Regardless of how I slept the night before or what's on my agenda for the day, I always feel more relaxed and focused after even a handful of minutes on my mat. Start your day out on a centered and strong note with this short yoga sequence that energizes your body and brain. Wake up five minutes earlier in the morning, and reap the benefits all day long.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kat Borchart
Even after a good night's rest, you might be surprised how shallow or hurried it feels first thing in the morning as you run through your checklists for the day. Draw your arms out long in front of you, and let your forehead rest on the floor for Child's Pose.
- Kneel on your mat with your knees hips-width distance apart and your big toes touching behind you. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs. Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
- Rest your arms beside your legs, with palms facing up, or try extending your arms out in front of you.
- Stay here for 10 long breaths.
Warming up your spine with a round of Cat Pose to Cow Pose will loosen up tightness in your upper body and relieve tension in your neck from how you slept. Pay special attention to aligning each movement with each breath to get the most out of this effective asana.
- Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders. Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. Take a big, deep inhale.
- On the exhale, round your spine up toward the ceiling, and imagine you're pulling your belly button up toward your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin toward your chest, and let your neck release. This is your cat-like shape.
- On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax, and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up toward the sky — without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck. This is the Cow portion of the pose.
- Continue flowing back and forth from Cat Pose to Cow Pose, and connect your breath to each movement — inhale for Cow Pose, and exhale on Cat Pose.
- Repeat for 10 rounds.
Downward Facing Dog
Activate your muscles, release stress in your legs and neck, and start building internal heat in Downward Facing Dog. Ten breaths might seem like a long time — but don't bail! This pose will get the blood pumping through your whole body.
- From Child's Pose, press back on your hands, and come into a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be underneath your shoulders, and your knees should be underneath your hips.
- Inhale as you tuck your toes under your heels. Then exhale to lift your hips, coming into an upside-down V shape called Downward Facing Dog.
- Spread your fingers wide, and create a straight line between your middle fingers and elbows. Work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels toward the ground. Relax your head between your arms, and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button.
- Hold for 10 breaths.
Standing Forward Bend
Standing Forward Bend is another pose that looks like it's all relaxation, but you will feel a deep and intense stretch in your hamstrings and upper back. While the full expression of the pose calls for straight legs, if that feels like too much on your body, give a little bend to your knees to create more space. Remember to breathe deep, and come up slowly.
- From Downward Facing Dog, keep your hands on the mat, and slowly step one foot at a time to the top of your mat so your feet meet your hands. Inhale with a flat back, and gaze slightly forward.
- As you exhale, engage your abs to fold forward with a straight back. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and extend the crown of your head toward the floor to create a long spine. Shift your weight forward onto your toes, trying to straighten the legs as much as possible. If this feels uncomfortable, allow your knees to have a little bend so you can focus on releasing your back.
- Place your hands on the ground, fingertips lining up with your toes.
- Hold here for 10 breaths.
- Slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time, and step back to Downward Facing Dog.
Open up tight hips while strengthening your lower body in Warrior 1. Do your best to turn and square your hips toward the front of the room while straightening and engaging your back leg in Warrior 1. These tips will help your body get the most of the stretch, and you'll be able to stay comfortable in this pose for the full five breaths without readjusting.
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Turn your left heel in, press into your feet, and lift your torso up.
- Lift your arms up, and press your palms together. Draw your shoulder blades down toward your hips, and gaze up at your hands.
- Stay here for five breaths. Then come back to Downward Facing Dog, and step your left foot forward to do Warrior 1 on the other side.
Warrior 3 is the final pose of this short sequence that will fire up your core and challenge your balance. Once you complete this pose on either side, you can look forward to a calmer commute and more productive morning.
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward for a quick Warrior 1 Pose. On your exhale, lower your torso and lift your left leg, bringing your body parallel with the ground. Extend your hands out in front of you, pressing your palms together firmly.
- Press your hands together in a prayer, or extend your arms forward together, separating your arms so they're shoulder-width apart. If extending your arms creates pain or pressure in your lower back, then bring your hands to your hips.
- Hold this position for five deep breaths, then lower your left leg returning to Warrior 1, step back to Downward Facing Dog, and step your left foot forward for Warrior 3 on the other side, then back to Downward Facing Dog.
- From Downward Facing Dog, drop your knees to the mat, take a few breaths in Child's Pose, and move on with your day!