One comment I hear a lot is, I don’t have time to do any sort of mind-body practice.
I get that, I really do. Most yoga classes are 90 minutes long. Your standard meditation guidelines say to aim for 30 minutes of meditation. These are longer chunks of time than most people have just lying around. Multiply those chunks by 2 or 3 or 4 (the number of times per week you’d ideally go to yoga class or pull out your meditation cushion), the numbers get even more daunting.
And yet, my response to this comment is, Oh yes you do.
It is my repeated experience that you can reap major benefits – less muscular tension, more mental clarity, bursts of compassion, flashes of insight – in only a couple of minutes of simple, focused practice. (By practice I mean any exercise that bridges the gap between mind and body.)
I know this is true because, as a working mom, two minutes is often all I truly have at my disposal. And let me tell you, I get a massive boost from those two minutes every time. Here’s a recent example:
One night last week my three-almost-four-year-old, Lil, was extra tired. Lil is the perfect example of the adage that says the more tired kids are, the less they want to sleep. It was bedtime, and even though the circles under her eyes were just south of beet red, she was stalling. Asking for snack after snack. Putting her jammies on backwards. Saying she needed to pee-pee 10 minutes after going to the bathroom.
I was kneeling on the floor of her room – so that I could be at her eye-level – attempting to micro-manage her every move so she would be dressed and in bed as soon as possible. Except, of course, my efforts were backfiring. I was just feeding her desire for something – anything – to do or talk about or cry over in order to make bedtime last a little longer.
When she went back in to her closet (yet again) to select the perfect jammie outfit, I flopped forward over my knees and brought my forehead to the floor. I wasn’t even thinking, “I’ll do a yoga pose and cool out for a minute.” I was thinking, “I am so frustrated I want to bang my head on the floor,” a la Don Music, that Muppet who bangs his head on the keyboard.
That’s when the magic happened. Once I got in to that position, I realized I was in a modified child’s pose. I could immediately feel my back muscles release. I widened my knees and nestled my torso down in to between my thighs, and extended my arms out alongside my ears. Suddenly, instead of thinking “UGH,” I was feeling “Ahhhhh.” I stayed there for probably two minutes—breathing so I could feel my back inflate with each inhale, and gradually walking my fingertips further away from my head so my spine got longer and longer. When I sat back up, Lil was dressed and I was in a completely different space.
I looked at her and realized her ultimate goal wasn’t to drive me nuts and keep me from enjoying some Kate time. She merely wanted attention and was going to use any means necessary to get it. I shifted out of my head and in to my heart, and our entire dynamic changed. I gave her a hug and offered to give her a boost in to bed by cupping my fingers and telling her to use my hands as a step. She was thrilled to try something new and happily scampered in to bed. We read our books and she turned off the light without me having to ask her multiple times. Then she fell asleep in minutes and stayed asleep for 11 hours—the first time that had happened in weeks.
The pixie dust that one child’s pose created has now lasted a full week. Every bedtime since has been easy, even fun. And all it took was two minutes. Two minutes and a decision to do nothing but experience what was happening in my body.
Never underestimate the power of your intention and your attention to completely shift your thinking, physical wellbeing, mood, and even your relationships.
Do you have a story of how something you did for a tiny amount of time had major benefits? Please leave a comment!
Take care and keep breathing,
5 thoughts on “One Child’s Pose. Two Minutes. Seven Days (and Counting) of Benefits.”
When I am at work and feeling wigged out – you know, when your shoulders start to feel tight and hunched – I put my arms out “hug a tree” and then lift them up towards my ears. Inhale, then push them out/down/to the side (so I am like a “T”). Instant relief.
Your post could not have come at a better time for me. I am also a working mother with an 11-month-old son (who, coincidentally, also does everything he can to avoid going to bed and staying there). I used to do yoga every day, and now I am lucky if I can manage an occasional stretch at my desk.
Thanks for reminding me that it’s not all or nothing, and a minute of meditation and stretching is better than none at all.
Denise, I definitely know that wigged out feeling! Love your stress-buster; will try it tomorrow. And Courtney, we all need these reminders–pretty much on a daily basis. I remind you today, you remind me tomorrow. Deal?
Thanks Kate! Great post. Tuesday evening it was coming up on the 6pm start time for the yoga class I haven’t gone to in months. We are farmers, I had a deadline and had to finish mowing a strip of pasture with a walk-behind brush cutter. I looked at the time, weighed dropping my work vs. finishing what needed to be done, and started berating myself for missing the class again…complete with defeated posture… and then, inspiration struck. I started to yoga-mow. I opened my chest, dropped my shoulders, relaxed my arms and got into a mountain pose behind the mower. I deepened my breath, tuned into my body inch by inch, and started to enjoy the small details of what was around me. Miraculous.
Love your bedtime story. I think we will make that a parental rule for when our little one is overwhelming us. Stop, drop and roll up into child’s pose! I love it.
Hi Kate, I have been a reader of your vegementals since your BC time, so this will sound a little familiar. Now that I am a mum too, I try to meditate when I am breastfeeding. I often think of you talking about this when I was BC and thought I will try that when the time comes. It really helps when I feel annoyed at being forced to be still, so if I practice nadishodana (sp?? Alternate nostril breathing anyway) I can then see the gift of sitting still when I’m done. So thanks for the inspiration.
On another note, congratulations on your new direction, I for one look fwd to more chill out tips for mums. I think we should call it mummy/mommy pose.