Movement and breathing seem like life’s basics. I mean, when are we not moving and breathing? But the truth is, our body appreciates when we take time to do both in a concentrated setting. Yes, we’re talking about morning yoga flows, people! For those who aren’t already dedicated yogis, yoga flows can seem useless and boring. You’re not even burning that many calories, what’s the point? But stretching and creating balance and space in your body can make a huge difference in your workday.
Here are some moves that won’t take you more than 15 minutes at the start of the day.
Your Morning Flow
Fascia, the connective tissue in your body that stabilizes your internal organs, enjoys movement in the mornings. That’s why a yoga flow that really flows is best for right when you get out of bed. You can save sciatic stretches, or more stagnant stretches, for the evening or afternoons. In the morning, you need some moves that will wake up your fascia so that you don’t feel stiff and sore throughout the day.
Tuck your chin towards your chest, and let your neck release, in a cat-like stretch. And then on your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up towards the sky — like a cow looking at the moon. Then repeat.
Cat-Cow improves posture and balance. It stretches the hips, abdomen and back. Most importantly, it massages and stimulates organs in the belly, like the kidney or adrenal glands, which will leave you feeling more awake when you’re done. Cat-Cow also lets you come into your breath. You coordinate your inhale and exhale with the movement: Inhale on the cat stretch, exhale on your cow stretch. This will be important to hold onto for your next set of poses: the sun salute.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)
Running through a few rounds of sun salutations is guaranteed to leave you feeling good, and maybe a little sweaty, at the start of the day. You start standing in prayer pose, with your hands at your chest. Inhale as you reach your arms above your head and then on your exhale, fold your body over your knees, touching your hands to the ground. Bend your knees as much as is comfortable to you as you take a deep exhale in.
Hold the breath. With your hands pressed to the floor, step your feet back into a plank pose. Exhale, and bring your chest to the ground. Then as you breathe in again, slide forward and raise the chest up into the cobra posture. Pushing your shoulders away from your ears, look up.
On your exhale, lift the hips and the tailbone up into downward dog. Try and plant your heels on the ground, and push your chest closer to your hips so you can fully sink into the stretch. Take a few deep breaths in and out, and then jump your feet up to your hands and sink into your forward fold, wrapping your arms around the back of your calves.
Raise your arms back up to the sky and bring them back to prayer, and you’ve completed a sun salute.
Now, there are different variations to this. If you want to crank up the heat, you can lift up one of your legs after your down dog, and bring them into the equestrian pose, or bringing one foot outside of your hand as the other leg straightens in plank position. You could even come all the way up into warrior 1, where you’d lift your hands up from the ground and bring your body upward into a standing lunge.
Whether you want to try these trickier variations or not, a sun salutation is the perfect way to start your day. I mean, it’s literally called a salute to the sun. These moves will help you warm up, get your muscles loose, and they work all of the 7 chakras (if you’re into that kind of thing).
Utkatasana (Chair Pose) + Parivrtta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair Pose)
Utkatasana, although very fun to pronounce, is one of the more uncomfortable poses in yoga. It requires a tightness in the core, lower back and quadriceps to allow your body to sink into an invisible chair. From photos, it might look like a prolonged squat, but with your feet together and your arms jetted upward, chair pose is more about firing up your core. It’s an amazing way to generate heat in the body and quickly build energy. It also allows your mind to stay focused and positive, ensuring that you are awake and ready for the day ahead.
But as we said earlier, in the morning, your fascia likes movement. So if you want to maximize the benefits to your body, add a little movement to your more static chair pose by transitioning into the revolved chair pose. All you have to do is bring your hands into prayer position while in your chair pose, and then twist your torso, so that your elbow can rest outside your knee.
Twisting poses are so good for massaging your internal organs. They help streamline your digestive system too, so they’re good for a first-thing-in-the-morning routine, if you’re catching our drift. Wait to drink your coffee until after you do these moves! You might not even need coffee when you’re done.
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3)
Now you might be wondering, why are we skipping Warrior 1 & 2 and going straight into 3, the hardest of all the warrior poses? Because your mornings are valuable and you only have limited time! And this pose involves SO much power that you don’t have to stay in it for very long to feel the energy effects. The warrior 3 pose is often also called a “standing split.” It requires you to plant one leg to the ground and lift the other back into the air. Meanwhile, you tip your upper body forward with your arms outstretched, so that your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
Warrior 3 is a real challenge. But sometimes starting your morning with a challenge is the perfect way to frame your day. You can accomplish anything. Your body is so powerful it almost defies gravity. What better energy to take into a hospital filled with sick patients? Plus, Warrior 3 is great for firing up your legs and your core, and ultimately, creating balance in your body.
5 Deep Concentrated Breaths
If you wanted to, you could skip all of the moves above and just go straight into this exercise in the morning. Because the truth is, no matter how fun and great it feels to move your body, nothing will leave you feeling better than some deep breathing and meditation. Clearing your mind might seem impossible for some of us, but concentrating on breathing makes it much, much easier.
You’ll want to prop your back up straight, and maybe sit in a cross-legged position if that’s comfortable for you. And then feel your breath normally for a second. Become aware of your surroundings. And then start. Inhale for 1, 2, 3 seconds. Hold for 1, 2, 3 seconds. And then exhale, for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seconds. Repeat five times.
You’ll notice that you feel energy at the top of the breath, and in the exhale. Keep this in mind throughout your day. You can cultivate that energy anywhere. In a breakroom. On a medical floor. Just take the time for five concentrated breaths.
And you’re ready to start your day!