Mornings are truly something to be cherished. Every day that we wake up is a gift that should be cherished! Having a morning routine is one of the best ways to savor and pay gratitude for this gift.
If you are like most people, however, you may not fancy mornings so much. Many of us wake up groggy, exhausted, foggy, and even feeling depressed, angry, or anxious. Poor sleep habits, diet, stress, and lifestyle conditions may be contributing to poor night’s sleep – and less-than-desirable mornings.
While there are many things you can do to improve your sleep quality and refresh your mornings, one of the easiest habit changes is to incorporate an energetic morning yoga practice. Starting your mornings with the pulse of breath, stretching, and fluid movement is the perfect way to wake up and start your day on the right foot. A simple practice like this one can turn your entire day around – and put you on track for a more active lifestyle and healthier sleep schedule.
How to Wake Up the Right Way, Yogi-Style
Want to start your day with gratitude, love, and excitement? Don’t wallow in bed and dread the day ahead. To make the most of your morning (and your day), gently stretch in bed, then get up and into your favorite space to start the day. Perhaps this is a favorite chair in another room or maybe it’s your yoga mat. Either way, don’t linger and get to it. Wake up and embrace the day.
After you’ve rose to greet the day, it’s time to set your intentions. This is the best way to stay open and specific about what you want to bring into your days. There’s a lot to be said for expectation. If you expect things to go poorly, there’s a good chance they will. Start your day with energizing intentions instead: today I will feel happy and free, today my body is energetic, today’s events will bring out the best in me, etcetera. Whatever feels true to you.
The next step before diving into your energizing yoga routine is to spend a few minutes with a pranayama practice. Pranayama can be as simple and taking deep, slow breaths and fully focusing on the inhale, transition, then exhale. Practice for 3-5 minutes. A more energy-focused practice is the Kapalabhati Breath. Sit comfortably with a tall spine. Exhale completely, then briefly inhale and sharply exhale. Complete 15-30 rounds of this quick breathing style to wake up your mind. Intentional breathing is essential for an energized morning because this focused breathing fully oxygenates and nourishes the brain and blood.
Energizing Morning Sequence
Now it’s time to get on the mat and start our movement practice! We’ll begin with stretching.
Stretching is a great habit to take up every morning. When we sleep, our bodies can create sore spots and develop knots and areas of fascial “fuzz.” To reduce the impact of our slumber, a good stretch does the body good.
Start in a seated position and lift your arms up overhead with an inhale. Exhale and swoop your arms down along your sides. For added stretch, bend at the waist, lowering your torso to the ground as you swoop down. Inhale and raise arms back up overhead. Repeat this process 10-20 times, maintaining your breathing as you do.
Next, grab your opposite elbows and roll your neck in half-circles side-to-side. Continue on both sides 8-10 times. Place your left hand on your right knee and twist to the back. Exhale, return to center, and lift heart up as in Cow pose, then, round down into a seated Cat. Place your right hand on your left knee and twist to the opposite side.
Place feet together, then hinge at the hips to bend down towards the floor. Rest here for a few moments.
Start in Forward fold, bending knees and stretching out the hamstrings. Lift halfway, with a flat back, then exhale to fold. Inhale, rolling up to standing one vertebra at a time and raise hands overhead. Release the arms to the side, bring hands to hips and come to a Wide Leg Forward Fold. Let your head and hands hang heavy and relax into the pose. Place left hand in the center, lift the right hand, and twist your torso up to gaze at your right hand. Repeat on the opposite side.
Come to Downward Dog and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Pedal your feet to stretch your legs. Slowly shift forward into a high plank. Press back to downward dog. Shift back and forward, linking with the breath, between plank and downward dog. Walk your hands back to your feet to come to a forward fold at the back of your mat.
Bend your torso to your thighs, then sweep hands up to the ski and lift your torso up into a low chair. Sweep all the way up to Mountain pose. Cactus your arms overhead, then sweep down to forward fold. Repeat this Chair sequence three to five times. Walk back to Downward Dog.
From your Downward Dog, raise your right leg up, then pull forward to a right lunge. Sit back on your left foot for a Runner’s Lunge. Inhale, moving forward back into Low Lunge. Place your right hand inside your right foot or lower to forearms for a deeper lunge. Take a few breaths here, breathing into the stretch in your legs.
Bend your back leg up and reach behind you to grasp the back foot if possible. Release and windmill your hands forward. Return to Downward Dog. Repeat on the left side.
Leg Lift Sequence
Return to Downward Dog, then step up to Forward fold. Reverse Swan-Dive up to standing, then exhale your arms to heart-center. Breathe in and raise your hands back overhead, exhale and dive back down to halfway lift. Plant your hands, step back and lower to Cobra. Take a chaturanga, then move to Downward Dog. Lift the right leg, bend the knee and stack the hips. Straighten the leg, then bring your leg back up between your hands, left leg extends the meets the right at the top of the mat. Come to forward fold, halfway lift, then return to Forward Fold. Repeat on the opposite side and continue on, alternating right and left, 3 times on each side.
Triangles and Twists
After that series, from Forward Fold, rise to a Chair pose. Breathe, then rise and release to a backwards bend. Bend back to Forward Fold. Lower back to Plank, then chaturanga to Downward Dog. Lift the right leg high, bend knees and stack hips, the bring right leg between hands and come to High Crescent Lunge. Breathe here for three breaths.
Exhale and open into Warrior II. From Warrior II, cartwheel the hands down into a chaturanga. Repeat on the left side. Exhale and bring yourself to the mat into Child’s pose. Breathe and rest here for a few breaths.
Return to Downward Dog. Lift the right leg, bend your knees and stack your hips or reach all the way for Wild Thing. Return to Three-Legged Dog and bring the right leg in between your hands. Come to High Crescent Lunge, take one breath, then transition into Warrior II. Exhale into Reversed Warrior, then Extended Side-Angle. Wrap your overhead arm behind your back for an added twist. Return to High Crescent Lunge, then exhale into a Prayer Twist. Breathe here.
Unwind and return to Plank, then take a chaturanga and Downward Dog. Repeat on the left side. Take one last chaturanga and come to Downward Dog. Take three breaths here.
Cool Down and Savasana
From Downward Dog, step into a seated position. Lie back, hugging your knees into your chest. Spread your arms wide and give yourself a big squeeze. Grab your right leg and draw it into your right armpit while extending your left leg long. Breathe here for a few breaths.
Bring the left leg back up and place your right ankle over your left knee, grasp behind your left knee, and come to a Figure-4. Remember to keep your toes flexed here to prevent knee strain. After a few breaths, extend your arms out to the sides and release the legs off to the left side and twist your torso to the left. Pull your knees back into the center and switch sides.
Let’s finish with Happy Baby. Grab the insides or outsides of your feet and keep your tailbone planted on the ground. Roll around to massage your tailbone. Then release your arms and legs out long, extend your arms overhead and stretch your body out into a well-deserved Savasana. Take your time and rest before getting on with the great day ahead of you.
There may be no caffeinated beverage that can compete with an energizing sequence like this. Not only does this series help to get your blood flowing, but it opens your chest, hips, and spine allowing you to take on the day fully physically, it flushes your brain with oxygen so you can conquer the day mentally as well.
Starting a morning routine can be difficult, especially when you feel less than energetic when your alarm goes off. The first step is to take on an energizing yoga sequence like this to wake your body and mind the right way.