Look, Sis, we already know that your days can be super demanding, whether that means logging eight hours at a desk job, running around after little ones or just trying to survive. Before you make that first cup of coffee and begin striking items off what seems like a never-ending to-do list, though, you should take a few moments for yourself and stretch.
Here’s why: A morning yoga sesh not only energizes the body, it also unlocks the stiff muscles and creaky joints (think a tight lower back) we often feel when we wake up and pull back the sheets in the a.m. And these poses, specifically, will “help to circulate the blood after the decrease in heart rate while we sleep,” says Hope Elliott, a yoga teacher and curator of this simple series. They also “allow us to begin the day practicing a proud posture.” Plus, a consistent yoga practice — no matter what time of day it takes place — comes with plenty of good-for-you benefits, including easing anxiety, lowering blood pressure and possibly even slowing age-related brain decline.
So whether you are young or seasoned, are carrying a couple of extra pounds or are the perfect picture of fitness, your mind and your body can benefit from a little bit of yoga, which is likely why more than 30 million people in the U.S. flock to this low-maintenance exercise on the regular. Trust us, Sis, you’ll want to roll out of bed and onto your yoga mat for these five moves.
Feel Good: After you have been in a state of rest, Cat/Cow undulates the spine, stretches the feet and increases the flexibility of the chest, upper back, abdomen and hips, Elliott says. Look Good: The move may also help reduce belly bloat.
How to Do It: Start in a cross-legged position with hands on top of knees. Inhale deeply through the nose, then exhale out of the mouth. After three rounds of this breathing, begin to breathe in and out of the nose to cue in the parasympathetic nervous system. Tuck the toes under to stretch through the ball mound of the feet. Breathe in and arch the back, and as you lift the chest and chin, lift your gaze. As you breathe out, round through the spine while tucking the chin slightly into the chest, lifting the shoulders up toward the ears and tucking the tailbone in. This is one rep. Complete seven.
Feel Good: This works on both your posture and your proprioception, and it helps relieve back pain by boosting circulation, mobility and spine strength, says Elliott. Look Good: Correct posture lends a tall, trim and youthful appearance.
How to Do It: Start on hands and knees with toes pointed while pressing gently down to stretch through the top of the feet. On the inhale, drop the right ear down to the right shoulder and move the hips over to the right. On the exhale, drop the left ear down to the left shoulder and move the hips over to the left. This is one rep. Complete seven.
Feel Good: According to Elliott, this posture-enhancing pose not only grounds us and connects us to the earth and to each other, it also aids in making sure that when we step into a room, we are embodying all the confidence that we’ve worked tremendously hard to build. Look Good: What’s more attractive than confidence?
How to Do It: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lift toes to feel the four corners of the feet pressing down and the inner arch lifting up. Place toes down as you lengthen up through the crown of the head. Find a proud posture, making sure to soften shoulders, jaw, cheeks and brow. Reach hands alongside, yet away from, the body with the palms facing the thighs. Take seven deep breaths in and out through the nose.
Feel Good: This will activate the hamstrings, glutes, quads, arms, core and back, says Elliott. Look Good: Total body toning in one move. We love how this body weight exercise helps tighten triceps.
How to Do It: Sit with legs extended in front of you and hands on either side of hips. Bend knees, placing soles of feet down. Make sure feet, knees and thighs are hip-width apart. Bring hands behind seat, making sure fingertips are facing toward toes and hands are shoulder-width apart. Inhale and press both palms and soles firmly down while evenly distributing the weight among all fingers and toes. Release back to start. Feel free to flow between Staff pose (below) and this move for seven breaths, or hold this for seven breaths.
Feel Good: Grounding positions like this one, says Elliott, stretch the hamstrings as well as strengthening the muscles deep within the pelvis and the lower back. Look Good: May boost alignment, posture and body awareness, which could help you walk fluidly and gracefully.
How to Do It: Sit with legs extended in front of you. Place hands alongside hips, making sure shoulders are relaxed and not scrunched up toward ears. On the inhale, flex feet, spread toes and press hamstrings firmly down into the floor. Play around with flexing the feet on the inhale and pointing the feet on the exhale.
Exercise illustrations by Cindy Luu