Your morning routine sets the tone for your entire day. Taking time to practice mindfulness and movement first thing in the morning gives you the opportunity to center your mind and get your physical energy moving before you head into the rest of your day. This can help you approach your day with less stress, more focus, and more energy.
The best way to combine mindfulness and movement in your morning routine (and without the need for a yoga instructor) is to do a few simple yoga stretches before you hop in the shower. Adding yoga practice to your morning doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You can do a few simple poses and be done in 20-30 minutes, including meditation.
Here are some great yoga stretches, yoga poses, and yoga postures to add to your morning routine so you can start your day off right.
1. Cat Cow Flow
The Cat and cow yoga pose link together perfectly, creating a flow that will wake up your spine and activate your parasympathetic nervous system.
After sitting in quiet meditation for a few minutes, focusing on your breath, move to your hands and knees. Your knees should be about hip-width apart, your hands should be about shoulder-width apart, and your back should be flat. This is called table top pose and it’s perfect for yoga beginners.
On an inhale, drop your belly while simultaneously lifting your chest and head. This will create a “U” shape in your back. This is cow pose.
On an exhale, pull in your belly and curve your spine toward the ceiling whole dropping your head. Think of the shape a cat creates when it’s scared, hence cat pose.
Transition to cow pose on your next inhale, and transition back to cat pose on the following exhale. Continue to flow between these two poses for 5-10 rounds of breath.
2. Thread the Needle
When you’re done with your cat/cow flow, return to Table top Pose. On an inhale, lift your right arm straight toward the ceiling. On an exhale, bring the right arm down through the space under the left arm. Your outstretched arm will rest on the ground and your weight will rest on your shoulder, creating a twist in the back. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.
On an inhale, unwind and raise the right arm high again. On an exhale, bring the right hand back to the mat, returning to Tabletop Pose.
On your next inhale, the left arm rises straight to the ceiling. Repeat the pose on the second side.
This pose is a great way to relieve tension in the back and stretch out the shoulders.
3. Child’s Pose
Start in Tabletop Pose. On an exhale, bring your knees wide, keeping your heels touching. Slowly lower your chest toward the ground, reaching your hands out in front of you. Your torso will rest in the space between your knees, your forehead will rest on the ground, and your arms will reach out in front of you past your head.
Hold this pose for 10-20 breaths, focusing on breathing space into the back.
Child’s pose lengthens and loosens the muscles in the whole back and relieves tension in the shoulders.
4. Side Stretch in Child’s Pose
From Child’s Pose, on an exhale, reach both hands to the right while keeping both hips on the ground. This creates a C shape with the side of your body, creating a big stretch in your left side. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.
On an inhale, move your hands back to center in Child’s Pose. On an exhale, walk your hands to the left, creating a C with your right side. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.
On an inhale, move your hands back to center and rest in Child’s Pose for a few more breaths.
This pose is great for stretching the mid-back, the obliques, the shoulders, and the muscles around the rib cage.
5. Downward Facing Dog
From Child’s Pose, push back up into Table top Pose on an inhale.
On an exhale, tuck your toes under so they grip the mat. Press into your hands and toes to lift your hips into the air. Focus on straightening the back and pushing the chest toward the ground. Your body will create a shape like an upside-down V.
This is Downward Facing Dog pose. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.
This pose provides a full-body stretch. Your shoulders and back stretch as you try to push your chest toward the floor and straighten your back. Your hamstrings and glutes stretch as you try to straighten your legs and reach your heels toward the ground.
This pose also builds strength in the legs and the arms, especially the quads, glutes, shoulders, and pecs.
6. Forward Fold
From Downward Dog, keep your hands on the floor and walk your feet forward to meet your hands on an exhale. When your feet meet your hands, you’ll be folded almost in half for Forward Fold Pose.
