by Stephanie Lundgren (200-HR RYT)
My name is Stephanie Lundgren and I am a 200-HR Registered Yoga Teacher. I’m so excited to tell you all about the benefits of starting a morning yoga practice and to give you a simple, all-level sequence to start your morning out right!
Why morning yoga?
Wake up your body and mind without caffeine
Open up your joints and activate your muscles for the day ahead
Center and clear your mind
Sustained energy throughout the day
Start your day with a positive outlook and a sense of achievement
1) Cat and Cow
Find some gentle movements in your spine.
Modifications: Place a blanket or pillow under any sensitive joints. If you are dealing with wrist pain, feel free to come to your elbows.
Transitioning between these two poses helps relieve any back pain and stiffness. Starting out with this sequence also allows you to begin to connect with the breath and ground into your body.
Begin by coming to all fours with hips over knees and shoulders over wrists. As you inhale, drop the belly and lift the tailbone, pulling the chest through the upper arms. As you lift your gaze, make sure not to crane your head back.
As you exhale, round the spine, press away from the floor, lift the space between the shoulders toward the ceiling, drop the tailbone and release the head toward the ground.
Repeat this motion with your inhales and exhales for about ten breaths.
2) Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukkah Svanasana)
Wake up the back of your legs and stretch the entire length of your spine with downward facing dog.
Modifications: Bend the knees deeply if there is any pain in the low back. If you are dealing with pain in your shoulders or wrists, coming to a child’s pose (hips over ankles, forehead to the floor with your hands stretched out in front of you) can achieve the same amount of lengthening of the spine.
A common misconception of this pose is that the goal is to straighten your legs and get your heels to the ground. In fact, it’s highly recommended to have a slight bend in the knees to encourage more lengthening of the spine.
From all fours, walk your hands forward about 6 inches. Begin by pressing through the hands and bringing the tailbone back toward your heels, creating a straight line from your hands to your hips. Once you’ve found length here, begin to raise your hips, bringing your heels toward the ground without compromising the length in your low back. Release the back of your neck to bring your ears in line with your upper arms.
Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths.
3) Plank (Kumbhakasana)
Engage your core and bring some energy into your body!
Modifications: This pose can be done from either your hands or elbows and with your knees raised or lowered depending on your needs.
Coming from downward facing dog, stack your shoulders directly over wrists, creating a straight line from shoulders to heels. You may need to adjust your feet further from or closer to your hands. As you press through all points of your hands, lift the space between your shoulder blades to the ceiling. Make sure to keep your tailbone tucked in and your frontal hip bones drawing in toward your bottom ribs. As you press back through your heels, draw forward through your chest and the top of your head. Make sure to keep the head in a neutral position as not to create stress in the neck. At any point you are more than welcome to drop your knees, but be sure to keep drawing your frontal hip bones and lower ribs together to keep your core engaged!
Hold for 1 minute or 10-15 deep breaths.
4) Lunges (Anjaneyasana)
Open up the hip flexors, a tight spot for those who spend a lot of time sitting down.
Modifications: Place a blanket or pillow under your knee if you are feeling any discomfort. This pose can be as intense or easeful as you’d like, depending on how deeply you move into the pose.
Coming from all fours, place your foot in between your hands and bring your torso to upright. Before going straight into the stretch take a moment with your hands on your hips to tuck your tailbone more toward the ground. This will likely already bring the stretch into your hip flexor. Now, begin to press your hips forward adjusting the front foot so that your knee does not go passed your ankle. Switch sides.
*to add an extra stretch here, extend the arm (matching the side of the back leg) up and overhead to stretch the entire side of the body*
Hold each side for 5 deep breaths.
5) Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Reverse blood flow towards your head, release tension in your neck, and bring more length to your hamstrings.
Modifications: bend the knees deeply if there is any pain in your low back. If there is pain in your hamstrings, ease off the intensity of the stretch by bringing your hands to your knees.
Coming to a wide stance (feet about shoulder-width apart) at the top of your mat, slowly roll forward into a forward fold with a deep bend in your knees. Either holding opposite elbows or clasping your hands behind the back of your head, release the muscles in the back of your neck. Maybe find some movement here, swaying side to side or shaking your head yes and no.
Hold for 10 deep breaths.
6) Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Start your day feeling like a warrior!
Modifications: Find a wider stance (left to right) for better balance and for wider hips. If there is pain in the shoulders, bring your hands to your hips instead keeping the rotation of the shoulders.
Step one foot back so that your feet are about as wide as arm span. If comfortable, your front heel should bisect the inside arch of your back foot (if not, take a wider stance as stated above). Drop your back heel back slightly so that your foot is at a 15 to 20 degree angle. Bend into the front knee so your knee is over your ankle (never passed it!). Continue to ground down through the outer edge of the back foot. Draw your back hip forward as you open up the shoulders to the side, stacking shoulders over hips. Extend arms out energetically in opposite directions, in line with your shoulders (otherwise, take the modification stated above). Grow tall through the top of your head. Switch sides.
Hold for 5 deep breaths on either side.
7) Gentle Hip Opener
Open up those hips!
Modifications: If this stretch is too intense, place blankets or pillows under the knees to prop them up. If staying upright is enough of a stretch, please stay here.
There are a few different options here. You can either come to a cross-legged position, to cobbler's pose with the bottoms of your feet coming to touch in front of you, or bring your shins to parallel with one in front of the other. As I mentioned, staying upright may be enough of a stretch, if not, begin to lean forward toward your shins. If there is any pain in your low back or knees, be sure to back off the stretch. Make sure to switch the way your legs are crossed if you’re not doing cobblers pose, bringing the other shin in front, or on top of the other.
If doing cobbler’s pose, hold for 10 breaths. Otherwise, hold for five breaths on each side.
8) Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Open the hamstrings, reverse blood flow and find strength and space in the back.
Modifications: Bring a block below your sacrum (the spot between your lower back and the top of your butt) at whichever height is most comfortable to you.
From your back, plant your feet on the mat just below your sit bones about hip-width apart. place your arms straight by your sides. Pressing your feet and hands into the ground, begin to lift the hips. Lift the chest and draw the chin away from the chest, lengthening the back of your neck. Place a block under the sacrum if there is any discomfort in the low back.
Hold for 10 breaths.
9) Spinal Twists
Find mobility throughout the entire length of your spine.
Modifications: Place a blanket or pillow under your knees to prop them up if the stretch is too intense.
From your back, draw your knees into the chest and drop them to one side. Place your arms in a T position and bring your gaze in the opposite direction of the knees, bringing the twist into your neck as well (only if this is comfortable for you). Keep the shoulders planted on the ground.
Hold for 5 breaths each side.
10) Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Reconnect with your breath and find a sense of grounding before heading out into the day ahead.
Modifications: Place blocks, blankets, or pillows under the knees if this becomes too intense.
Plant your feet on the ground, let your knees splay out too the side bringing the bottoms of your feet to touch. Place one hand on your heart and one on your belly.
Hold for 10 breaths, feeling the chest and belly rise and fall with each breath.
We’d love to hear from you if you try this sequence out!