Having a morning routine that includes energizing yet simple yoga stretches is one of the best ways to get your day off to the right start.
The below exercises will help you wake up your spine, detox your organs, and get your mind in the right mode to tackle the day head.
Energising Breathing exercise
Start your routine with simple breathing exercises. Proper breathing helps in promoting health, controls emotions and encourages calmness and focus – a vital foundation for health and wellness.
However, without conscientious effort to breathe properly, most people habitually take quick, shallow breaths especially when faced with stress.
In general, it’s recommended to perform 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises in the morning and evening. If you have a morning meditation or yoga practice, perform breathing exercises first. It will help you to focus attention inward and to reduce noise in your mind.
Try the below Belly Breathing exercise to wake up and start your day in a relaxed, focused state.
- Come into a comfortable seated position, either on your mat, bed, or a meditation cushion
- Close your eyes
- Place one hand on your stomach, just below your ribcage
- Place the second hand on your chest.
- Inhale deeply through your nostrils, feel your abdomen rise and your rib cage expand outward
- Pause for a moment
- Exhale through your mouth gently from the top of your lungs towards the bottom, pursing them as though you are doing a whistle
- At the end of your exhale, draw the belly button toward the spine and push any remaining breath out
Repeat this between 5 to 10 times or as long as you feel is necessary. Move on to the basic yoga stretches below when you are ready.
Basic Yoga Stretches to Wake Up the Mind and Body
Wide Legged Child’s Pose [Utthita Balasana]
This pose is a variation of the usual Child’s Pose, gently opening up your hips and spine. It is a gentle restorative pose which helps to calm the mind.
- Sit on the heels with knees hip-width apart
- Walk your hands forward in front of you and start to lower your head and chest and to the mat
- As you rest on your forehead, focus on bringing your hips, stomach as close to the mat as possible
Hold here for as long as you need.
Seated Twist or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose [Ardha Matsyendrasana]
Half Lord of the Fishes or Ardha Matsyendrasana in Sanskrit is a seated twist post that opens the shoulders and chest and improves overall spinal health
- Sit with both legs extended in front of you
- Bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor
- Cross the right leg over the left, placing the right foot on the mat close to the left knee
- Bend in your left leg, with the left foot to the outside of your right hip
- Extend your left arm towards the ceiling and wrap it around your right knee, pulling your knee towards your chest
- Look over the right shoulder towards the back and lengthen through your spine
- Press into your right palms and your hips
- For more advanced students, you may like to extend your left leg forward instead of having it bent
- For a deeper twist, press your left elbow against the outside of the right knee and hold your right ankle
Hold for a few cycles of breath.
Downward dog [Adho Mukha Svanasana]
Downward Dog is an amazing yoga pose for full-body flexibility and strength. It is accessible to all yoga practitioners.
- Come to your mat on your hands and knees, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders
- Press back, lifting your knees away from the floor while keeping your arms straight
- Lift your buttocks upwards until you form a triangle pose – your arms and feet are grounded on the floor and your hips lifted up
- Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out and press firmly onto the mat
- As you push through your shoulders, widen your shoulder blades and draw them back towards your tailbone
- Stretch your heels toward the floor to lengthen your hamstrings
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths
- If your body is not warmed up or you have tight feet and calf muscles, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels do not need to touch the floor
- The important thing is to lengthen your tailbone and lift the sitting bones up toward the ceiling
High lunge or Crescent Pose [Utthita Ashwa Sanchalasana]
High Lunge pose, sometimes called Crescent Pose, is a beginner’s pose that builds lower body strength and opens the chest.
- Stand at the top of your mat in mountain pose
- Exhale and step the right foot behind
- The right heel is lifted up for this pose; rest on the ball of the foot
- Square your hips to face the front
- As you inhale, lift up the arms and reach for the sky
Hold this pose for 5 breaths.
- On the next exhale, step your right foot back to the top of your mat
- Repeat on the other side
If you are unable to “square your hips” with a straight back leg, bend the back leg so that you can push your hip forward
Warrior 2 [virabhadrasana II]
Warrior 2 is practised at all levels and is considered one of the most effective poses for toning the entire body. it strengthens the entire lower body including the thigh, calf and back muscles. It also builds core strength and improves blood circulation.
