our out breath? After noticing our breathing patterns, we can focus on unclenching the belly and taking deep breaths that make our abdomen expand. We can invite long exhalations that expel every ounce of stress within us.
A few rounds of this healthy breath is a perfect pre-meal practice. It brings in prana, something yogis are forever seeking to expand. It calms the sympathetic nervous system so that we can better digest our food; non-violence to ourselves. And it slows us down before connecting with the universe in our moment of gratitude. Yoga, yoga, yoga.
If we restrict our notion of “yoga” to asana, then we’re missing out on infinite other opportunities to fit yoga into a busy schedule. Giving thanks and praise, practicing non-violence to ourselves and others, and simply breathing are all very much a part of yoga and take up zero to no extra time.
Giving thanks and praise, practicing non-violence to ourselves and others, and simply breathing are all very much a part of yoga and take up zero to no extra time. This is yoga for the uber busy yogi.