What’s better than starting your day with yoga? Waking up and moving your body first thing is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself – and you deserve it!
There are so many benefits to having a morning practice. As we sleep, bodies can get stiff, sore, and stagnant. By waking up each day and dedicating time to a morning practice, we can reverse the stiffness that develops overnight and get our blood flowing. This invigorated blood flow helps to wake up all our body systems, stimulate healthy digestion, awaken the nervous system, and improve our immune systems. Furthermore, creating a morning movement habit sets the stage for a happier and more productive day.
While any kind of stretching and movement is great in the morning (as long as it’s gentle to start out with), yoga provides so many amazing poses that fully awaken and integrate the whole body. Try this morning yoga sequence to start your day, everyday, in tip-top shape.
After slinking out of bed and greeting the day, stabilize yourself in a mountain pose. Then, start off your sequence with an energizing Forward Fold.
On an exhale, swoop your arms to your sides, bend slowly downward, and come into forward fold position. Touch your toes, shins, or knees, depending on what is comfortable for your body. You can grasp your elbows and allow your head to hang free. Take a few breaths here in forward fold.
From Forward Fold, we will lift up to a Half Standing Forward Bend, flattening the back and bringing your hands to rest at the shins. Take a few breaths in this pose.
Cat-Cow is one of the very best poses to do in the morning. Consider a real cat – after a long nap, they often stretch and take on their namesake pose.
Come to the floor on hands and knees. 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.
From Cat-Cow, use Thread-the-Needle to open and expand the side-body. This will allow a great stretch throughout the torso and provide ample space for deep breathing through the rest of your practice.
Start on all fours, in a tabletop position with your arms underneath your shoulders. Lift the right arm and slid it under your left arm, as though you were threading a needle.Turn your head to the left and rest it, your right arm and shoulder on the ground. Stay here for a few breath cycles, then draw the arm back up to tabletop position. Repeat on the left side.
Take a brief rest in Child’s pose to allow your body to gently warm-up to your morning set.
Return to a kneeling position on the floor with your knees spread slightly wider than your hips. Rest your bottom on your hips. Exhale and lower your torso to rest in between your thighs. Forehead comes to the floor and your arms slide down by your sides. Feel the stretch between your shoulder blades and take a few deep, purposeful breaths.
After a few breaths in Child’s pose, it’s time to really get the blood flowing by lifting up to downward dog.
From Child’s Pose, lift into a tabletop position. Plant hands and toes firmly on the ground, then straighten the knees and 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. You can bend the knees in an alternating fashion to bring even more blood flow into the legs and improve your stretch.
From Downward Dog, slowly descend into a strong plank pose. Align your wrists with your arms and keep them both perpendicular to the floor. Engage your core and legs to keep your back straight. Rest here for 3- 5 breaths.
Cobra is a great way to open up the chest in the morning. This is especially great if you are a side-sleeper, as it returns the shoulders and chest after a long night of resting on one side.
Allow your body to rest on the floor, then place your hands directly below the shoulder joints. Inhale and straighten the arms to lift the chest high while keeping your legs and pubic bone firmly on the ground. Open the chest further by reaching the shoulder blades back towards the spine.Rest here for 5-10 breaths. Exhale, then release and lower back to the ground, laying the face on one side and resting for a few breaths. Repeat 2-3 times.
To intensify the strength of the arms, core, and legs, move into Upward Dog from Cobra.
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.
It’s time to wake up our legs. Low Lunge will help us activate our leg muscles and prepare the body for the next few poses.
Gradually rise back up to Downward Dog. Bring your right leg up to plant between your hands. Allow your left leg to rest gently on the ground behind you. Raise your head and chest and slowly lift your arms to the sides. Maintain balance and lift your arms overhead, fingers pointing to the sky and head gazing upwards. Settle into the stretch of the hamstrings. Slowly release your gaze and arms, returning your hands to the floor and stepping back into Downward Dog. Repeat on the left side.
To open up and stretch the legs even more, transition into Half Split.
