The Five-Minute Yoga Challenge started as a response to two of Gretchen Rubin’s Rules for Adulthood: “What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE,” and “By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.” That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of My Five Minute Yoga Practice. After all, no matter how busy you might be, there are five minutes somewhere in your day that you can devote to doing just one pose or preparation. The rules: it doesn’t matter if you don’t make all seven days. Three and above is a definite win, five and above is a triumph. Of course, if you have time, you can practice other poses. But if five minutes a day is all you have, choose a Five-Minute Yoga Challenge that works for you, do it, and see what happens.
There’s a lot to be said for hanging out. In fact, adding a few minutes of hanging to your daily yoga routine is one of the quickest ways to loosen tight shoulders and create lasting length through your side body.
When you hang, you can spend time in a slow, meditative stretch that’s made much more effective by adding your body weight as traction.
So this week’s Five-Minute Yoga Challenge is to find a suitable door, knot a yoga strap, and find your inner monkey.
What makes a suitable door?
First and most important, it has to open away from you. Solid wood or steel is best. Avoid glass doors and bi-folds, for obvious reasons.
Make a loop in your strap, then tie a knot in the loop.
Put the knot on the far side of the door, the loop on the side nearest you.
Close the door and pull the strap until the knot is firm against the back of the door. (You might want to dust the top of the door first, to keep your strap clean.)
Stand about a foot away from the door. Now slip one hand into the loop as though you were taking hold of a ski pole. Turn your feet sideways to the door, so the arm connected to the strap is now on the side away from the door.
Start with a small loop, perhaps a foot (30 cm) of strap. The longer the loop, the deeper your knees will bend.
Slowly begin to stretch into your side body. Bend your knees a little at a time. Feel your way in, gradually taking more of your body weight into the strap. Experiment with engaging the muscles in your arm.
Turn to look up under your arm. Feel the stretch moving all the way down the side of your body to your hip. Imagine your arm becoming as long and supple as a gibbon’s. Play. For inspiration, you might like to listen to this territorial call of a female Silvery Gibbon.
If you can’t locate your inner monkey (or lesser ape) and feel puzzled and uncomfortable instead of long and liberated, try changing sides.
For most of us, one side understands immediately, while the other side is mystified. Once you’ve experienced the side that “gets” it, you’ll be able to recreate that feeling on the other side.
Hang for several long deep breaths on each side.
Benefits: Hang from a strap and you’ll create a longer, more open side body, especially through your ribcage, armpits and shoulders. Ease and spaciousness in your ribcage will energize you and help you breathe more easily.
Sequence: Hang around whenever you want to. It’s an excellent way to recharge your energy and clear your mind when you’ve been sitting at a desk. Use traction towards the beginning of a longer practice and enjoy the length of your side body in the poses that follow.
Ouch: Ease in slowly and gently if you have stiff shoulders. Keep the loop short if you have knee problems that make squatting uncomfortable for you. If you feel a pinch in your lower back, drop your buttock bones toward the floor.