When it comes to setting intentions first thing in the morning, the difference between easing your muscles into the day and rushing out of bed is huge. Speeding could have a snowball effect on your stress level, as frenzied energy tends to follow you throughout the day. Measured, intentional movement that sets the tone for calm and focus is key.
In addition to doing things like maintaining a phone-free zone for as long as possible and completing at least one task that makes you feel accomplished, we recommend setting aside 10-minutes each morning for this grounding yet energizing yoga routine.
Why 10-minutes of morning yoga will benefit your day
“Starting your day with a meditation has a different effect on your mental space than a HIIT workout. If you wake up and you’re in a state of stress instead of meditation, that generally carries into the rest of your day as well,” says Alexa Idama, an Atlanta-based Pilates and yoga teacher, and the creator of Low Impact Fit.
Take body stiffness for example. Jumping out of bed and into a workout first thing causes your body to carry that tension throughout the rest of your day. Flowing through yoga stretches in the morning, however, may help counteract that.
“Creating that mind-body connection with awareness of breath allows you to start your day with a sense of calm,” says Idama. “That calm often sets the tone for the rest of the day.”
12 yoga poses for a morning flow
For Sleep.com, Idama created a gentle, low-impact yoga routine. Follow these moves to complete a gentle 10-minute routine. If you find one position particularly helpful or relaxing, feel free to stay in it for an extra breath.
Child’s Pose (with side bends)
Benefits: Stretches hips, spine, thighs, and ankles
- Come to all fours. Bring your knees a little wider than your hips, with feet slightly closer together.
- Reach your hips to your heels, with arms extending forward. Lengthen into your fingertips and tailbone.
- Allow your chest to sink between your arms and thighs as you exhale. Take at least 4-5 breaths here, allowing yourself to settle deeper into the pose with each breath.
- For a side bend, walk hands to the right side of your mat, reaching your hips away from your hands. Feel the length through the left side of your body.
- Switch sides on an inhale and repeat.
Cat and cow
Benefits: Mobilizes the vertebrae, creating more mobility and functionality in the spine.
- For Cat: Come all fours, with knees in line with hips and hands in line with shoulders. Round your tailbone under to your knees and let the neck relax. Gaze inward.
- Round your spine by pulling your navel and ribs to the ceiling. Press hands and shins gently into the mat.
- For Cow: Inhale and move the eyes and tailbone away from each other. Look slightly upwards and allow the spine to arch.
- Exhale and round the spine to find cat pose again.
- Repeat this 3x.
Downward facing dog
Benefits: Stretches the posterior chain (hamstrings, spinal extensors, and glutes). Strengthens arms, legs, and feet.
- From an all-fours position. Tuck the toes under and stretch the hips up so that your body forms an inverted letter ‘V’.
- Reach your hands out, feeling the stretch through your back, and pushing your tailbone towards your heels.
- Imagine you are standing on your legs.
- An option to work actively in this position is to pedal the legs. Bend one knee, then the other.
- Do this as many times as feels good. About 4-10 repetitions.
Low warrior with hands behind the back
Benefits: Stretches chest muscles and front of thigh. Works to open hips and shoulders.
- Take a wide step forward.
- Both knees bend, with the back knee coming all the way to the mat. Make sure the front knee is not extending past your ankle.
- Reach arms around your back, clasping your hands behind you.
- Stretch the arms back to lift and open the chest.
- Repeat on the other side.
Half splits (hamstring stretch)
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings and calf muscles.
- In a kneeling lunge position, frame your front foot with both hands.
- Send your hips back and lean into your front leg to feel the length of your hamstring.
- Try to keep hips square.
- Relax your head and neck.
- Repeat on the other side.
Seated forward fold
Benefits: Stretches posterior chain and creates flexibility in the spine and hips. Improves digestion.
- Come into a seated position and extend your legs in front of you.
- Fold the upper body forward, rest your hands on your shins, and let your head relax off your shoulders.
- Inhale and exhale all the way out. Walk your hands slowly up the legs to come back up.
Half-legged forward fold (Janu Sirsasana)
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings, spine, shoulders and groin. Stimulates the liver and kidneys.
- In a seated position, bend one leg and place the foot against the opposite inner thigh.
- Fold yourself over your extended leg. Hands press gently into the mat beside your front leg.
- Abdominals gently pull inward to support the spine.
- Focus on breathing fully in and out. Allow yourself to relax and settle more into the posture with each cycle of breath.
Benefits: Creates functional mobility in the hips and releases tension in the low back.
- Sit on your mat with knees comfortably bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lean back slightly and place your hands behind your hips. Use your arms to support you in this position.
- Sway your knees side to side like windshield wipers.
- Do 3 more sets.
Leg seated twist (Marichiyasana)
Benefits: Improves spinal mobility, opens the shoulders, and improves posture and breathing.
- Sit on your mat and bend your knee. Place the foot as close to your right butt cheek as possible.
- Gently rotate towards the right leg, wrapping the left arm around the leg as if you were giving it a hug. Right hand comes directly behind the right hips.
- Press down with your hand to lift through the spine. Look over your right shoulder.
- Focus on breathing fully. Take 3-5 breaths before repeating on the other side.
Benefits: Improves spinal mobility. Lengthens supporting spinal muscles and releases the low back.
- Lie down on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Arms come out to the sides.
- Let your knees drop to the right. Take your gaze to the left. Breathe in and out.
- Take 3-5 full cycles of breath.
- Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Strengthens hamstrings and glutes while engaging muscles of the front body.
- Lie down on your mat with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your heels under your knees. Legs are hips width apart.
- Arms long by your side gently pressing into the mat.
- Roll your hips up about a fist width of the mat.
- Gently stretch your knees forward as your hips come up.
- Roll down through the sine and repeat 3-5 times.
Happy baby variation
Benefits: Releases pelvis and lower back. Can help improve breathing.
- Lie on your back and bring your knees up to your armpits.
- Hold on to your shins with your hands.
- Gently rock from side to side, massaging your lower back.
- Inhale deeply in and out. Feel yourself ground.
Benefits: Improves breathing patterns, oxygenates the body, and calms the mind.
- Sit in a seated position with your legs crossed and eyes closed.
- Exhale all the air out of your lungs, through the lips.
- Inhale through the nose.
- Exhale through the lips.
- Repeat for 5-10 cycles of breath.
Yoga is also a great way to warm up before a workout
“If I decide to do a [more intense] work out later on, then I can bring what I had in my yoga practice with me to the workout as well, and feed that calmness into my workout,” Idama says. This calmness can help inform everything from pacing your breath to how fast you might want to be doing those burpees.
Yoga is a moving meditation, not a workout, she reminds us. In fact, doing yoga stretches before a more intense workout may even improve your performance by helping you distinguish between ability and flexibility. Sure, you could run fast to beat your time, but if you noticed a slight cramp during a hamstring stretch, then taking it slow may be a smarter move.
That’s not to say you must do a morning yoga routine everyday. There are also benefits to doing yoga before bed to calm racing thoughts and fall asleep faster. While meditation can be about being mindful, being mindful about meditation can also go a long way in helping you maintain calm.