Have you ever woken up and jumped out of bed, ready to greet your day with open arms?
Yeah, neither have we. More like we snooze eight times until our phone drops and we don’t know where it went, and now the alarm is going off, and the dog randomly just started barking, and… well, now we’re awake. Sound a bit more accurate? We have a sneaking suspicion that’s all about to change!
An increasing number of studies show that a little morning stretch session is the key to starting our day feeling refreshed, balanced, and like we just had the most rejuvenating night’s sleep. We know you might be saying, “Yoga? At 7 a.m. when I’m only half-conscious?” To that we say, stick with us. We might just change your mind!
The health benefits of stretching are pretty much endless, but we’ll break down a few of the highlights.
While we sleep, the fluids in our body all flow to specific areas, largely around our head and neck. But when we stretch, those fluids get distributed evenly and our body resets, improving circulation, preventing injuries, improving posture, releasing muscle tension, and ultimately waking us up.
“It can also turn on the parasympathetic system — the ‘rest and digest’ system — which puts us in a more relaxed state right when we get out of bed, helping set the tone for a calm morning and day,” said Dr. Beth Frates, the director of wellness programming at the Spaulding Stroke Research and Recovery Institute at a Harvard-affiliated hospital.
As if that’s not enough, stretching gets our heart rate going, pumping blood to our brain and muscles, and ramping up our body for a full day of motivation and activity!
So, are you ready to jump in? Here are four sunrise yoga poses to restore your body and start your day fresh.
1. Child’s pose
How could anyone resist child’s pose? Start off your morning by keeping it nice and easy.
Open your knees as wide as your yoga mat and bring your big toes together. Pull your hips back toward your heels, reach your fingertips toward the front of your mat and your chest to your thighs, and bring your forehead to the floor.
Modification for those with lower-back pain: A comfortable alternative would be to keep your knees together as you pull your hips toward your heels and your chest toward your thighs. Reach your arms behind you with your palms facing up toward the ceiling.
This is meant to be a comforting pose, so situate yourself in whatever way is most relaxing. Take this moment to fill your body with oxygen, taking deep, full belly breaths and letting them go slowly. Stay here as long as you need.
2. Downward and upward dog
Downward-facing dog: Place your hands on the mat shoulder-width apart, spreading your fingers wide. Start with your knees also on the mat as you tuck your toes under. Then lift your hips to the ceiling, pressing your weight toward your heels and spiraling your shoulders downward. Bend your knees slightly. Keep your arms straight, reaching your chest toward your thighs.
Optional: While holding the pose, pedal out your feet, bending one knee at a time while dropping the opposite heel to floor. Then switch.
Upward-facing dog: To flow out of downward dog, pull your weight forward into a plank position. Then straighten your elbows and begin to lift your chest and gaze upward as you untuck your toes and bring the tops of your feet to the mat. Continue to deepen the stretch by rolling your shoulders back and opening your chest wide.
Modification: Bend your elbows, lowering yourself all the way down onto the mat. Then press your hands into the mat and lift your head and chest a comfortable distance away from the mat.
3. Supine (spinal) twist
Rest on your back with your legs extended out in front of you. Slowly pull one knee in toward your chest and take it to the opposite side of your body, reaching your knee down toward the mat.
Open your opposite arm out into a “T” position and bring your gaze over that same shoulder. While you’re there, take deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
4. Mountain pose
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart, your arms by your sides, and your shoulders down. Keep a straight spine. Inhale, then bend your knees and reach your arms up to the ceiling until your hands meet.
Straighten your legs (keeping a slight bend in the knees) and lift your chin up toward the ceiling just slightly. Exhale, then bend your arms into a cactus or goalpost position, still keeping your gaze upward. Inhale, reach your arms back up toward the ceiling, and bring your gaze forward. Finally, exhale, and bring your arms back down by your sides.
We hope these simple, restorative poses help boost your mood and get your blood flowing while easing you into your day. Remember to keep these stretches easy and calming, and don’t exert yourself beyond what your early morning self is comfortable with.
Don’t forget to share these stretches with your friends to help get their mornings off to a good start.
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