Return to Downward Dog, then bend the knees. Step your right foot forward to land between your hands, then lower onto your left knee, allowing the top of the left foot to rest on the ground. Flex the right foot and straighten your right leg, feeling the deep stretch. Lengthen your spine, then on an exhale, fold over your right leg. Rest here for 3-5 breaths, then repeat on the left side.
Lizard pose helps us open up the hips and stretch our legs even further.
Return to Downward Dog, again stepping your right foot through between your hands. Walk your hands forward and allow yourself to rest instead on your forearms. Bring your chest forward, lengthen your spine, and draw your shoulder blades together. The left leg should remain strong and actively stretched behind you. If needed, lower the left knee to the ground.
The Quad Stretch is a great way to release from the past few poses and open up the front of the legs.
Come to a standing position such as Mountain pose. Adjust your weight to the right leg and kick the left leg back behind you. Reach behind and grasp your foot with your left hand. Rest here for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
We are often a little off-balance in the morning while our brain is still waking up. Get things firing by stepping into tree pose.
Stand tall, planting your feet into the ground. Slightly shift your weight on to the left foot, and lift the right foot. Grab your right foot and place it on your inner left knee, thigh, or groin. Center your pelvis over the left foot to maintain balance, and look straight ahead. You may now bring your hands to a prayer position at the chest and breathe deeply while focusing your attention to the heart and chest. You may also lift the arms above your head for a different stretch. After 5 breaths, slowly release your foot and return to mountain pose. Repeat with the opposite side.
After practicing balancing in Tree pose, return to the floor to open and stretch the hips. Pigeon is one of the best asanas for this.
Begin on all fours, then slide the right leg towards your head. The right knee should reach the right wrist, then the leg can bend so that the right foot reaches the left wrist. Move the left leg back behind you keeping your leg internally rotated and relaxed. You may either stay upright here or gently lower yourself to rest on your forearms. Place hands in prayer position and rest your forehead on your thumbs. Rest here for several breaths or as long as is comfortable. Repeat on the opposite side.
From Pigeon, return to a seated position to stretch your back and hamstrings.
Stretch your leg out in front of you. Take a deep breath in and raise the hands overhead, then on the exhale, lower the torso and arms to collapse over your legs. If you can, grasp the foot or toe, or rest your hands on the legs. Breathe deep, full breaths here, and with each inhale, lift the torso up and with each exhale, stretch the body and arms further towards the feet.
Twisting the spine is always a great way to refresh the body for the day ahead. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose provides a great stretch for the spine, torso, and glutes.
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. Allow 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 several 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.
Take another break here in Child’s Pose, but this time, extend your arms far out in front of your to open up the entire upper back.
From Child’s Pose, roll over to lay flat on the ground. Hug your knees into your chest, then spread your arms out to each side. Roll your head to left side while allowing your knees to gently drop to the right side. Rest here for 3-5 breaths. Hug your knees back to your chest, then repeat on the opposite side with your head looking off to the right and knees falling to the left side.
Savasana and Meditation
It is always good to seal our session with a Savasana. Relax your arms by your sides and let your legs lay out flat in a natural position. Close your eyes and practice deep belly breathing. This is a great time to set any intention you may have for the day ahead, repeat special mantras, or even do a quick guided meditation before you set off on your day!
Win Your Morning
Healthy habits make for healthy people, and there’s no better way to start your day than with a yoga sequence. Adopting a morning movement practice will reap huge rewards over time: your body will become more limber, you will prevent aches and pains, and your days will be more peaceful.
This is a general opening and invigorating sequence, but feel free to experiment and practice different types of morning practices. Switch up your mornings by incorporating different poses, breathing techniques, or even a walking meditation.
The morning can be our most sacred time of day, embrace it! Dedicate this peaceful time to improving your mind and body.
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Paving the way for yogic living in Nebraska, Jacqueline Roberts is adored by her students as a constant source of support and inspiration. A knack for writing allows her to share what she has learned with the world.