How many times do we snooze our alarms, toss and turn in bed, and then rush through our morning to-dos with little thought to setting the day up right? For many of us, the morning is a struggle that just gets us to our next parks of the day whether it’s work, childcare, school, or other commitments.
There is a better way to start our mornings, though. Creating a peaceful and intentional morning practice with yoga is one of those ways. By setting aside some time each morning to meditate, journal, or do yoga, you are setting yourself up for a meaningful, productive, and much more mindful day. It may only take getting up 15 minutes early, but can make major changes in the course of your day.
Here we have collected 15 awesome poses that will not only invigorate your body in the mornings, but your mind as well. Try any combination of these poses for a full session, or pick a few of your favorites.
Padmasana — Lotus Pose
Lotus pose is a fabulous way to get centered, first thing in the morning. You can even start right in your bed with this one!
Sit up, in bed or on the floor, with your legs straight out in front of you.
Bend your right knee, hug it close in to the chest, then anchor it down to at your left hip crease, with the sole of your foot facing up.
Do the same with the left leg, bring the left foot to the right hip crease, sole pointing up.
Place your hands on your knees and straighten your spine.
Place intention on your third eye and practice deep breathing. This is a good time to set your intention for the day and imagine how you would like it to go.
Utkatasana — Chair Pose
Chair pose is a great way to start to wake up all the muscles in the body. Start slow with this one in the morning. You may feel stiff or achey, but sink into the pose and feel the energizing power that comes from Chair pose.
Starting from mountain pose, breathe in and lift your arms up along your sides to above your head and point your fingers to the sky.
On an exhale, bend the knees and lower your torso so that your thighs are parallel with the ground. The thighs should be parallel to each other as well.
Direct the tailbone down to the floor, keep the arms raised and the shoulders lowered and the shoulder blades back.
Rest here for 30 seconds to a minute, or as long as is comfortable.
Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog Pose
Old, trusty Downward Dog is a great way to get your circulation going in the morning. This pose stretches out the legs, arms, and helps bring blood to the head to stimulate your brain.
Come to the floors on hands and knees, similar to the tabletop position.
With hands firmly planted and toes on the ground, stretch the knees to come to a downward dog position.
Start with the knees slightly bent and heels off the ground, then exhale and slowly straighten the legs bringing the feet fully to the ground if possible.
Rest here for a few breath cycles.
Jaanu Naasikaa Adho Mukha Svanasana — Knee to Nose Pose
Invigorate your Downward Dog with Knee to Nose pose for a more active morning practice.
Start from Downward Dog. Bend the right knee and bring it to touch your nose (or as close as you can get).
Return the right leg to the floor and repeat the process with the left knee.
Alternate knee-to-nose 10 to 15 times.
Trikonasana — Triangle Pose
Triangle pose opens and closes the joints of the hips, shoulder, wrist, and ankles, and flushes blood though the whole body. This pose, like downward down, is a great way to wake up the body and mind.
Begin in mountain pose, then step your feet out a little more than hip-width apart.
Stretch your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor.
Actively reach them outwards to lengthen. Turn your left food inwards slightly, then your right at a 90 degree angle to the left with the feet along the same line.
On an exhale, move your torso over your right hip, making sure to move from the hip and not the waist.
Drop your right hand to fall at the shin, ankle, or floor next to the right foot and bring the left arm straight up overhead.
Gaze up at your left thumb and rest here for 3-5 breath cycles. Repeat on the opposite side.
Prasarita Padottanasana I — Wide-Legged Forward Bend Pose
From a standing position, move your legs out to slightly wider than hip-width apart. Breathe in and lift your arms up along your sides, overhead, fingers pointing up towards the sky. Stay here for one breath cycle, then on an exhale, slowly bend forward to bring your chin to your chest and arms down to touch your feet or shins. Engage your thighs and lift the knee caps to maintain stability throughout the bend. Rest here for several breaths and focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale and lift back up, one vertebrae at a time.
Ardha Matsyendrasana — Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Start in a seated position on the floor, with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your knees and rest the feet on the floor.
Slide your left leg under the bent right knee.
Let the left leg rest on the floor beneath the right leg and twist your torso to the right.
Place your left elbow on the outside of the right knee, and your right arm down to your side by your right hip.
Breathe in, lift your chest and head up, then deepen your stretch with each exhale. Repeat for 5-8 breath cycles.
Repeat this pose on the opposite side, placing your left foot on the outside of the right knee, the right elbow to the left knee, and the left hand to the left hip.
