If you ask me, there’s no better way to start the day than with a morning yoga routine. Whether I need to ground down or feel more energized, the right flow of poses always helps me tune into my breath and body.
Yoga can be an especially powerful practice for anyone dealing with anxiety and depression — and I find that turning to yoga before busy or stressful days goes a long way toward feeling more balanced and centred.
Plus, mind-body therapies like yoga have been shown to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system, according to research published in Plos One.
And, yes, in case you’re wondering, a morning yoga routine also challenges your body (chair pose is no joke!), so you can move through your day feeling mentally physically strong — and more flexible. It starts out with some warm-up poses, moves through a vinyasa sequence that you’ll repeat on each side, and then winds down.
Time: 15 minutes
Equipment needed: Yoga mat
Instructions: Flow from pose to pose listed below, holding and breathing as noted. After completing poses five through 12 on the right side, repeat on the left before moving on. Make this practice about moving intuitively. If you want to feel serene throughout the day, keep your movement slow and gentle. If you want to feel energized, build up to a quicker, more heated pace as you progress. The beauty of yoga is that it can be whatever you need it to be!
How to: Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale and arch spine so belly sinks down while face and tailbone lift upwards. (This is cow pose.) Then, exhale and push into hands and knees to hollow belly, round spine, and tuck chin towards chest. (This is cat pose.) Repeat for five slow breaths, or about one minute.
Feel the pose: Close your eyes and try to make your movements more dramatic with each round. Feel the collarbones spread wide in cow pose, and the back of the neck lengthen in cat pose. This one is all about finding a nice rhythm for your spine!
How to: Start in a plank position. Lift hips up and back, sinking heels toward floor, until body forms an upside down “V” shape. Press shoulders away from ears and relax neck. Spread fingers wide on mat, with palms pressed against the floor. Hold for five slow breaths.
Feel the pose: Breathe loudly through your nose to tune into yourself and deepen the posture.
READ MORE: 10 Insanely Challenging Yoga Poses That Will Build Serious Strength
How to: Start standing with feet hip-distance apart and parallel, arms extended up overhead with hands interlaced. Inhale and lean up and over from waist to left side. Hold for a few breaths, then push through feet to return to standing and repeat on other side. Perform three rounds on each side.
Feel the pose: As you create space and length in the sides of the body, feel your ribs separating away from your waist.
How to: Start standing with feet together and arms at sides. At the same time, raise hands overhead, palms facing in, until biceps are by ears while bending knees and sitting back as if lowering into a chair. Hold for five breaths.
Feel the pose: Challenge yourself and build heat in the body by staying here a little longer than you want to. Find ease in the neck as you breathe deep and feel energy extending out from your fingertips.
Interlaced Forward Fold
This pose begins your vinyasa sequence. Flow from this pose through pose number 12 (lizard pose) on the right side, then repeat on the left side.
How to: Start standing with feet hip-distance apart and hands interlaced behind back, arms straight. Lift fists back away from body, gaze toward ceiling, spread collarbones wide, and then hinge at hips to fold torso over legs and stretch arms overhead. Relax head down and shift weight towards balls of feet. Hold for three long breaths, then release and return to standing.
Feel the pose: Allow your head and neck to hang heavy and feel your spine decompress.
Low Lunge Twist
How to: Start in a low lunge with right foot forward between hands and left leg extended straight back. Draw right hand straight up overhead toward ceiling and rotate torso from waist to gaze up at it. Hold for three breaths.
Feel the pose: Twist from your belly and upper back while keeping your legs and core strong. Engage your back leg and lift up out of hand on the floor.
How to: Start with legs almost as wide as mat, right foot forward, toes facing straight ahead, left foot back, outside of foot parallel to back of mat (right heel lined up with middle of left inner arch), torse facing left side, and arms at sides. Keep left leg straight while deeply bending right knee until thigh is parallel to mat, then extend arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Gaze should be over front fingers. Hold for three to five breaths.
Feel the pose: Stretch through front and back fingertips equally and keep shoulders over hips.
Wide Forward Fold
How to: Start standing with feet wider than shoulders and parallel. Hinge at hips to bring torso in front of thighs, allowing head to relax and shifting weight toward balls of feet to open up backs of legs. Hold for three to five breaths, then return to standing.
Feel the pose: This pose invites us to literally face inward. Let it draw you into a space of calm introspection as it energizes the body and increases blood flow to the brain.
How to: Start in high plank. Then, pull right knee toward chest and slide right foot outside of left hand until both legs are extended to straight (entire left foot and outside of right foot are both on the floor). Draw left hand up toward ceiling and rotate torso to face extended leg. Hold for five breaths, then reverse the movement to return to plank position.
Feel the pose: Lift hips high and raise gaze to look at top hand.
READ MORE: Banesa Tseki On How Yoga Gave Her A New Lease On Life
How to: Start in a high plank position. Keep elbows in close to sides, bend arms, and lower entire body as one unit on an exhale, stopping when biceps are parallel to mat. As you start to inhale, immediately flow to the next pose.
How to: From a low plank position, untuck toes, but keep thighs and shins off the floor. Push through palms to straighten arms and lift upper body until perpendicular to mat. Hold for one breath.
How to: Start in a low lunge with right foot outside right hand and left leg extended straight back. Keep spine long and core engaged, then slowly lower onto forearms. Hold for five to eight deep breaths, allowing hips to relax and open with each exhale. Push up through hands to return to low lunge. Then, return to pose number five (interlaced forward fold) and repeat this sequence on the left side.
Feel the pose: To modify, lower back knee to the ground.
How to: Start lying facedown with legs straight and arms at sides, palms facing down. Inhale, draw shoulders back and down, and lift chest, arms, and legs up as high as comfortable, keeping neck long. Exhale, then lower back down with control. Repeat for five to eight breaths.
Feel the pose: Reach fingertips back to open up chest and heart.
How to: Start lying on back with arms at sides and legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Squeeze glutes and lift hips into air. Pull shoulder blades together and bring hands to clasp under body on mat. Hold for three to five breaths, then repeat three times.
Feel the pose: Think about stretching knees over toes and energetically pulling heels toward glutes to create length in body at top of bridge.
How to: Start lying on back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms at sides. Draw knees toward chest outside of ribs with legs bent and soles facing ceiling. Bring arms inside of legs and grab big toes with first two fingers and thumb of same hand. Gently pull knees toward floor. Hold for five to eight breaths.
Feel the pose: Enjoy this juicy position as you start to slow down your heart rate and draw your practice to a close.
How to: Start lying on back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, left hand on heart, and right hand on stomach. Extend legs and arms to straight on floor. Relax for one to two minutes.
Feel the pose: Let the body and mind restore after your hard work!