You can practice yoga at any time of day, but the early morning hours are considered particularly auspicious. Your mind is supposed to be the most clear and calm. There are fewer distractions. Your practice can awaken the body, focus the mind, give your day intention and get it off to a good start.
Each posture has a different impact. Some poses, like backbends, are energizing. Others, like forward folds, are calming. In the morning, consider strength-building standing poses, energizing backbends and a few balance postures, which cultivate concentration, and you have a practice that’s better than a cup of coffee — and good to the last drop.
This pose increases circulation to the head, helping you bring your attention to your day. And, it stretches your lower back, hips, thighs and ankles. Take several deep breaths here as you gather your energy and prepare to move.
The move: To begin, kneel down and sit on your heels with your knees and feet together. As you exhale, bend forward, placing your forehead on the floor. Extend your arms forward, placing your palms down to lengthen your torso and stretch your arms.
CAT AND COW
Cat stretches your back and strengthens your abdominals, while cow opens your chest and strengthens your back. Flowing between them warms up the spine for the day ahead.
The move: Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees so your palms press into the ground and your knees rest under your hips. Make sure your wrists, elbows and shoulders form one straight line and your knees and hips form another.
As you exhale, press into the ground with your hands and round your back like an angry Halloween cat. Gently bring your chin toward your chest and activate your abdominals, pulling your navel toward your spine.
On your inhale, come into cow by arching your back in the opposite direction. Broaden your chest and lift your tailbone to the sky so your belly sinks toward the floor.
Hold each pose for several breaths or find a gentle flow between the two so that with each exhale you round into cat and with each inhale you open into cow.
DOWN DOG FLOW
Down dog releases your spine; stretches your hamstrings, calves and arms; and strengthens your back and arms. Coming into a three-legged dog and adding an abdominal flow fires up your center.
The move: Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Slide your palms forward so they rest in front of your shoulders, and tuck your toes under. As you exhale, press your palms into the ground and lift your knees off the ground, straightening both arms and legs. Your body will form a wide, upside-down V shape.
On an inhale, lift your right leg up behind you. Exhale here. On your next inhale, round your spine, engage your abdominals and draw your knee to your nose. Exhale and send your leg up and back. Take 5 breaths here, pulling your right knee toward your nose on each inhale and then switch legs.
Wake up your legs with this lunging series that strengthens the legs, stretches the groin and begins to release the hips.
The move: From down dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. It’s a big step, especially in the beginning. If your foot doesn’t make it all the way between your hands, inch it forward or use your right hand to help your foot along. Once your foot is between your hands, check your alignment. Make sure your right knee and ankle are in a straight line. Press your left heel back, keeping your left leg strong and solid. Hold here for 3 breaths.
On your third exhale, lower your left knee to the ground and relax your toes. On an inhale, lift your torso and rest your hands on your thigh. Sink forward stretching your hip flexor and quads. Hold here for 3 breaths.
On your next inhale, reach your arms overhead and find a small backbend. Keep lifting and lengthening to avoid compressing the low back. Inhale and re-engage the back leg coming into high lunge. Hold here for 3 breaths. On an exhale, frame your right foot and step back to down dog. Repeat on the other side.
Backbends unlock the energy of your spine, counteract too much time hunching at a desk, open the chest and send oxygen to your heart. It also stretches the fronts of your thighs and strengthens your back.
The move: Kneel on your mat so your hips are lifted off of your butt and hips and knees form one line. You may want to double up your mat or place a blanket under you if you have sensitive knees.
Press your palms into your low back so your fingers face the sky. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides. Use your hands to gently broaden your back.
As you inhale, roll your shoulders back, let your chest expand and arch back. Keep your head up and hips in line with your ankles.