You wake up to sunshine on your face. It’s your day off—a day to try something new. Maybe some yoga? Some poses to make you say “Ah, ah, ah, ah,” like Lionel Richie on Sunday morning?
Here are five poses to begin your day and support your spine.
Do these poses in any order, and of course feel free to add your own additions or make subtractions to this mix.
Do These 5 Yoga Poses When You Wake Up
1. Puppy Pose on the Wall – Hold for five breaths or up to two minutes.
Puppy Pose on the Wall will stretch the lower, middle, and upper back while creating length in the neck and shoulders.
Yoga pro tip: the wall is your greatest prop. Enjoy the support of the wall while opening the heart in this pose.
- Stand facing the wall with the fingertips touching the wall.
- Rise onto the balls of the feet, lean forward, and place the palms on the wall.
- Bring the chest towards the wall and allow the belly to hang towards the floor.
- Slide down the wall until you reach an appropriate level of challenge.
- Push into the wall with the hands and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
- To come out of the pose, tuck the chin and push down with the feet. Slowly slide the hands down the wall as you simultaneously lift the torso back to upright.
2. Crescent Pose – Hold for five breaths or up to 30 seconds.
Bikram yoga people love this pose. They do it in super-hot rooms at the beginning of 90-minute practices. You can experience its benefits without all that pizzazz though.
Simply doing the pose on its own will help to stretch the rib cage and tone the obliques. For new yogis, this might be one of the more accessible poses for lengthening the side body.
- Stand with the feet about a hip-width distance apart with the sides of the feet parallel to one another.
- Reach the arms overhead and interlace the hands.
- Turn the palms towards the ceiling, then begin to bend the upper body as you push the palms to the side of the room.
- Push down through the feet.
- Be sure to turn the torso up a bit if the shoulder is rolling in towards the chest. Our goals here are to lengthen the side body and let the chest work free and clear. Keep a bit of space between your arms and ears.
- Breath calmly.
- To exit, lift from your deep inner core muscles to bring the hands overhead. Take a breath here, notice the difference in the two sides. Repeat on the other side.
3. Standing Forward Fold with Clasped Hands – Hold for five breaths or up to a minute.
When I was an elementary school teacher, this was my go-to pose between class periods. Maybe subconsciously I chose it because this pose helps with headaches and fatigue. At the time though, I only did it because it made my upper back and shoulders feel good.
- Stand with the feet about a hip-width apart with the sides of the feet parallel to one another.
- Interlace the hands behind the back, inhale and look up.
- Lift from the pelvic floor and enjoy the extra length along the front body here.
- When you want to fold, keep the hands interlaced, tip forward, and bring the hands up and overhead towards the floor in front of you.
- Look forward, just in front of the big toes and breathe as calmly as possible.
- To come out of this, tuck your chin slightly and bring your hands to your low back. Push through your feet and engage your abdominal muscles to lift you back to upright.
4. Anahatasana – Hold for three to five minutes.
Though this pose is the same shape as Puppy Pose on the Wall, our goals here are different. We want to make this a passive pose to begin to drop into the fascial layer of the body. Meaning, we want to use as little of the muscles as possible and allow gravity to open the connective tissue around the shoulders, upper back, middle back, and belly.
Yoga pro tip: Be patient with your body here – the benefits come not from exerting force but from waiting.
- Begin by kneeling.
- Bend forwards and walk the hands towards the top of your mat.
- Keep the butt high, stacked directly over the knees.
- Take the forehead to the mat and let the arms relax.
- Let the belly sink towards the floor and observe the body and breath without straining. You should feel some healthy discomfort here (in Yin Yoga this is called the “first edge”).
- When you want to come out of the pose, sink back on the heals and take the torso upright to come to a seated position.
5. Marichyasana III (Seated Twist) – Hold for five breaths or up to 30 seconds.
Any type of twist will aid digestion and bring fresh blood flow to the internal organs. When you twist on both sides, you will have done two of the six movements of the spinal spectrum, meaning you will be increasing mobility and supporting elasticity in the spinal column.
- Sit on your mat with your legs straight in front of you.
- Bend the right knee and place the right foot alongside the thigh of the left leg.
- Take the right hand and place it behind you.
- Use your abdominal muscles to begin the twist from the low back and then hook the left elbow on the outside of the right knee.
- Push into the knee with the arm to open the chest and take the twist more into the upper and middle back.
- Spread the fingers wide and take the gaze behind you.
- Flex the foot of the left leg to engaged the muscles of the leg.
- To come out, inhale and then exhale twist back towards the front of your mat. Release the elbow from the leg. Repeat on the other side.
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