5 Yoga Poses to Start Your Day Right

morning woman practicing downwards dog in home yoga studio

This series of poses will provide the perfect start to your day by stretching, oxygenating and energizing your body. As you perform the poses breathe deeply through your nose with your lips sealed to build heat inside your body. Hold each pose for at least 5 full breaths before releasing. Remember not to force anything. Meet your body wherever it is and take what you need from each pose. 

Child’s Pose

Why it’s great: I love to start and end my stretching sequence with this pose. It’s restorative for the body and spirit and it gently stretches the hips, pelvis, thighs and back. It can be perfect for calming the brain and reducing stress and fatigue. I use this pose whenever I need a break during my yoga practice and it always helps me get back into the flow.

How to do it: Start on hands and knees in a neutral tabletop position. Touch your big toes together, spread your knees wide and lean your hips back, lowering your bottom toward your heels. Reach for the mat in front of you and rest your forehead down, rolling your head from side to side several times to loosen your neck. Relax and breathe. Hold for 5 full breaths in and out.  

Cat-Cow

woman stretching her back in cow pose during home yoga

Why it’s great: This series of two alternating poses will increase the circulation of the spinal fluid to help lubricate the spine. It also releases tension in the lower back and shoulders, provides blood flow to the connective tissue in the upper and lower back, and massages the internal organs to get them going for the day.

woman stretching shoulders and lower back in cat pose during morning home yoga practice

How to do it: Start in a neutral tabletop position on your hands and knees, with shoulders directly over wrists. Drop your belly and lift your gaze toward the sky, pulling your shoulder blades together on the inhale; this is the cow pose. On the exhale lift your belly and pull your shoulder blades apart, hollowing out your torso like a cat. Repeat each pose as you breathe for 5 full breaths in and out.

Downward Dog

downward dog yoga pose to stretch legs and activate shoulders for a good day

Why it’s great: This pose is a mild inversion which can reset the nervous system and energize the body while calming the mind. A lot of body parts are either working or stretching during this pose. It’s great for opening the shoulders and working through any early morning aches, pains and stiffness. 

How to do it: Start on your hands and knees in a neutral tabletop position. Walk your hands one hand-print forward. Lift your hips high as you straighten your legs and push your heels toward the floor. Reach your chest towards your thighs, keeping your fingers spread wide with weight in every fingertip. Continue reaching your heels for the ground or pedal your feet up and down to loosen tight spots in your hamstrings. Gaze at your thighs. Settle into the pose and continue breathing through your nose. Hold for 5 breaths then release back to tabletop position.

Upward Salute (Mountain Pose with Arms Up)

sun salutation for morning stretches and yoga

Why it’s great: This pose is the ultimate active good morning stretch. It stretches front, back, and both sides of the body, as well as the shoulders. Great for opening the chest, stretching the neck, aligning the spine, and strengthening the abdominals and legs. It builds stability, confidence and a positive outlook for the day.

How to do it: Stand in mountain pose with feet hip width apart, straight legs, and arms at your sides with palms facing forward. On an inhale reach your arms out and up towards the sky. Pull your belly button in as you lift your chest and gaze upward. Keep your feet solid and legs strong. Your arms should be very active, reaching upwards. You can put your palms together if your shoulder flexibility allows.

Settle into your desired shape and take 5 full breaths in and out.

To open the chest more fully you can take a variation with a backbend at the top. From your upward salute, exhale and lift your heart as you tilt your head back and look up at the sky. Pull your elbows back at right angles like goalposts. Return to upward salute on your inhale.

You can also take a variation to stretch the side-body. On an exhale, reach up with the left arm and pull the right arm down into a deep side stretch, with your gaze towards your raised hand. Return to upward salute on an inhale, then exhale into a side stretch on the other side. This will provide a deep stretch to each side of the body.

Standing Forward Fold

standing forward fold touch your toes yoga pose in the morning

Why it’s great: This pose will stimulate the kidneys, liver and digestion. It’s a great stretch for the hamstrings and is restorative and calming. This is one of my favorite poses for the morning or anytime--it feels so good!

How to do it: Stand tall in mountain pose with feet hip-width apart and arms overhead. Bend forward, sweeping the arms down and leading with the chest toward the ground. Reach your hands toward your feet and let your head hang heavy, nodding yes and shaking no. Grab opposite elbows and swing slightly from side to side. Bend your knees and bring your chest to meet your thighs, then straighten your legs as much as possible. Reach your hands to the floor and breathe.

Hold the pose for 5 breaths then return to mountain pose.

A nice variation for this standing fold is to grab your big toes, using them to pull your body down and deepen the stretch to your hamstrings. Your elbows will be pulling out to the sides. Make sure to pull your belly button toward your spine to protect your back from overstretching.  

Add a wrist massage and forearm stretch by sliding your hands under your feet so that your toes are at your wrists. Lean forward putting weight into your toes until you feel a good stretch in your wrists and forearms.

 

These poses are great for any level of yoga enthusiast, even beginners. Just remember to modify any pose as much as you need to be comfortable. You want sensation but not pain. I hope you enjoy this morning routine as much as I do. Stretch well and go forth with gratitude! Namaste!

If you love yoga look for our upcoming blog posts on the best poses to practice before bedtime and how to use yoga poses to keep your hips healthy and flexible as you age.

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