Here's how to get an energizing workout in only 10 minutes.
Energy Medicine yoga takes a slightly different and nuanced approach from the usual routine to get the full benefits of a yoga practice. One of the principles is that you’ll get more bang for your buck, increasing the benefits of the practice without increasing the amount of time you spend on the mat. And if you have very little time at all with your practice, then this type of yoga could be your go-to tool to keep yourself fit, centered and energized.
My students say that when they practice Energy Medicine yoga, they increase their energy, clarity and efficiency so much that they find their days have more time and space in them and they meet all their goals effortlessly.
OK. So how to begin.
The first step is to activate your body. Just like you turn on your cellphone or computer in the morning, you need to turn on your body and energy systems. The body is energy and the body is electric, and there are simple ways to get yourself going. First, find your collarbones. Slide down to the ends of the bony protuberance and then slide off them into the hollows just below and slightly outward. If you press into these points, they’re likely to feel sore. These are the end points of the kidney meridian, and the kidneys, which clean the body of toxins, need lots of help. Go ahead and thump these points. Or, if they’re too sore, massage them. This also helps to bring fresh oxygen to the brain by stimulating the carotid artery. Thump all over your chest, with your hands in fists. This is what Tarzan and the apes did. It is getting your energy moving forward, in the right direction. Without this forward moving flow of energy, you are working at half your capacity.
Cross over your energy
Next you want to cross your energy over. This crossover pattern happens from the DNA up to the hemispheres of the brain controlling opposite sides of the body. Often our energy isn’t crossing over, and if this is the case we can feel tired, depressed and have a hard time healing and motivating.
Stand and march in place touching the same arm to the same leg. Do this for 10 taps. Then stop, brush off your hands, and march in place crossing your hand over to the opposite knee. Do this 12 times. You have now crossed over your energy, and to "seal it in," put one finger in your bellybutton and one finger between your eyebrows, push in and pull slightly up. Now take three deep breaths, in the nose, out the mouth.
It’s taken me much longer to write and explain this than it takes to do. Try it out, and see how you feel. Most people feel an immediate surge of energy.
Next, squat down. Squatting massages all your internal organs, and helps keep your hips flexible for better balance and posture. If your heels don’t reach the ground, put a pillow or blanket under them so you can anchor yourself. Allow your head to drop forward and get a complete stretch between the tailbone and the crown of your head. Take several deep breaths, in the nose and out the nose.
Next, push the padding aside and lift your hips up as you continue to drop your head down into a standing forward bend. Keep a slight bend in the back of your knees, and continue to breathe deeply, letting your hamstrings gently release. Don’t bounce. After 45 seconds, the muscle will start to let go. While dangling your arms you’re also releasing your shoulders and neck.
Slowly unroll your body, stacking one vertebra on top of the other until you’re standing. Take your time, unfolding over several breaths. When you’re standing, inhale and lift your arms overhead, then exhale, crossing your hands back and forth in front of your body down to your sides. Do this several times, arms up, figure-8 them in front of your body back down. This again enforces the crossover pattern.
Now separate your legs 3 feet apart and turn your toes slightly out. Lean forward and place your hands on your thighs, extending your waist forward. Twist up toward the left, using your arms as levers to both turn your body and also to extend your spine out away from your hips. Take three deep breaths. Twist to the other side.
Now lie down on your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the floor. Inhale, lift your hips up to the sky, extend your arms overhead onto the ground above you. Exhale, lower your hips and arms. Repeat this three more times, moving up with the inhale, down with the exhale.
Now come up and keep your hips up, but lower your arms back down. Hold this pose for up to two minutes. Relax your gluteus muscles and maintain the pose. This forces your low back, low stomach and legs to work instead of deferring to your larger and more powerful glutes. Keep checking in to make sure your glutes aren’t taking over. When you’re ready, lower your hips down, and allow your knees to soften into each other. Then fold your knees up into your chest and take several deep breaths, releasing your back, hips and shoulders.
Lie flat on the floor, close your eyes, and spend at least one minute of your 10-minute practice in shavasana, or deep relaxation. It may seem strange with such a short practice to rest, but this is the time that your body digests what you’ve done, and the benefits of the practice sink in.
Slowly get up, take a couple of deep, deep breaths, thank yourself for taking time just for you, and go and face your day!
Adapted from "Energy Medicine Yoga" by Lauren K. Walker. Copyright 2013. To be published in October 2014 by Sounds True.
Photo: Hasloo Group Production Studio/Shutterstock