Spontaneous Yoga is a term I've developed to describe the idea of inserting yoga into my everyday life. While I love an hour-plus-long yoga class, I can't always fit it into my schedule or budget, so instead I find small ways every day to incorporate yoga for my overall well-being. In any given moment, I may suddenly realize that I'm tensing up or holding my breath. That's my invitation to practice Spontaneous Yoga.
Every day we engage in repetitious activity that can strain different parts of our bodies and result in kinks, stresses and potential injuries that we'd all rather avoid. Spontaneous Yoga is about tuning in, making micro-adjustments and examining my habits to see where I can improve, tone, relax and breathe.
1. Pick one asana that is a part of every day.
I discovered yoga in 1987 when an acquaintance introduced me to my all-time favorite yoga sequence "“ Surya Namaskar A, the Sun Salutation that I still practice most mornings. It gets my blood flowing, stretches my hamstrings & calves, and lengthens my spine. It's a great way to start the day and it only requires enough floor space to fit my body in a prone position, so I can even do it in hotel rooms.
What movement or series of movements bring you happiness and joy? It could be a deep breathing exercise. Perhaps it's seated forward fold or downward dog with walking calf stretches. Or maybe you enjoy reclining knees-to-chest with revolved belly posture, followed by Happy Baby. Whatever specific asana or short sequence brings you to your happy place, give yourself a few minutes each day to enjoy it.
2. Listen to your body's messages.
Spontaneous Yoga gets me tuned into my body. I make an effort to notice where I need a break. Of course, I can get so engaged with my projects that I can't bear to put down the paintbrush or pull myself away from my laptop, or I might be on a long flight where I'm not comfortable using the aisle to practice Sun Salutations. But sometimes the tension in my neck or arms or hips is so intense I can't avoid it. So I take a deep breath, then I make a deliberate adjustment.
If you're tuned in enough to notice when your body is asking for a break, respect that request! Yoga is so prevalent nowadays, there is no reason to be embarrassed if you feel like raising your arms and doing gentle side bends while you're waiting for a train. You may even find that others around you will follow with their own private stretches.
3. Even out your sides.
A few years back a good friend of mine injured her neck and had to wear a brace for months. It wasn't a car accident that caused her injury, it was the fact that she carried a heavy bag on one side of her body, and always stood on that leg with her hip cocked. Eventually the strain in her spine moved right up to the base of her skull.
We all have preferences for right or left sides during different activities, and we all spend more time hunched forward than bending backward. The idea of Spontaneous Yoga invites you to consider how you can even out all your sides. Put your bag on the opposite side, shift to the other foot, try reverse prayer to open your chest, use the mouse with your non-dominant hand. It will feel strange at first, but even doing it for a few minutes will make a big difference to your body's balance.
4. Find places in your routine to insert Spontaneous Yoga.
I've been doing Spontaneous Yoga for a while, so I have quite a few routine adjustments I make every day. If I'm standing in line, I'll find Mountain Pose. I'll square my feet and root myself, pull my belly in toward my spine, activate my fingers, engage my arm and leg muscles, and lengthen my spine and neck. If I'm driving, I'll engage my abdominal muscles, relax my shoulders and practice deep 3-part breathing. If I'm drawing or painting, I'll switch hands or take frequent breaks to do a side bend, a forward bend, or downward facing dog.
Of course, like anyone else, I often stand in line slouched over my cell phone. Nobody is perfect. But to me, Spontaneous Yoga is about doing my best while being aware of my body's needs as I age. It can be as simple as looking up from my device for a moment to inhale deeply, squeeze my shoulder blades together, tilt my head back and open up my collapsing intercostal muscles.
We are dynamic, physical beings. In order to stay flexible, toned and strong as you age, make yoga part of your everyday life in small and practical ways by practicing your own version of Spontaneous Yoga.