There are 17.3 million Instagram posts tagged with #yogaeverydamnday, which makes it clear that a lot people are, well, doing yoga in the morning or the evening every. damn. day. And while there’s no doubt that regular flows come with their fair share of benefits—better sleep, more flexibility, reduced anxiety—the time at which you’re slipping into your downward dog can have an impact, too.
Whether you’re a sunrise sweat warrior or prefer a post-work savasana, there are different feel-good properties associated with doing yoga in the morning and at night. Because of that, you may want to switch up your style depending on your schedule. Here, yoga teacher and founder of The Sweat Method Jess Penesso breaks down the best types of yoga to do in the morning and at night so that you can start and end your day feeling strong and centered.
Yoga in the morning
Waking up and flowing through some sun salutations is a great way to set the tone for the day ahead. Studies have shown its effectiveness for reducing anxiety, and a few easy poses in the early morning can help you get into a positive frame of mind for the day ahead. “Doing yoga first thing in the morning increases energy and focus throughout the day,” says yoga teacher Jess Penesso, founder of The Sweat Method. “The purpose of yoga is to still the mind, so a morning yoga practice can quiet that mental chatter for more clarity.” Try starting the day with a Vinyasa flow, or doing cardio yoga to boost your heart rate and endorphins so you can start the day feeling strong.
1. Sun salutation
Since sun salutations were created for the literal purpose of greeting the sun, there’s no better time to do them than first thing in the morning. The seven-pose series will warm up your entire body by cycling it through a downward-facing dog, some forward folds, a plank pose, and an easy back bend. Press play on the video above to see how to do it the right way.
2. Downward-facing dog
“Because the body can feel sticky in the morning, holding a down dog for several breaths can feel really great,” says Panneo. The move, which you’ll find at the core of any yoga class, stretches everything from your shoulders right down to your feet. Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Spread your fingers and straighten your arms, pressing down into the mat through your palms. Then, straighten your legs and lift your hips up toward the sky. Externally rotate your arms, and push back through your sitz bones and the back of your legs so that your heels extend toward the floor.
Getting upside down is a great way to instantly boost your energy. Penesso suggests headstands, handstands, or forearm stands (all of which can be modified up against a wall) as great options for any skill level. If you want to build up to a headstand, this strength-boosting sequence can help.
Bridge pose—or, if you’re a pro, full wheel—helps to loosen up any tightness in your back. To get into your bridge, lie on your back and lift your hips upward, shimmying up onto the tips of your shoulders to get the full expression. Grab the sides of your mat, and keep rolling your shoulders inward until you feel the weight. If you’ve got a block, place it between your inner thighs and *squeeze* to help perfect the form. For a more intense version of the pose, interlace your hands under your back with your arms straight, press down into your shoulders and lift your thighs up even further.
Yoga at night
Of all the modalities out there, yoga is the most commonly associated with keeping you calm. Research has shown that long-term practice can help with your overall sleep quality, but even cycling through a few poses before bed can help you catch some better shuteye. “Yoga before bed can get the body out of ‘flight or flight’ response and into ‘rest and digest’ for the evening, leading to better sleep,” says Penesso. “Because we usually are going all day long, it can help signal to the body that is time to relax.” She adds that yoga can also help you feel more mindful, which allows your mind to relax and let go of some of the anxiety and worry you’ve been holding onto all day. She suggests restorative or yin style practices, or treating yourself to some meditation or breath work, to best reap these benefits.
1. Child’s pose
There’s a reason why this resting pose is such a mainstay in all types of yoga: It offers a glorious stretch through your back and shoulders, and allows you to breathe deeply into your muscles. To do it, sit on your knees, lower your forehead down to your mat, walk your finger tips forward. For a little extra oomph, walk your hands out to the left and right, which will give you a stretch through your side body. And if you’re struggling with proper form, this easy modification can help.
2. Legs up the wall
After standing and walking all day, this pose offers some much needed relief to your lower body, and will increase lymphatic drainage out of your legs. Lying on your back, get as close to the wall as possible, and extend your legs straight up. Hang out for as long as you’d like, just make sure you actually make it into bed before you fall asleep.
This ooey, gooey hip stretch is the perfect remedy for a long day of sitting at your desk, and is great for flexibility and mobility. To do it properly, bring your working knee behind your wrist so that it’s outside of your hip, and try to get your front leg parallel to the front of your mat. Slide your other leg all the way back. back, untucking your toes and resting on the top of your foot. If you’ve got space between your hips and the ground, fold up a blanket underneath your butt for added support. Walk your hands forward, and rest your forehead on the mat or a block.
4. Supta baddha konasana
Otherwise known as a “Reclining Goddess Pose,” this is the ultimate for rest and relaxation. Start by lying on your back with your feet planted and knees bent. Open your knees toward the floor, bringing the soles of your feet to touch, and place your arms anywhere that feels comfortable, whether that’s above your head or out in a T shape. If you need a little extra support, a block or blanket under your lower back can help.
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