Why 10 Minutes of Yoga Works

Yogis are not the only ones singing the praises of yoga. The medical community has now embraced yoga as one of the healthiest things we can do to reduce stress, increase focus, lower blood pressure, improve digestion and elimination, and generally make us calmer, happier people.

With all these benefits, why doesn't everyone practice yoga? The main reason, I learned, is lack of time. Our busy Western lifestyles make getting to those 90-minute yoga classes a challenge - many times increasing our stress rather than decreasing it.

I'm a yoga teacher, and I've been practicing yoga more than 10 years. I am also a busy working wife and mother, stepmother, business owner, author … The list goes on. I understand the challenge in carving out the time to practice. So I came up with a solution.

Yoga at Your Desk

Specific sequencing of yoga poses can create specific effects. For example, if you are tired and want more vigor, a sequence focused on backbends of all sorts will energize you. If you are feeling down or depressed, chest-opening poses help to heal the heart and elevate mood. If you are emotionally drained, twists "squeeze" out the emotion, much like twisting a wet rag squeezes out the liquid. If you have back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain-any kind of pain-certain asanas are better than others for healing.

But for use as one of my major stress-reduction tools, I needed a simple 10-minute sequence that I could do anytime, and almost anywhere. I dedicated myself to experimenting with different sequencing of poses, testing the theory on myself and a wide variety of students, from kids to those in their 60's and 70's. And I found the solution. The quickest, most effective yoga sequence for stress relief is an inversion (any pose in which your head is below your heart, like the classic Downward Facing Dog), a backbend (any pose in which the spine is arched back), and then a twist.

Happily, I also found that even if I omitted the rest of the traditional yoga sequence (such as the standard standing poses like Triangle, or Trikonasana, and the standard seated poses, such as deep forward folds like Paschimottanasana, also called Extreme Stretch of the West), my students and I still experienced quite a calming effect by doing just one or two inversions, a few backbends, and one twist to each side.

I noticed I got the biggest bang for my buck if I held the inversion for at least three minutes, did a couple of quick backbends, then did a long-hold twist. This pattern didn't give me the same level of stress reduction as a ninety-minute practice, but it came close-and besides, I don't have time to do ninety minutes every day!

5 Positive Things For You To Do Today

As I perfected the 10-minute sequences and shared them with others, we compared notes. Not only did these short sequences help tremendously in relieving stress for everyone, they also found that, like me, they practiced them regularly because they could fit in that 10 minutes anywhere in their day. It was that regular practice that ended up bestowing increased flexibility and strength, as well as stress reduction.

Just ten minutes of yoga performed four days a week will gift you with many of yoga's core benefits. I have found it is the consistency of the practice of yoga that matters more than the length of the sessions. So for many of us busy people, these shorter 10-minute sessions are ideal.

Holly Mosier, author of Stress Less, Weigh Less, creator of the yoga DVD "10-Minute Yoga with Holly Mosier," Healthy lifestyle expert and 500-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT)