Yoga for Small Spaces: Heart Pumping Sequence

Over the years, I’ve lived in a number of places – with host families in Costa Rica and Spain, in a bunch of different apartments in college, in Upstate New York, in southern Connecticut, in a hotel in Massachusettes, in a townhouse in southern Germany, an old loft in the Czech Republic – the list goes on. Strangely enough, the place I look back on with the most nostalgia is this little studio apartment I had while I was going through grad school. It was in a rough part of town, and definitely not the safest place, but it was all I could afford at the time. The building was old and falling apart, the elevators barely worked, and the entire place had a very distinct smell that I never really could place. I actually remember once afternoon coming home from student teaching and there were three cop cars outside my building. I asked if everything was ok, and they go, “Yeah nothing big, your neighbor was mugged but he’s fine.”

Uh, it was 3:00pm on a Tuesday! So yeah. Not the safest place, but it was my place. It was the first time I lived alone, and my little studio felt like a castle.

Today I want to address small spaces. Whether you travel a lot and are in hotels more often than you are home, are currently in a little studio apartment, or you’re living’ it up in dorm life, this yoga sequence should fit (quite literally) into your space. I created this heart pumping sequence because I don’t know about you, but sometimes after traveling and being sedentary in the plane for hours on end I just want to get in a good sweat. The instructions here should be considered suggestions. Definitely modify as you see fit – if you have more energy, hold the poses longer, and if you’re running on fumes, take it down a notch or two.  Enjoy!

This Yoga Routine is Perfect for Small Spaces

Good Morning All.  I hope today is finding you with joy in your heart.  I was woken up at 5am by my youngest son.  On days that a shaping up to be wild like today, I need a practice that I can do inside and easily in the camper.  So I am re-posting this sequence which is easy and quick and can be done easily with just the space for a mat.  Enjoy!

Sun Salutations

Regular yoga sun salutations are a great way to get in some yoga without needing much space. Simply reach your arms straight up and down with the moves, rather than out, to prevent hitting any furniture or walls that may be close. This is also a great way to practice in a crowded class.

  • Stand with big toes touching and heels slightly apart; outer edges of feet are parallel. Relax arms on either side of body, palms open in a gesture of receptivity. This is Tadasana, also known as mountain pose. Each breath will have a move.
  • Inhale, lifting arms straight up, and take palms together to form a prayer over head. Exhale, taking prayer down the midline of the body while folding down to a forward bend.
  • Inhale, coming to a long flat spine with fingertips on the ground, or if you need more space, hands on shins. Exhale, plant palms shoulder-width apart on the ground, and jump back to Chaturanga (hold body halfway between a plank and the ground, like a triceps push-up, where elbows graze the ribcage).
  • If this is not manageable, step back to plank and lower to Chaturanga. Inhale, pulling chest through arms and coming to the tops of feet for upward-facing dog.
  • Exhale, flipping over toes, lifting hips—keeping legs long—and pressing chest back between arms. Reach heels toward the ground for downward-facing dog. (Optional: Breathe here for 3 to 5 breaths.)
  • Inhale, coming high to the balls of feet, softening knees, and looking between hands. Exhale, piking hips up and jumping to the front of the mat. (Step feet one at a time to the front of the mat if jumping isn’t healthy for your body.) Inhale to a long flat spine, and exhale to a forward bend.
  • Inhale, hinging from hips with a long spine to come up to stand. Reach arms all the way up to high prayer, above your head. Exhale prayer to the center of the chest. Breathe here. This is 1 round. Try doing 5 full rounds.

Get a full-body workout in one pose, using the walls of a small space to your advantage.

  • Press palms firmly into the ground about a foot and a half in front of the right foot and about half a foot away from a wall, shoulder-width apart, wrist creases parallel, fingers spread.
  • Come high onto the ball of right foot. Using left leg to lift you, transfer weight onto hands or take little hops off right foot until you are upside down.
  • Hop lightly until top foot catches on the wall, then bring the second leg to the wall and breathe there. Engage shoulder blades down and together and press into your fingertips for stability.
  • Try to work your way up to a minute—you can lean against the wall as much or as little as you want. Every other time you try this, switch the leading leg.

Pigeon

A hip opener is a must in any yoga flow, and pigeon is a great one that requires no width.

  • Begin in down dog. Bring right shin forward, as close to parallel to the front edge of the mat as it can get, with right knee toward right wrist and right ankle toward left wrist.
  • With back leg extended long behind you and toes tucked, lower hips to the ground.
  • Reach torso forward and down, and then take your hands together as a pillow for your forehead with your elbows winging out to either side.
  • Breathe here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Tricky One-Legged Standing Poses

 

The wall is a great help when you are working on finding single-leg balancing poses. Try dancer:

  • Facing a wall standing, shift your weight onto your right leg. Bend your left knee and grab the inside of your left foot with your left hand, using your right hand on the wall to counter balance.
  • Gently lift your left leg and press your ankle into your hand to open your back.
  • Reach your right arm up the wall, or work on any other challenging variations you’re playing with.
  • Stay in your chosen variation for 5 long, deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.

Drop Backs at the Wall

  • Begin in wheel pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground hip-width apart.
  • Outer edges of your feet are parallel. Bend your elbows and place your hands on either side of your head, shoulder-width apart, with fingers pointing toward shoulders and your wrists lined up at the wall. Pressing into your feet and hands equally, lift your hips and lengthen your arms.
  • Keep pressing into your feet through the big toes and reach your chest toward the wall as you stay here for at least 3 deep breaths.
  • When you feel ready, transfer most of your weight into your feet, and one at a time walk your hands up the wall until you are standing.
  • Take a breath with your hands at your heart to steady yourself.
  • Then, making sure your feet are still parallel to one another, and not turning out, reach your prayer up and behind your head, reversing the crawl of your hands down the wall and into your wheel pose. Repeat this as many times as you like.

Supine Spinal Twist with Eagle Legs

Your spine and entire body will thank you for closing out your yoga practice with a twist, especially after back bending. This eagle-legged variation of a supine spinal twist is perfect when you don’t have space to stretch in both directions at once.

  • Lie on back. Bend both knees in toward chest and cross right leg over left once, and then twice if possible, crossing right foot behind left ankle for eagle legs.
  • Scoot hips to the right and allow knees to fall to the left.
  • Keeping both shoulders on the ground, take your left hand to the outer right thigh and reach the right arm out to the side. Look to the right.
  • Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.