Start Your Day With These Yoga Postures

Practice these morning stretches to start your day intentionally.

The days I start my morning with yoga are the days I feel ready for the world. Whether I am working up a sweat or taking an extended breather, actively choosing to take time for myself reconfigures my entire mindset. The act of breathing (prana) and posture (asana) create a perfect yogic experience that energizes me to be intentional and compassionate.

If you have five minutes in the morning before your daily onslaught begins, try this mini-routine to ground yourself before you roll out of bed.

First, you should always check in with your doctor before beginning any new exercise. After a quick chat with the pros, though, I invite you to begin by listening to yourself and your body. This is part of what makes yoga so transformative: finding a place of focus and turning your focus inward.

It helps to set an intention for this routine. An intention centers you when your mind begins to wander — it is like a reset button you can return to when your mind jumps around from to-do lists to the dumb thing you said in fourth grade. 

Tailor the intention to your own life. Is a coworker making you angry? You might think about this for an intention: “I am calm and resilient.” Are your kids in need of 120 percent of your attention constantly? Think: “I can maintain boundaries that are respectful toward myself.” Are you nervous to start something new? Say to yourself, “I am a bold student of new things.” My most cherished intention has always been, “I give myself permission to fail until I succeed.”

Now that you have started listening to your body and have set your intention, it’s time to begin. No need to push yourself too hard here — be patient with your body as it comes awake. There is no one to impress this morning or in any yoga space. There is only stillness to be found.

1) Start by pulling your knees into your chest, gently grasping your hands on your shins.

2) Breathe deeply. Feel the air expanding your rib cage outward and contracting as you exhale. Spend time getting your breath under your control. Try a five-second inhale and a seven-second exhale. I like to breathe in and out of my nose — it helps to focus.

3) Gently squeeze your knees in as you exhale and lightly release as you inhale, opening up some space between your thighs and your belly. Spend five breaths in this flow.

4) Move to a sitting position — if your bed and back permit it, rock to a seat. Criss-cross your legs, or find your own comfortable position with your bottom securely seated on the bed.

5) Reach up high with both hands, palms facing one another, while remaining grounded through your comfortable seat.

6) With your hands above your head, gently grasp your left wrist with your right fingertips. Lightly pull up and over to the right side. There should be no hard pulls or tugs, just a soft lengthening. Be sure to keep your neck long here. For a cycle of breath, enjoy the long side stretch, being gentle and enjoying the posture.

7) Switch sides, with the right wrist now grasped by your left fingertips and stretching over towards the left. Enjoy a cycle of breath here.

8) For your last posture, get in touch with your body as it awakens and prepares for the day: rotate your wrists; run your fingertips over your head, face, and shoulders; bring your chin to your chest, feeling a long stretch in the back of your neck.

Then bring your palms to touch in front of your heart, smile, and offer your intention for your day. If I am still in bed, usually my intention is, “I will move with ease and compassion today.”

This moment of stillness and recollection is a great opportunity to offer up thoughts and prayers — to turn your mind to a higher power. You may not have another moment of silence for the rest of your day, so take advantage of the receptive posture you’ve created for your interior life. Our creator is always present and wants to move through us — take a few minutes to marvel at this presence.

Remember, when things go astray today — as they always do — return to your intention and take a deep breath (or three)! You are not in control of all the things that will happen today, but you are in charge of how you react. May today be a beautiful day!

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