This Invigorating Morning Stretch Routine Is Like a Cup of Coffee for Your Muscles

Your morning alarm has gone off, but are you really “up” yet? We all have our fresh-out-of-bed routines to help us kickstart the day, which probably include a big cup of coffee. But a gentle movement session that gets your blood flowing could help wake up your body as well as your mind.

“In the morning, we often feel tense and tight because our bodies are stuck in the same position for hours on end as we sleep,” Jeff Brannigan, program director at Stretch*d, a stretching-focused recovery studio based in New York City, previously told Well+Good. “Try beginning your day with a few active stretches to lengthen the muscle and reduce tension by promoting circulation to the area.”

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This 15-minute morning stretch routine led by East River Pilates instructor Brian Spencer will do just that. In a cat-cow position, Spencer reminds us about the importance of taking in those sips of breath as we move—or as he puts it, “Finding juicy exhales as you round, juicy inhales as you open.” Mmm, juicy. Breathing deeply will help deliver oxygen to your muscles as well as your brain.

This stretch routine contains a lot of chest opening, spine twisting, and shoulder mobility. That includes rotating your arms in big circles, like a freestyle stroke. Let that rotation invigorate you and maybe “imagine you’re waking up and taking a nice ocean swim,” Spencer says. “Maybe you see a little dolphin, wave to it.” Refreshing!

Spencer also stresses the importance of allowing your muscles to ease into the day. For example, in a hamstring stretch, don’t necessarily go all the way deep into the stretch first thing. “It’s the morning, so we just want to get a little bit of exploration going,” Spencer says. “Let your hamstring hit the snooze button a little bit.”

By letting your muscles enjoy those early stretches (and not pushing too hard too soon), they’ll be ready to get out of bed and greet the day.

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