Yoga is a powerful morning routine to inculcate as part of your life. Many have talked about how pivotal it is to set your intentions for the day and start the day right. While this may conjure up a lovely, peaceful imagery of yourself brewing a nice cup of coffee and scribbling in your journal to practise your own version of morning pages, the reality is that most of us struggle to get out of bed most days and groggily go to work – any thoughts of self-care completely forgotten.
But what if you take just 15 minutes to get into some yoga poses immediately after you wake?
Think of it as a way to gently nudge your body and mind from slumber to slowly becoming awake, alive and refreshed – ready to start your day. There’s also something meditative about moving your body and getting the blood flowing first thing in the morning.
In Sanskrit, the definition of yoga is to unite. Over time, practising yoga flows can help you gain awareness and strength in your body and your mind, uniting the two so that they can work in tandem and harmony, giving you a sense of inner calmness.
By taking a few minutes to do simple yoga poses every morning, you are also sending a signal to your mind and the universe that your well-being is priority for you. Here are 7 yoga poses you can get into to destress, stretch out any knots, feel gratitude and prime yourself to start your day in the most positive way.
1. Full Cobra Pose, the Bhujangasana
The full cobra pose is a slight backbend move that helps to stretch out your entire shoulder area, upper and lower backs. You can even do this without getting out of bed! The posture can also help increase flexibility in your body and strengthen your spine, while massaging your digestive organs and opens up your heart for stress relief.
How to do it:
- Lie flat downwards and slowly push your upper torso up, with your arms bent at both sides, away from the ground, into baby cobra.
- Gradually straighten your arms to get into the full cobra pose, but avoid locking your joints. Make sure you relax your shoulders and keep them down, away from your ears.
- Slowly ease into this pose and take a few deep inhales and exhales. Clear your mind and focus on what you are grateful for.
2. Downward-Facing Dog Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana
The downward-facing dog is a foundational yoga pose that can set you on the right track to becoming an advanced yogi. This pose gives an amazing, deep stretch for your calves, hamstrings, and helps to lengthen your spine.
Perfect for #WFH days, when you can just get down onto the floor into our trusty downward dog to stretch out our backs after long hours of sitting and staring at our computer screens!
Here’s how to do it:
- Start in all fours, with your palms hip-distance apart and knees on your mat.
- Inhale, lift your knees off the ground and get yourself into plank position. Hold your plank for eight deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling.
- Then, slowly use your palms to push away from the ground and lift your pelvis up so that your body is in an inverted V shape.
- Slowly bend the right knee and see if you can push your other foot down to ground your left heel. Repeat on each side. Slide your hands forward to give yourself more length if you need to.
- Try and ground both heels on the ground and with your palms, push gently away from the mat so that you lengthen your spine and go deeper into your downward facing dog. Hold the pose and take eight breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
3. Warrior II Pose, Virabhadrasana
While the Warrior II pose is a strong pose that’s meant to channel your strength from within, it also requires balance and steadiness. It is a confident, uplifting posture that can uplift your mood too. Practising your Warrior II also strengthens the whole body – your shoulders, arms, upper legs, ankles and core.
Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by standing at the top of your mat, with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Take a deep breath and as you exhale, step on foot back about 4 to 5 feet toward the end of your mat. Turn that back foot outwards so that it is parallel to the back of your mat, with the front knee forming a 90 degree angle.
- Turn your upper torso to face the front, in the same direction as your front leg.
- Raise both arms straight towards the sky, making sure your hips are square facing the front.
- Take eight deep breaths and concentrate on your inner strength within. With every breath you inhale, feel yourself grow stronger and channel your inner warrior.
4. Low Lunge Pose, Anjaneyasana
The low lunge is an amazing deep stretch for your hips, groin, hamstrings and quadriceps – especially after an intensive HIIT sesh. Also opening up your heart and lengthening your spine by reaching upwards, this posture also involves balance and a nice backbend while opening up your hips, legs, chest and heart.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start in your downward facing dog Feel free to refer to our second pose if you need a reference point!
- Take a deep inhale and step your right foot forward between both your hands.
- Exhale, lower the opposite knee to the mat, and slide that back foot further backwards if you can, feeling a deep stretch in your back leg, right front thigh and groin.
- Inhale again and reach your arms overhead, opening up your chest and your heart.
- Try and lengthen your spine here and reach further up towards the sky. Exhale, slowly start bending backwards slightly. Be careful with back bends and try to lean and ease into it slowly. Stop immediately if you feel pain. Take four deep breaths here.
- Inhale, and lift that back knee off the ground.
- Exhale, step that front foot back and swing both arms downwards, back into your downward facing dog. Repeat this sequence with your left foot.
