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15 Minute Yoga Routine
by Therese Jorgensen Smith

Try this condensed Yoga Routine you can do in only 15 minutes!

Many of us would love to practice a regular yoga routine, but find it difficult to fit into our busy schedule. Since we don't have 60 to 90 minutes to do a full yoga class, we end up doing nothing. But there is a solution: for those days when you do not have the luxury of time to devote to a complete routine, 15 minutes of yoga will still do wonders! Keep in mind that a balanced practice will consist of forward bends, backbends, twisting postures, and side stretches. The following series provides the essential elements of a well balanced routine in a condensed 15-minute period.

Part One: Centering and Breathing
Spend at least two minutes sitting comfortable in a cross legged position, spine upright, becoming aware of the state of your being. This could be the most meaningful time of your day. Notice the sensations in your body and begin diaphragmatic breathing: slow, deep inhalation, expanding the abdominal muscles; long, deep exhalation, condensing the abdominal muscles, drawing the navel center toward the base of the spine.

Part Two: Cat Stretch
Come down onto your hands and knees. Have your wrists directly under your shoulders, with your fingers pointing forward. Have your knees directly under your hips. As you curl the back towards the ceiling, exhale and feel the stretch. Tuck the chin towards the chest, tighten the buttocks slightly, press on the palms with elbows straight, and round the spine.
Second Position: As you arch the spine, inhale and scoop out the low, mid, then upper back (making sure to lengthen the space between the head and the shoulders). Keep the elbows straight. Curl and arch the spine slowly 3--5 times. End by curling the back toward the ceiling, then lowering the buttocks to the heels. Keep the arms stretched out in front of you, placing your biceps by your ears. Relax and breathe, feeling the restoration of the posture. To come out of this position, bring your hands by your feet, tuck the chin, and slowly roll up to a standing position.

Part Three: Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Standing upright, press through the outer heels and inner thighs, draw the tailbone toward the heels. Draw the chin parallel to the floor and place the palms of your hands together over your heart, extending through the tips of the elbows. Breathe and feel the spaciousness of the heart center.

Part Four: Sun Salutation (Suryanamaskar)
The sun salutation works every major muscle group of the body. There are many different variations. For purposes of ease we will start with a classic sun salute and then add a few variations inside the cycle. In the beginning, you may want to spend one minute in each pose. After your body is warmed up you may move a little faster, being mindful to link the poses together in a fluid dance or moving prayer. This series stimulates circulation, strengthens and irrigates the spine, stretches the hip flexors and hamstrings, and has an overall invigorating effect.

1st Position of Sun Salutation: Mountain Pose
On the inhalation, stretch your arms overhead, palms together.

2nd Position: Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Exhale, sweeping the arms out to the side, leading with your heart, as if swan diving forward from a diving board. If there is tension in the low back, bend your knees. Place your hands next to your feet and relax your head and neck, drawing your navel point toward the base of your spine. Carve out the muscles of the thighs by engaging them.

3rd Position: Lunge
While inhaling, step back with the right foot and lower the top of the right knee to the mat. The left knee should be directly over the left ankle. Pause several breaths to extend into the right hip flexor. Open through the chest and look forward

4th Position: Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svasana)
Step the left leg back as you exhale, drawing your tailbone up towards the ceiling into an inverted V position. Press back through your arms as you reach up through your hips. If your back is weak, bend your knees slightly. Stay here for several breaths.

5) Extended Child's Pose (Balasana)
Touch your knees to the floor as you exhale, and reach your buttocks back toward your knees. Extend your arms and press your palms firmly into the group to open the shoulders. Breathe.

6) Transition to Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Knee, chest, and chin touch the floor. Sweep your chest and torso through your arms.

7) Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Place the hands between the chest and hips and lift the upper torso off the mat. Activate the legs, drawing the tailbone toward the heels. Peel the shoulders back, broadening across the heart, and lengthening the back of the neck, reaching the crown of the head skyward. If your back is weak, bring your elbows underneath your shoulders, resting on your forearms like a sphinx.

8) Downward-Facing Dog
Curl the toes under, lift the tail bone and return to Downward-Facing Dog.

9) Lunge
Inhale, bringing the right foot forward between the hands and lowering the left knee to the mat. Look forward, lifting the chest away from the thigh.

10) Forward Stretch
Exhale and step forward with the left foot. Stretch the top of the head toward the mat, coming into a forward bend. Again, bend the knees if you have tight hamstrings or a weak low back.

11) Mountain Pose
On the inhalation, plug in the feet, sweep the arms up and out to the sides and over your head. As you exhale, place your hands over the heart in the gesture of Namaste. Connect the breath in the core of your being to the breath in your heart center. Repeat the entire cycle again&emdash;slightly faster to gain a cardiovascular effect.

Part Five: Sun Salutation #2
In the next cycle, insert the Triangle Pose into the sequence after your lunge.
Triangle Pose: (Trikonasana) - place your fee wider apart than your hips. Keeping your hips forward, pivot on your left heel 90 degrees. Draw your right heel back counterclockwise about 30 degrees. Inhale and bring your arm out to the side about shoulder height (not higher) with palms down. Exhale, pulling your hips towards the right and the left arm to the left until your trunk is stretched sideways. From this position, lower your left hand onto your shin, your ankle or the floor (depending on your fitness level), or use a block for support of you need it. Stretch the right arm up towards the ceiling, opening from the shoulder. Slightly tuck the chin and keep the back of the neck and head in line with the spine. If there is no neck tension, turn and look at the outstretched hand. As you breathe in, anchor your legs to the earth; as you breathe out, draw the tailbone gently toward the back heel and elongate from head to tail. Inhale and come up, then turn your right foot in 90 degrees and left foot in thirty degrees, and repeat the same cycle on the other side. Inhale and come back to standing.

Part Six: Reclining Knee to Shoulder Position with Twist (Supta Padangusthasana)
Lie down on your back with your legs extended. Bend the right knee to the chest, clasping the shin (or the back of your thigh) with both hands. Tuck the chin slightly toward the chest to help elongate the back of the neck. Breathe and roate the right ankle several times in each direction. Place the right sole of the foot on the left thigh, and use your left hand to guide the knee toward the floor. This movement is gradual&emdash;do not force it. Extend the right arm directly out from the shoulder, turning your head to face the right hand. Relax and enjoy the invigorating effects of this twist, hydrating the vertebrae and detoxifying the internal organs. When you feel complete, de-rotate back onto the spine, then draw the knee to the chest, clasping below the right kneecap. Finally, gradually extend the leg to the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Part Seven: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
End the session lying on your back in the Corspe Pose. Turn the palms upwards in a gesture of receptivity. Close and relax the eyes, soften the expression lines of the face, feel the cool air coming through the nostrils on the inhale, and the warm air coming out of the nostrils on the exhale. Connect the breath from the core of your belly to the core of your heart. Know that underneath the physical tension and emotional attachments, lies an ocean of peace.

Therese Jorgensen is a yoga instructor with over 20 years of experience. She is the founder of Living Tree Yoga in Santa Rosa, California and teaches many classes for beginners to advanced students.

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