You can adjust this pose in a few ways depending on the stretch you want to focus on. If you want to feel the biggest stretch in the hamstring, focus on straightening the legs and reaching for the floor. To focus on releasing tension in the back, let your arms hang loose and bend the knees a little to take a bit of the stretch out of the hamstrings.
Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.
7. Low Lunge
From the forward fold, place your hands on the ground right in front of your feet. On an exhale, your right leg will step back behind you while your left leg stays forward, which will require you to bend into the left knee. You’ll end up in a runner’s lunge.
Drop the right knee to the ground. On an inhale, slowly lift your torso and your arms until your torso is straight over your hips and your hands are raised in the air. You’ll be resting in a low lunge position with your arms raised.
Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths. When you’re done, lower your hands on an exhale. On the inhale step your right foot up to meet your left foot, ending in a forward fold.
On the next exhale your left foot steps back, while your right foot stays forward. Drop the left knee and raise the torso and arms to repeat the pose on the second side. End in a forward fold.
Low Lunge Pose is a wonderful way to open the hips. This pose stretches the hip flexors, the outer hips, the glutes, and the hamstrings. If you add a slight backbend when the torso is raised, it will also stretch and lengthen the back muscles.
8. Low Lunge Twists
From Forward Fold Pose, step the right foot back, drop the knee, and raise the torso and arms, returning to Low Lunge Pose.
On an exhale, bring the right hand down to the floor while the left arm reaches up to the sky. This creates a twist in your back. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.
On an inhale, lift the right arm high and bring the torso back above the hips. On an exhale, lean forward and plant both hands on the ground. Step the right foot up to meet the left foot, entering Forward Fold Pose.
On your next exhale, step the left foot back and drop the knee to come into Low Lunge Pose. Raise the torso and the arms. On the following exhale, drop the left hand to the mat, creating a twist in your back. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
On an inhale, lift the left arm high and center the torso over the hips. On an exhale, plant the hands and step the left foot back up to meet the right, ending in a forward fold.
This twisting pose has all the benefits of the Low Lunge Pose, and it creates a deeper stretch in the outer hips and back.
9. Butterfly Pose
From the Forward Fold Pose, slowly make your way to a seated position.
Bring the soles of your feet together and bend your knees. This will create a diamond shape with your legs. If your hips are very flexible, your knees may touch the ground. If not, your knees will hover above the ground in this pose. Your knees should be able to easily move up and down, kind of like butterfly wings — hence Butterfly Pose.
On an inhale straighten and lengthen your back. On an exhale, hinge forward at the hips, folding your torso over your legs. Hold this pose for 10-15 breaths.
On an inhale, slowly lift your torso and return to a straight back.
This pose stretches your hip flexors, outer hips, abductors, glutes, and your back.
10. Spinal Twist
Slowly find your way onto your back.
Bend your knees, bringing them into your chest. Slowly roll side to side along the low back. On an exhale, let the knees fall to the right while your left arm reaches in the opposite direction, resting on the floor. This creates a twist in your spine.
Hold this pose for 10-20 breaths.
On an inhale, lift your knees back to your chest and on an exhale let them fall to the left, repeating the pose on the second side.
This stretch is perfect for releasing tension from the back and hips.
Once you’ve completed your spinal twists, lie flat on your back. If you have issues with your back you might put a pillow under your knees or under your back along your spine.
Let your eyes close and bring the focus inward to the breath. This is Shavasana, or Final Resting Pose.
The purpose of Yoga is to prepare the body to sit in meditation, so it’s important to end each yoga practice with a period of meditation in Shavasana pose.
Adding Yoga Stretches to Your Morning Routine
Starting your day with yoga is a great way to prepare your mind and body for the day ahead and doesn’t really require a yoga instructor to get them right. While this may seem like a lot, this entire practice including the meditation at the beginning and end should only take you 20-30 minutes. Waking up a half-hour early to fit in this practice will definitely be worth it.
And don’t forget to read some of our other great articles for more reasons why you should add yoga to your morning routine.