- Stand with legs wide apart with toes and body facing the right side of the mat
- Rotate the right foot clockwise 90 degrees. Your toes should point towards the short end of the mat
- Bend the right knee, aligning it above the ankle; Thighs are parallel to the floor
- The left leg should be stretched out behind you, and the foot grounded on the mat
- Your hips and front body should be facing the long side of the mat
- Stretch the hands out towards the side, as though someone is pulling you from either end
- Turn your face to the right and look at the right hand
- Hold for 5-10 breaths and change sides
Triangle [Utthita Trikonasana]
Triangle pose has great benefits for those suffering from back pain, tight hamstrings or tight hips. Stand with your legs 3 feet apart, facing the long side of your mat
- Rotate the right foot to point towards the short edge of the mat, while the left foot continues to point toward the longer edge
- Reach out your arms to form a ‘T’ shape
- Lean over to the right and reach your right hand as far ahead as you can. Push your hips towards the left to create more space. If possible, place your right hand on the calf, ankle or on the floor.
- Focus on lengthening your left side body
- Turn your head to gaze at your left palm
- Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths and change to the other side
Modify this pose by bending your left leg or placing your hand on a block to prevent collapsing into the pose
Standing forward fold or Rag Doll [Uttanasana]
Standing forward fold is a great stretch for the hamstrings and calves. Because your head is below your heart, it is a form of inversion and is known to calm the brain and has a positive effect on stress, headaches or mild depression.
- Stand in Mountain Pose
- Inhale deeply
- As you exhale, bend forward at the hips and lengthen the front of your body
- Keep your legs straight and place your fingers on the floor beside your feet or at the back of the ankle
- Engage your front thigh muscles (the quadriceps) and draw your sit bones towards the ceiling.
- Focus on lengthening your back rather than overstretching your knees or hammies
- Standing forward fold may sometimes feel too intense in the morning. In this case, start off with rag doll – the relaxed version with bent knees but with folded arms
- Move from side to side as you wake your hamstring and spine up
- This is a great way to wake up the spine and legs before doing the full version of standing forward fold
Revolved Chair Pose [Parivrtta Utkatasana]
Revolved chair pose, also called Parivrtta Utkatasana in Sanskrit, is a twisting variation of Chair Pose
- Stand with your feet close together (beginners may place feet slightly apart for balance)
- Extend your arms towards the ceiling, palms facing each other
- Bend your knees as if sitting on an invisible chair and lean forward slightly
- Keep your weight in your heels. Make sure knees are aligned above the feet and that your legs form a right angle (beginners can bend the knees less)
- Inhale to lengthen your back and roll the tailbone inwards – do not arch your back. You are now in Chair Pose
- Exhale now and bring your palms together in front of your chest in a prayer position
- Twist your torso to the right, with your left elbow outside of the right thigh
- Keep lengthening your back and press into your left elbow to give you a deeper twist
- Hold for 8-10 breaths.
Come back to chair pose and repeat on the opposite side.
Camel Pose [Ustrasana]
Camel Pose frees the energy in your throat, chest, and heart. The full expression of camel pose is more suitable for intermediate practitioners. Beginners can perform the supported back bend version instead.
- Begin in a high kneeling position with your hips over your knees
- Place your palms on your lower back, draw your elbows inwards
- Push your hips forward, supported by your palms.
- Look to the ceiling as you lift your chest upwards.
Beginners can rest in this supported back bend. For those who want to do the full version,
- Release your hands and extend them to your heels
- As you hold your heels, arch your spine, push your hips forward, and lift your chest upwards
- Tip your head back and relax (skip this step if you have neck issues)
Hold for 5 to 10 breaths
Closing your practice
When you have completed these yoga stretches, come back to the centre of your mat in a comfortable seated position.
Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out.
Place your palms together at your heart centre, and gently bow your head.
Thank yourself for making it to your practice. Namaste!
If you like this post, why not check out our other yoga routines?
- Beginner yoga: 11 important standing yoga poses for flexibility and strength
- 20 Beginner Yoga Stretches for Lower Back Pain
- 12 Must-Know Seated Yoga Poses For Seniors And Beginners [Gentle Yoga Sequence]
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The YogaMad is founded by Candy, an avid yogini who is passionate about inspiring others to live their best lives while finding mind-body-soul balance. She has a background in business consulting but has left the corporate world in her quest to live out her dreams as a yoga nomad.