Virabhadrasana III — Warrior III Pose
Start from a standing position such as Mountain Pose. Breathe in deeply and bend into a forward fold.
Exhale and step the left foot back into a high lunge. Drop your torso to your right thigh and bring your hands to your right knee.
Stretch your arms forward, parallel to the floor with palms facing each other. Engage the right heel into the floor and, when steady, lift the left leg back and off the ground behind you.
Raise your head to look forward. Rest in this position for 30 seconds or as long as is comfortable.
Exhale and release the raised leg to the floor. Repeat on the opposite side.
Natarajasana — Dancer Pose
Begin in mountain pose. Shift your weight to the left leg and slowly bend the right knee, lifting the heel to the buttocks.
Reach back with your right hand and grab the right ankle.
Keeping your torso upright, lift the foot up and away from the torso, extending the leg away from you.
Stretch the left arm ahead of you, parallel to the floor.
Stay here for 20-30 seconds if possible, then repeat on the opposite side.
Marjaryasana — Cat/Cow Pose
Rest on your knees, hip width apart, and place palms firmly on the ground, underneath your shoulders to come to a tabletop position. Exhale slowly and fully, and roll your back to the sky, tuck your chin to your chest to come to cat. Inhale slowly and arch your back, bringing your navel to the ground, lift the head high to look at the sky. Repeat cat and cow 5-8 times.
Phalakasana — Plank Pose
To get to plank pose, start in downward dog. Extend your torso forward so that your shoulders are aligned over your wrists with arms perpendicular to the floor. Your torso should be parallel to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone towards your heels and your head away from the base of the neck so as to open and stretch the entire spine. Stay in plank for as long as is comfortable, but a few breath cycles is great. Exhale and slowly lower knees to the ground.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana — Upward Facing Dog Pose
Start by lying face down on the floor, legs stretched back with the tops of the feet resting on the ground. Place your palms alongside your waist with elbows bent. On an inhale, straighten your elbows and guide your head and chest upwards. Draw your shoulder blades back and open your chest. Keep your buttocks and thighs firm and engaged. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then release and slowly lower on an exhale.
Ashta Chandrasana — Crescent High Lunge Pose
Wake up strong and focused with the High Crescent Lunge Pose. This high lunge variation brings the arms up above the head to open the upper body.
Begin in Downward Dog, then step your right foot up between your hands.
On an inhale, raise your chest up. Swing your arms up along your sides and raise them overhead. Lengthen the spine, but be careful not to overarch the spine.
Drop your shoulder blades down and look up to your thumbs. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
On an exhale, swing the arms back down your sides and down to the floor. Return the leg behind you to fall back into Downward Dog.
Repeat on the left side.
Parivṛtta Anjaneyasana — Crescent Lunge Twist Pose
This is a powerful pose that stimulates strength and purpose. Use this pose to rev up your morning and set you on the path for a productive, inspiring day.
You can start this pose from the High Crescent Lunge position or a regular lunge.
Instead of raising the hands overhead, drop them out to the sides, parallel to the ground.
Twist your torso to the side of the front leg (to the right if the right leg is extended and bent).
Rest here for 10 seconds or a few breaths, then exhale and return to face forward.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Ananda Balasana — Happy Baby Pose
What better way to start your day then in Happy Baby? This pose stimulates the spine and spinal nerves and the gentle rocking helps to gently wake you and calm the mind.
Start by lying on your back, then exhale and bend your knees into your belly.
Grasp the outsides of your feet, hold on to your pinky toes, or use a strap.
Open your knees and pull them towards your shoulders.
Keep your ankles in line with your knees so as not to overextend them.
Push your feet into your hands for resistance.
You may choose to rest here or sway a bit to massage the back.
Yoga Makes a Better Morning
As you can see, there are so many yoga poses that can help you make the most of your mornings. It is important to stretch the body after a night of rest – this helps to improve circulation, drain lymph, stimulate the digestive and nervous systems, promote health waste elimination, and keep our muscles, joints, and fascia healthy.
There is also a major mental and emotional benefit to starting your day with yoga. Rather than rushing around and jolting out the door, take some extra time to care for your body and mind first thing. This is greatly improve your focus, productivity, mood, and will change how you take on challenges throughout the day. Spending an extra few minutes to set your intentions for the day during your yoga practice is an added benefit of making a habit out of morning yoga. Prepare to rise and shine.
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Catherine Perez is a celebrated yoga instructor in her home state of Connecticut, and she also happens to have a marvelous way with words. Her mindful writing technique is easy to digest and gives readers a unique opportunity to learn from a seasoned yogi.