5 Yoga Poses That Require So Little Space, You Can Even Try Them in Your Dorm

Adding yoga to your daily routine is supposed to be a reflective time full of zen and mindfulness. It's an escape from the stress of the real world, allowing for complete openness, flowing movement, and expansive postures. But when you're practicing in a room in which the toilet is only a clumsy leap away from your bed, that extended triangle pose suddenly seems much more complicated. Doing yoga with little space can be tricky, but these yoga poses make it easier to enjoy the same grounding benefits of studio yoga without knocking anything down or accidentally starting a small fire in the process.

Kendall Colell, a yoga instructor in her 300th hour of training, knows from experience how hard it can be to practice in a small space. "My whole freshman year, that was kind of an issue with living in the dorm," she says. "My sister and I would both want to practice and our dorm was fairly large, but we would have to take turns practicing." However, she quickly discovered that with a few variations and a little reorganization, it turns out that you can really do yoga from anywhere.

Assisted Plank

Assisted Plank

If you don't have space to roll out your mat, Bea McMullen, an instructor at mang'Oh yoga in New York City, says you can use your space as a helpful prop. "If you're looking for more of a workout, plank is great. If you don't have space for plank, you can do plank (slash push-up) off of a desk or off of a stationary kitchen counter," McMullen says. To do so:

  • Put your hands on a stationary surface.
  • Lean forward with your wrists under your shoulders, adjusting how far you are from the surface based on your desired intensity.

Johnna Warren, an instructor at Yoga Oasis in Tucson, AZ, adds that there are several similar ways to utilize the things in your home to help make poses more comfortable. "If you don't have a yoga blanket, you can use a towel. If you don't have a yoga strap you can use a tie or a belt or a dog leash, and if you don't have blocks, you can use books," Warren says, which is especially helpful for college students living in small dorm rooms.

Standing Sun Salutations
Getty | Oana Szekely

Standing Sun Salutations

For more energizing poses, McMullen suggests trying a modified sun salutation that doesn't require any lengthy floor work. "In the morning to get a little stretch, you could just do the standing [salutation]," she says, referring to the part of the practice that involves the following:

  • Inhale with arms up.
  • Exhale into a forward fold.
  • Inhale while lengthening the spine.
  • Exhale and come back up to standing.

Warren adds that this kind of forward folding is useful because "it's calming, and then it's also releasing a lot of stored tension." If you're looking for an even deeper stretch, McMullen says there's an easy modification. "You can bring the full palm under the feet, bend your knees a lot, bring the toes to the inner wrist, and you can kind of massage your wrists there," she explains. "Especially if you're on your computer all day, that feels amazing."

Tree Pose
Unsplash | Katee Lue

Tree Pose

Tree pose may seem a little basic, but it's excellent if you're looking to work on your balance. As McMullen says, "tree pose is really good for standing, you just need space for the knee to go out." To get started:

  • Place the foot anywhere on the inner leg, except for on the knee itself.
  • Use the strength of the standing leg to push back into the foot.
  • Place your hands above your head or at heart center.

To help balance, McMullen says it's important to remember that "the foot is pushing into that leg, but that leg should be just as much pushing into that foot." If you're still having difficulty, McMullen suggests keeping the hips inward for maximum stability and concentrating on pushing the hands into each other at heart center to ground yourself in the pose.

Twisted Chair
POPSUGAR Photography | Jenny Sugar

Twisted Chair

"For a little bit more work, chair pose takes up no space at all, and from there you can do twists," McMullen says. To try the pose:

  • Sit back into your heels.
  • Bend your knees deeply, keeping them in line with one another.
  • Lift your arms overhead while maintaining a long spine.

McMullen goes on to explain that twists are especially useful to add into your practice because breathing deeply into these particular poses is believed to have a detoxifying effect. To do this, she says to hook your elbow outside of the opposite leg and sit deeply into the chair pose. McMullen says you could also twist from one side to the other to activate your abdominal muscles. According to Colell, this was one of the power poses she did in her own dorm to challenge herself. "I feel like those really energize me even though they're so hard," she says.

Modified Handstands
Unsplash | Pankit Saini

Modified Handstands

Inversions aren't the first things to come to mind when you don't have a lot of space to practice, but according to McMullen, you can actually practice handstands in your doorway. "You might not have space to kick up, but you can build strength in the shoulders," McMullen explains. Do it this way:

  • Put your back and butt against the inside of the doorway.
  • Use your feet to crawl up the other side.
  • Work on coming into an "L" shape.
  • Rise all the way up with your feet at the top of the doorway.

If you're still nervous about practicing in the space you have, Warren says you can also choose to focus on meditation. "Something that's important in balancing out a physical practice, of the asana, is also a seated practice, of meditation, and it doesn't take any more space than if you were sitting in your car," she says. "It's just important that people are attempting to practice at all. It's still creating and spreading mindfulness, and that's the ultimate goal."