Getting up in the morning is hard (coming from a dedicated snooze button hitter), but getting up in the morning to work out is exponentially more difficult. I’ve tried almost every exercise out there to get my bod going for the day, from boot camp to running and SLT (which is a killer), but finally I’ve discovered the one a.m. workout that I actually look forward to: my morning yoga routine.
Yoga in particular is a wise workout of choice because not only are you getting its regular multitude of benefits—more space in your body, enhanced flexibility, and better balance—but practicing it in the morning can help with your sleep and mood. Seriously.
“One of the major benefits of practicing yoga in the morning is better sleep,” says Kelly Clifton Turner, director of education for YogaSix. “Once you make your morning yoga flow a habit, your body will get used to waking up at that specific time. And this will help to regulate your circadian sleep cycles, which we often throw out of whack by varying when we go to sleep and wake up.”
Working through some vinyasa first thing is also key for getting your body moving on the inside. “Incorporating a few twists into your morning yoga flow will also help stimulate your digestive system, which helps to get rid of any bloating from last night’s dinner and essentially setting you up to feel great,” she adds.
Looking to cut back on your coffee habit? Yoga’s got you—just bend instead. “If you’re trying to cut back on caffeine, practicing yoga first thing in the morning can actually help you reach that goal. Certain poses, like sun salutations, backbends, and twists, can help energize you and wake you up without any post-coffee jitters,” says Clifton Turner. The vinyasa is also going to hit you with some added oxygen throughout your body, which also helps get you out of snoozy mode and more ready to conquer your day. “As you breathe through your yoga flow, you’ll be providing your brain with loads of fresh oxygen,” she adds. “This will help sweep away any last bits of sleepiness and increase your mental clarity for the day ahead.”
The best part of it all? You don’t need to wake up an hour early to do it. Clifton Turner says all it takes is 10 minutes of flow to reap all of the morning yoga benefits. Keep scrolling for Clifton Turner’s recommended easy morning yoga routine to try as soon as you roll out of bed and onto the mat.
Try this morning yoga flow for yourself
1. Cat-cow: Start your yoga flow with some cat-cow action. Get onto your hands and knees on your yoga mat, with hands shoulder width apart and knees hip-width apart. Inhale into cow, with an arched back and head looking upwards, then exhale as you move into cat, rounding your spine and pulling your head down facing the floor. “Moving through some cat-cows lubricates the spine,” says Clifton Turner.
2. Downward dog: After warming up your spine, move back into downward dog—lean onto your hands, which should be spread wide on your mat, head down, and pelvis lifted up into the air. “Peddle out your legs in downward dog to stretch your hamstrings and your lower back,” says Clifton Turner.
3. Pigeon pose: Open up your hip flexors in this signature yoga move. From downward dog, lift your right leg high, then bring the knee of that leg to your right wrist. Your right ankle should be pretty much in front of your right hip. From there, you can rest your head onto the mat for a deeper stretch, or sit high in the pigeon position if your hips are too tight. “Enjoy a few breaths here to decongest the hips,” recommends Clifton Turner.
4. Sun A flow: If you’ve got more time, Clifton Turner recommends working through some sun salutations to get your blood flowing. “Sun As are a great, simple way to build some heat,” she says. Start in mountain pose, which is standing up straight on your mat and taking in some deep breaths. Inhale with your arms overhead, then exhale while folding into a standing forward fold. Inhale to lengthen your spine while looking straight out before folding back down and working through chaturanga, upward dog, and downward dog.
5. Chair pose: To start with some Sun Bs, sit down into chair pose. “Sun Bs add additional benefits like heating the legs as well as stretching the hip flexors,” says Clifton Turner. From mountain pose, raise your hands above your head and sit back, bending your knees as if you’re sitting in a chair. Breath through a few counts and then return to standing.
6. Crescent pose: After working the legs in chair pose, flow back into a plank position, then downward dog, which can take you into crescent pose—which is like your forward lunge, but with more of a stretch. Step the right foot out first and bend the knee to 90 degrees while sweeping your arms up. Stay for a few breaths then switch to the other side from downward dog.
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