5. Camel Pose, Ustrasana
The camel pose is another backbend pose that is effective for stretching out your back and pelvis – also great if you suffer from back pains. This pose can also help to open up your chest and shoulders, improving your posture. Great for those of you who always tend to hunch your shoulders or slouch all the time!
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by going on all fours on the floor with your palms and knees on the ground, knees hip-wide distance apart, and thighs perpendicular to the floor.
- Inhale, reach your arms upwards to the sky, and exhale, tuck your toes under to give yourself a bit of height.
- Exhale, push your hips forwards as you reach your hands back – one at a time – to grasp your heel. Make sure your thighs are upright, perpendicular to the ground.
- When both hands are grasping your ankles, push your chest upwards so that it opens up towards the sky.
- As you open your chest up, you’re also opening up your heart chakra – your energy centre for love and compassion. Open up your heart and picture yourself giving and accepting love.
- You can let your head fall back, like Dawn, opening up your throat if this feels good for you.
- To recover, place your hands slowly – one at a time – on your lower back and slowly support your body back into an upright kneeling position.
- Place your palms onto the front of your mat and push your hips up into your downward dog position to give your spine a lengthening stretch. Now that you’ve warmed up your muscles, try and further ground your heels into the mat, taking yourself into a deeper downward dog. Stretch it out!
6. Eagle Pose, Garudasana
Like the game of Twister, the eagle pose also makes you twist and stretch and wrap your limbs around – all while maintaining your balance. This balancing pose helps you gain strength, flexibility and unwavering focus since you will require nothing short of your full attention to sustain this posture! Try not to resist the twisting and knotting up process, but rather, go with the flow, let your body soften and wrap itself like a vine.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by standing at your mat, with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Take a deep exhale as you bring your right arm over the left, with both of your palms facing upwards.
- Bend your elbows so that the backs of your hands face one another, and start wrapping your forearms around each other until your palms touch. Try to join your palms together. If you can’t, keep your hands parallel with the backs facing each other. For a deeper stretch, press your elbow towards the floor and your forearm away from your face.
- Bend your knees and sit your hip back slightly.
- Shift your weight over to the left foot, and cross over your right leg to the left. Twist and stretch it so that it will reach the back of your left calf or ankle. Take 3 to 4 breaths here to find your balance.
- Take deep 8 inhales and exhales here as you continue to push your elbows towards the floor and lifting your chest high. Focus on the front just like an eagle setting its gaze.
- Uncross your right leg and slowly step back onto the mat. Begin to straighten your body up straight.
- Unclasp your hands and take a deep inhale as you stretch your arms up towards the air.
7. Dancer Pose, Natarajasana (mermaid variation)
The Dancer pose is a graceful marriage of strength, flexibility, balance and meditation. It strengthens and stretches your entire body, including your back, ankles, legs, thighs, chest, abdomen, thorax, and hips. As you practise the Dancer Pose over time, you’ll find that your balancing and concentration will also gradually improve. Once you master this pose, you’ll also get bragging rights to show it off wherever you go!
Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by standing tall with your weight evenly distributed in both feet.
- Slowly and deliberately, shift your weight to your right foot and bend your left knee towards your butt and grasp the inner left foot with your left You can always use a yoga strap if you can’t hold onto your ankle.
- Reach your right arm upwards towards the sky.
- Tilt your right arm and torso forwards 45 degrees and then slowly start kicking your left foot away from your body and into your left hand.
- Fix your gaze on a spot in front of you and hold your balance. With your right arm in front of you, this is your Natarajasana You can stay in this pose and take eight deep breaths here.
- If you like a challenge, you can follow the elegant mermaid variation of the Dancer Pose. Now, turn your torso to the left and reach your right arm around to grab that your lifted left foot in the air.
- Let go with your left hand and turn your chest towards the front of the mat. Start turning up and lifting that right elbow up towards the sky.
- Take your free left arm up, reach it back behind you and grab ahold of your lifted left foot. Kick the foot up and push your chest forwards – and there you have it! Your very first mermaid dancer’s pose.
Don’t worry about it if you can’t do the mermaid variation yet, it’s a pretty tough one. In fact, it’s completely normal if you can’t do it. Keep practising & you’ll get there!
Also Read: 12 best yoga mats in town (2020)
Whether you consider yourself a yogi or not, there are wonderful benefits to be reaped just from practising just a few simple yoga flows and poses in the mornings to kickstart your day. Gotta nourish your body to flourish!
The ach editorial team is based in Singapore and we’re here to give you real tips and resources on how to lead a life that is #BusybutWell. Holistic well-being for the mind, body and spirit is the name of the game. Join our exclusive ach club for a dose of well-being straight to your inbox weekly.