It’s great to stretch every day. Even if you know that you may find it difficult to always find the time.
The traditional Ashtanga for a short practice would be to do some sun salutations and then as much of the standing sequence as you have time for (or none of it) and then the last 3 seated positions shown in the pictures. You can do these positions cross legged if you can’t do lotus, then do relaxation. This will take anywhere between 15-30 minutes, (there’s a 5 minutes practice further down.) Yes do relaxation. I know if you only have 15 minutes you might decide that you haven’t got time to relax but the busier you are, the more you need this time.
Use a timer for your relaxation
If you are practicing alone I suggest you put a 5 minute timer on for the relaxation and just lie down for 5 minutes, no further technique is necessary. The timer will help to make sure you lie down for long enough and also mean that you won’t be lying there wondering when you should get up.
The above practice is excellent if you are relatively new to practicing Ashtanga and are still building up your arm strength. If you are not doing sun salutes in class 3 times a week then I suggest you do this. It will make it much easier and you will build up strength much quicker than if you only do them once a week. Doing some sun salutes is also a great way to warm up your body for any yoga.
A 5 minute routine
A great approach to a daily time restrained practice is to make sure you work on your weakest area. This could be strength or flexibility in a particular area. For example for me it is almost always my quadriceps flexibility due to all the cycling I do. You probably know what your weakness is but if you don’t then talk to your teacher and they can help you work out what the weakest link is.
Working on your weakness will help you to balance out your body so it feels better and is less susceptible to injury. Increasing flexibility in this way can make a huge difference to your life and can be do in as little as 5 minutes. Everyone can find 5 minutes! If you have longer do sun salutes for 5 minutes, work on your stretch for 5 minutes and relax for 5 minutes. This would make a great 15 minute practice for busier days.
We all have areas of our body that are tighter than others. Working on your weakness can be challenging mentally but over time if you work on your weakness you will learn to enjoy the process. That is because working on your weakness requires that you acknowledge where you are now and then work at it. This is a great skill for life. Often if you are avoiding a task that needs to be to be done it is because you don’t want to have a good look at where this area of your life is at. Just like with flexibility we all have areas of life that are going better than others. Being able to work on our weaknesses (if they are important, you don’t have to do everything) can bring the biggest change in your life.
What to do
1) Choose one stretch, again ask your teacher for help if you need it.
If you are keen it may be tempting to choose several stretches, but the key here is to do a 5 minute practice that you can always do no matter how busy you are. If you do choose more than one stretch, choose one that you always do and do the others when you have more time.
2) Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds or around 10 breaths, repeat each stretch a total of 3 times. If it’s a one sided pose then you can either rest or do a vinyasa between each stretch, if it’s a two sided pose, you can do a yinyasa or just go straight to other side.
3) Reassess every two weeks, is this still your weakness or could you work on a different area?