The Story Behind "Mini Yoga" + How To Do It All Day Long
The aliveness of body and mind can be enhanced with the deep wisdom we gain as the years tick by. Here are my go-to practices, inspired by Kundalini yoga, for staying healthy, lively, and bright, and reducing the effects of aging.
1. Practice mini-yoga moments throughout your day.
Getting up and stretching even for a couple of minutes every hour or two will stimulate a cascade of health responses and the wondrous effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. Set a timer on your phone to help you remember. These are my two favorites:
Sit or stand, feeling your spine elongate from bottom to top of your head. Drop your chin toward your chest, and relax the back of your neck. Begin breathing long, slow, and deep. As you inhale, circle your chin out over your left shoulder.
Continue lifting your chin up, stretching the front of your neck. Exhale as you continue the circle down over your right shoulder and back to the starting position. Continue in this direction, and then repeat going the other direction.
To finish, inhale deeply and bring your head tall, feeling it perched and balanced at the top of your spine.
This movement will get your cardiovascular system going, regenerate your cerebrospinal fluid, and bring energy to your life nerve, which gets squished by too much sitting. You can do this right next to your desk, or pull over and do it at a rest stop.
Squat onto your toes, with heels touching and raised off the floor, knees spread wide, and your fingertips on the floor between your thighs. Keep your head level and looking forward. Inhale as you lift your buttocks up toward the sky, keeping your hands and balls of feet on the ground. Allow the top of your head to tip down toward the floor.
Exhale as you return to the starting position.
Continue for 26 breaths, then inhale deeply into the up position and hold your breath. Then exhale, come down, and relax. Feel that your cells are invigorated and full of light.
2. Stimulate your vagus nerve with the whistle breath.
This slow, conscious breath will release mood-boosting hormones and keep you energized and clearheaded during the day and relaxed to sleep deeply at night. The movement of the diaphragm helps massage your heart and descending aorta.
Sit tall, pucker your lips, and whistle as you inhale and exhale very slowly, fully filling and emptying your lungs. Inhale deeply and hold your breath. Exhale.
Don't worry if you can't make the whistle sound—just pucker your lips as if you were whistling.
At least once per day, relax fully the yogic way. Set a timer for three to 11 minutes. Focus on relaxing, disregarding any mini-emergencies or inspirations that may call upon you to jump up and tend to them during this time—continue to relax. It can all wait 11 minutes.
Lie down on your back with palms up and legs spread comfortably. Close your eyes and slow down your breathing. Consciously relax your limbs, torso, and part of your body allowing your body to surrender to the pull of gravity. Sink deeply into your mat.
4. Skip evening meals whenever you can, and have your largest meal in the middle of the day.
The energy normally devoted to digestion will be available to your body as you sleep, boosting cellular repair. You will wake up more refreshed and dynamic; over time, you will see profound shifts in your skin and body.
5. Give yourself a facial lymph massage.
This is an easy way to help keep your internal system clean and clear, brighten your skin, and boost your immunity. Lymph is a constantly regenerating internal bath, clearing away toxins from around your cells. But lymphatic flow can become sluggish as we age or if we are sick. Just as you feel refreshed and alive after a bath, a lymphatic massage helps wash away toxins to create an environment that boosts cellular growth.
Starting inside your jawline behind your chin; gently massage the junction where your neck meets your jaw bone with a soft pulsing motion. Continue massaging just behind the jaw bone, working your way back toward your ears.
Massage your neck with the same motion from your ears down to your collarbone with gentle pressure. Feel that you are moving the liquid beneath the skin down from your head toward your chest.
6. Try panting lion's breath.
This breath removes toxins from your bloodstream and increases the molecular exchange through your lungs. It stimulates your thyroid to boost your energy. Drink lots of water throughout the day to flush away released toxins. This exercise is also fun to do!
Open your eyes and mouth wide. Extend your tongue out and down and begin a panting breath through your mouth, focusing on each exhalation. Draw your navel sharply back with each exhalation, and relax it on the inhale.
Continue for one to three minutes, then close your mouth, close your eyes, and inhale deeply into your abdomen. Hold this breath for as long as you reasonably can. Allow your focus to rest at your third eye—the point between your eyebrows.
7. Use a chamomile tea poultice.
One of the most wonderful anti-aging and ancient healing herbs is chamomile. It delivers healing energy to all your cells. But do not throw away your tea bag. Let the tea bag cool to a comfortable warmth, squeeze most of the moisture out, then gently press the bag to your face and neck, drawing it slowly across your skin. Moisten all areas, but avoid getting the liquid in your eyes. Allow the moisture to air-dry. Feel that the wisdom of the chamomile is washing away tension, stress, and energetic toxins, leaving you clear, bright, and beautiful.
Dharmji is the co-author of ESSENTIAL KUNDALINI YOGA: An Invitation to Radiant Health, Unconditional Love, and the Awakening of Your Energetic Potential (Sounds True) with Karena Virginia. A yoga teacher, author, musician and spiritual counselor, Dharm believes that we are souls in human bodies, each of us with a unique inner spark calling to be actualized. He started practicing yoga at 8 years old. In his youth, he studied under several renowned teachers, spent many years as sevadar on the staff of Yogi Bhajan, serving from the heart, and learning kundalini yoga, naad yoga, and devotion at the feet of his spiritual teacher.
Dharm holds a degree in psychology from the University of Rochester, is a certified instructor by the Kundalini Research Institute and has been teaching yoga for over 36 years. He has recorded four albums of sacred mantra music and collaborated on numerous others. He lives in the ashram community of Hacienda de Guru Ram Das, Espanola NM, USA, and often travels to lead workshops, classes and concerts that are infused with joy, depth and a vibration of love. For more information, please visit www.dharmji.com.