Most of us start our mornings the same way: we get up, we lumber our way to the kitchen like a sleep-deprived zombie, and then mindlessly get to work preparing a pot of coffee. What if there was a better way to awaken your senses in the morning? The good news is, there is a far more effective way. You might already be doing it three times a week in the afternoon, but you should be doing it every morning. It gets the blood pumping, the muscles stretched, and the mind bright and awake by the time you’re done. An energizing morning yoga practice can work as a natural stimulant to set you up for a productive day. A yoga session will help warm up the body and bring you from repose to refresh. Many of us sleep with the spine and hips rounded in fetal position, which is calming and introspective for rest and contemplation. In contrast, backbends stretch and extend the spine and hips and bring an energetic openness to the body, preparing you for action. Take 10, 20, or 30 minutes every morning to practice, and you’ll start your day wide-awake and full of life.
Here are a few poses that are great morning-starters:
Come onto your hands and knees, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Begin to move your spine in a rhythmic motion: With every inhalation, arch your back and lift your sitting bones and chest into Cow; with every exhalation, round your back and tuck your chin and pelvis into Cat.
Warrior One is a standing position that signifies and stimulates strength and power. Start by standing up straight, and then step your left leg back 3 and a half to 4 feet. Bend your right knee so it’s directly above the ankle, and turn your left foot in slightly. Raise your arms directly above you, reaching strongly, and look up. This yoga pose stretches the back and the lower body. It can be strenuous on the arms, which are held high in the air. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then repeat, reversing leg positions.
Warrior Two is similar to Warrior One, but the arms are held out to the side with the head looking forward, and the back foot is at a 90-degree angle instead of turned in slightly.
Extended Side Angle Pose
This is another standing yoga position, which improves strength, flexibility, and posture. This pose is particularly good to stretch the side of your body and strengthen your legs. In this pose, the legs are spread as in Warrior Two, but the torso is turned sideways with one arm pointing to the ceiling and the head looking upward. When your right knee is bent, you’ll have your right palm planted on the ground outside the knee, and your left arm reaching up so there’s a straight line from your left foot all the way up the side to your left arm. Hold for about a minute and then repeat on the other side.
This is a standing yoga pose that helps to cultivate balance and strengthen your legs. To get into Tree Pose, stand straight and then shift your weight to the right foot, bringing the sole of your left foot up to your right inner thigh. If you can’t balance with the foot on the thigh, try placing your foot on the calf instead — just avoid putting your foot on the knee. The hands are held together in a prayer position over the chest. This yoga position requires balance and concentrates the mind. Try to hold this pose for a minute or two and then switch to the other leg.
If you have ever seen a dog stretch, you know how Downward Dog got its name. It’s a standard yoga pose, though not all beginners are able to do it. For this position, start on your hands and knees, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Press back, lifting your knees away from the floor while keeping your arms straight, and lift your tailbone up. Stretch your heels toward the floor to lengthen your hamstrings. This yoga pose opens up the back of the body and is very energizing. It should be held for about 30 seconds to one minute.
Un-flip from Downward Dog and roll your heels to the right. Shift your weight into your right hand and the outer edge of your right foot. Stack your left foot on top of your right. Fire up your thigh muscles; press your feet and hand down as you lift your hips. Extend your left arm to the ceiling. (If this is too intense, you can lower your bottom knee to the floor.) Return to Downward Dog and repeat on the left.
High Crescent Lunge
From Downward Dog, step your left foot between your hands. Fire up your back leg and soften your pelvis toward the floor, stretching your back hip flexor. Lift the sides of your waist, then lift the front of your pelvis as your tailbone descends. Bring your arms alongside your ears and gaze up. Exhaling, release and switch sides.
From Downward Dog, walk or jump forward and come to sit. Recline on your back and bend your knees with ankles directly under knees. Press the four corners of each foot down and lift your hips as high as you can. Clasp your hands together and press your upper arms down as you lift your chest.
Half moon pose
This one is easy and is fantastic to do first thing in the morning since it mimics the body’s natural desire to stretch after waking up. Start with your feet together, back straight, and hands interlocked straight above your head. Inhale deeply, then bend either left or right while keeping your shoulders straight ahead and your hips popping in the opposite direction. Repeat three to five times on either side.