As yoga’s popularity has continued to grow, so has the body of research confirming the far-reaching benefits of regular practice. Yoga can help treat depression, PTSD, insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, infertility and back pain, just to name a few. Yoga works your entire body and demands focus, which can be both soothing and centering, as it allows you to take a break from stressing over your daily to-do list. Beginning your day with yoga is a gradual and energizing way to transition from restful sleep to your active day.
“Creating a regular morning practice is beneficial to the mind, body and soul,” says Laura Merlo, instructor at Reach Yoga. “Starting each day sitting and moving through asanas (poses) allows you to find the inner serenity that only the early morning hours offer.”
Merlo recommends beginning your day with these seven traditional postures. “Individually, [they] are incredible for strengthening, lengthening, stretching and grounding, but by linking the poses with the breath, moving through them in a dynamic sequence, you create a steadiness in the mind and body, that’s the essence of yoga,” she says.
Merlo suggests holding each pose for a minimum of five breaths. Use the first few breaths to settle in and wiggle around, finding the variation of the posture that suits you, then take a few more breaths to enjoy the pose.
“Once you are flowing through the poses on a regular basis, you can try to link each inhale and exhale with one breath per movement,” Merlo explains. “Inhale the leg lifts, exhale to step into the pose, inhale to rise up and lift the arms, exhale to relax into it.”
1. Sukhasana/Seated Meditation
Find a comfortable seat. Sit on a blanket or pillow to elevate the hips above the feet. Use the core to draw the shoulders back over your hips, and close eyes. Sit in meditation for five to 30 minutes per day. Focus on the inhales and exhales. If thoughts creep in, acknowledge them and let them go, coming back to the breath.
2. Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward-Facing Dog
Start on all fours, hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Scoop out lower belly, spread the fingers wide, curl the toes under, with strong straight arms, send the hips up to the sky and press the thigh bones back.
3. Crescent Pose/High or Low Lunge
Bend into the front knee until it is at a 90-degree angle, knee over ankle. Press the back of the knee, on the straight leg toward the sky, wiggle the toes back, right under the heel. Drop the back knee to the ground if that is more comfortable. Stretch the arms up and soften the shoulders away from the ears.
4. Virabhadrasana B/Warrior 2
Bend the front knee at a 90-degree angle with knee over ankle, knee tracking toward the third toe on the front foot. Lower belly pulls in and up. Ground into the outside of the back foot allowing more of the weight to be distributed evenly between both legs. Maintain strong arms, soft shoulders, and gaze out over the front hand.
5. Vrksasana/Tree Pose
Ground down into the four corners of the standing foot. Press the opposite foot into the leg, above or below the knee. Stretch arms up, lift gaze up, find balance.
6. Ustrasana/Modified Camel Pose
Kneeling with hips directly over knees, hands to low back, elbows hug in behind. Heart, chest and sternum lift up to the sky. Let the head drop back if it feels good. Send the hips forward by pressing hands in the lower back.
7. Ardha Matsyendrasana/Seated Twist
Ground both sit bones and cross right leg over left. Right foot and left knee face the same direction. Twist to the right hooking left arm on right knee. Find a comfortable twist. Keep collarbones broad. Sit up tall on the inhales, deepen the twist on the exhales.
Take your time as you move, enjoying at least five breaths for each pose. Linger in down dog or the seated twist, whatever feels good.
For additional guidance, check out this video to see how Merlo flows through the poses.
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