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Mornings can be tricky. You may like to imagine yourself leisurely taking yourself through stretches, scribbling peacefully in your gratitude journal, and sipping tea from your luxuriously soft white sheets, the reality is that most mornings you’re more likely to silently curse your alarm clock and groggily fiddle with the coffee machine before you can even think about taking time for yourself at some point during the day.
The beginning of anything is a powerful time to create the tone for what we hope to come. Set an intention for what we hope to accomplish. It’s the reason why we make resolutions at the New Year. It’s also why we take a prolonged, and often pivotal, pause at the start of each yoga class. And, as we’re learning more and more with recent research, it’s why we need to take a few minutes for ourselves each morning as we begin the day.
What if setting your intention for your day was as simple as stretching your body first thing in the morning? And what if you didn’t even need to get out of bed to do that? Simply stretching in your bed for a few minutes right after waking up can have a profound impact on the rest of your day, and this 5-pose sequence will help you do just that.
By taking the time to move gently first thing in the day, you’re sending a subconscious message that self-care is your priority. And remember, there’s never a perfect scenario. You don’t need 30 minutes, a quiet house, or chanting in the background. You just need yourself.
Why this morning stretch helps: According to research, we are taller upon waking than when we go to sleep. This is because we’re fighting against gravity as we move throughout the day, which flattens the discs, or cushioning, between each vertebra. Side bending is a lovely way to feel into that extra space your rest has afforded.
How to: Starting above or under your covers, inhale your arms overhead and grab your elbows. Take your legs wider than your hips and cross your left ankle over your right ankle, keeping your legs straight. On an exhalation, lean toward the right, opening the left side body. Stay here for 10-15 long breaths. To come out, separate your legs back into a wide-V shape, switch the clasp of your elbows, and repeat on the other side.
Why this morning stretch helps: This posture helps to gently release your hips, which in turn brings mobility to your legs so you can stand tall in your self and in your day. Resting your hands on your low belly is also a great way to start to bring breath and awareness into your manipura, which is your navel chakra, which is related to your sense of confidence and self.
How-to: From a supine Tadasana (Mountain Pose, bend your right knee and bring your right foot toward the inside of your left thigh. Allow your right thigh to release open and sink into your bed for a mild inner thigh release. Rest your hands on your low belly and take deep, full breaths into your abdomen, beginning to stoke the fire of your core. Stay here for 10-15 breaths before you switch sides.
Why this morning stretch helps: This hip-opener can be done seated upright or with your chest folded forward for a deeper outer hip stretch. This stretch for the outer hip is especially helpful if you commute to work or remain seated for long periods of time.
How-to: Begin seated at the edge of your bed, with both feet hip-width distance apart. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and sit upright. Take a few breaths here, slowly allowing your hip to stretch. If you would like, bring your hands to Prayer Pose at your chest and fold forward at your hip crease to increase the release of your right hip. Lengthen through your spine and reach your chest away from your hips and toward the wall in front of you. Stay here for 15 breaths, then come upright and switch sides.
Why this morning stretch helps: With this posture, you’ll combine breath with movement to start waking up your mind as well as your body.
How-to: Begin seated at the edge of your bed with your feet hip-distance apart. Place your hands on your knees or shins and on an inhalation, arch your spine and lift your chest as you gaze up. On an exhalation, round your spine and pull your sit bones underneath you, doming your upper back and dropping your chin to your chest. Repeat 10 times.
Why this morning stretch helps: Take this last precious moment to get quiet and really be with what you want to bring to your day. Drawing your heart forward symbolizes leading with your heart and releasing your head toward the floor symbolizes letting your mind get quiet.
How-to: Sit on the edge of your bed and on an inhalation, reach your arms overhead. On an exhalation, fold forward at your hips. You may want to turn your feet out slightly to help you fold a little deeper. Walk your arms forward on your fingertips and use your hands to draw your heart forward. Allow your head to hang, releasing the back of your neck, and most importantly, bowing humbly to your heart. Stay here for 15 deep breaths.
See also 7 Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart and Shoulders
From Yoga Journal