8 Energizing Yoga Poses for the Morning

While it sounds amazing to start your day off with an hour yoga class at your favorite studio, it’s not always realistic. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the opportunity to move your body before you start your day! A quick energizing yoga practice can be just as beneficial and even more effective than starting your day with a big ole’ cup of coffee. Although, I advocate for making yourself a cup of coffee too after you roll up your mat.

I recommend setting up your yoga space the night before you go to bed. That way it’s easier to commit and all you need to do is roll out of bed and onto your mat. Honor your mind and body (+ your soul) by setting aside just 10 minutes of your morning for a little self-love.

Easy Seated Twist

Easy Seated Twist
-Benefits: stimulate digestion, open shoulders, hip and spine flexibility

-How to:
1. Begin in an easy seat with hands relaxed in your lap.
2. Bring your right hand to the ground behind your sacrum, then bring your left hand to your right knee.
3. Take a big inhale to lengthen through your spine, then as you exhale use your hands to twist your torso to the right.

-Modifications: if there is discomfort in your back, knees or hips, you can sit on a prop or lie on your back for a reclined easy twist

Cat Pose
Cat Pose

-Benefits: increase flexibility in spine, stimulates and strengthens abdominal muscles, stretches back, torso, neck, and shoulders, stimulates kidneys and adrenal glands

-How to:
1. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart.
2. Begin by moving into cow pose: inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat, broaden across your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders away from your ears, shift your gaze up.
3. Next, move into cat pose: as you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose mimic an (angry) cat stretching its back.
4. Inhale, coming back into cow pose, and then exhale as you return to cat pose.
Repeat 5-20 times

-Modifications: sit in an easy seat, bring hands to knees with palms facing down, as you inhale roll your shoulders down your back and open your chest, as you exhale tuck your chin to your chest then draw your belly in and round your spine

Thread the Needle Yoga

Thread the Needle
-Benefits: releases tensions and opens the shoulders, chest, arms, upper back, and neck, increases flexibility in spine

-How to:
1. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart.
2. On an inhale reach your right arm up to the sky, then exhale and slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat, then gaze toward your left.
3. Keep your left elbow lifting and your hips raised or crawl your left fingers tips to the top left corner of your mat. Adjust your position so you do not have any pressure or strain on your neck.
4. Hold for up to one minute. To release, press through your left hand and gently slide your right hand out. Return to Table Pose. Then repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.

-Modifications: in a seated position bring your right arm across your body, hook your left elbow under your right arm and ease your arm closer to you and towards the left. Hold for one minute, then switch and do on the left side. cross your right arm  

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Downward Facing Dog
-Benefits: lengthens your spine and strengthens your shoulder girdle and lower back, decrease tension and headaches by elongating the cervical spine and releasing the head, stretches and elongates hamstrings

-How to:
1. Begin in a table top position with your hands directly under your shoulders and fingers spread wide with your middle finger pointing forward.
2. Pull your belly into your spine engaging your core then start to tuck your toes and with bent knees begin to lift your hips toward the sky.
3. Keeping your arms straight but not locked begin to press your chest towards your thighs as you reach you hips higher extending your legs. Continue to lift through your tailbone to create more length in your spine.
4. Now, check in with your feet and make sure they are hip with distance apart and heels are pressing towards the ground as you feel the stretch in the backs of your legs. The legs can be straight or if you’re tighter in your hamstrings or rounding in your spine keep a slight bend in your knees.
5. Allow your neck to release and head to be heavy.

6.     Hold for 10 breaths

-Modifications: bend knees and slightly raise heels

Low Lunge Yoga Pose

Low Lunge
-Benefits: stretches quadriceps, hamstrings, groin and hips, increases range of motion in the lower body

-How to:
1. Begin in downward facing dog, on an inhale extend your right leg to a downdog split then on an exhale step your right foot between your hands. Lower your left knee down to the mat and release the top of the left foot on the ground.
2. Ensure that the right knee is stacked directly over the right ankle, and isn’t moving forward toward the toes or outward to the left or right (this protects the knee from injury). Keep the knee directly over the ankle if it feels like enough for your body—you should feel a comfortable stretch along the left front thigh and groin. For a deeper sensation, you can inch the right foot forward on the mat until you find a position that feels appropriate for your body.
3. Start with your fingertips to the ground framing your front foot and relax your shoulders away from your ears. As you continue to breathe deeply, soften the weight of your body down into your hips, and draw your tailbone down toward the ground.
4. Feel free to remain here or experiment with extending your arms alongside your ears and moving into a back bend.
5. Take 5 to 10 breaths in your expression of low lunge.
6. To come out of the pose, tuck your back toes under, plant your palms down on the mat, and make your way back into downward facing dog, then repeat on the other side.

-Modifications: keep hands framing your foot, or rest your hands on your knee, you can place a blanket under your back knee if you need cushioning 

Tree Yoga Pose

Tree Pose
-Benefits: improves balance, strengthens calves, thighs, ankles and spine, stretches groin and inner thigh, relieves sciatica and reduces flat foot symptoms

-How to:
1. Stand in tadasana, mountain pose, shift your weight slightly onto the left foot, keeping the inner foot firm to the floor, and bend your right knee. Reach down with your right hand and clasp your right ankle.
2. Draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh. If possible, press the right heel into the inner left groin, toes pointing toward the floor. The center of your pelvis should be directly over the left foot.
3. Rest your hands on the top rim of your pelvis. Make sure the pelvis is in a neutral position, with the top rim parallel to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Firmly press the right foot sole against the inner thigh and resist with the outer left leg. Press your hands together in prayer. Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you on the floor about 4 or 5 feet away.
4. Breathe for 10-15 breaths, then switch and repeat on the other side.

-Modifications: use a wall or place foot on calf to balance 

Pigeon Pose
-Benefits: opens hips, increases external range of motion of femur in hip socket, lengthens hip flexors, relieves tension and stress

-How to:
1. Begin in downward facing dog. On an inhale extend your right leg into a down dog split, then on an exhale, bring your right knee into your chest and gently lower your bent right knee down to meet the outside of your right wrist.
2. Move your right shin parallel to the short edge of your mat (the right foot will move toward the left wrist) until you find an edge that feels appropriate for your body.
3. Lower your left leg down onto the mat and extend it straight back behind you. Keep the top of your left foot relaxed down on the mat.
4. Take your fingertips to the ground beside your hips and square your hips forward to the front of the room (note the tendency for the right hip to drop here; instead, focus on maintaining an even distribution of weight across both hips).
5. Inhale here, lengthening the spine and reaching the crown of your head up toward the ceiling.
6. Feel free to remain with your fingertips at your sides; for a deeper sensation, start walking your fingertips in front of the right shin, coming down onto your palms, forearms, or folding forward and resting your forehead on the tops of your hands.
7. Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes depending on your comfort level. The longer the pose is held, the more the muscles around the joints will relax and begin to stretch and lengthen.
8. To come out of the pose, plant the palms down on the mat in front of you and slowly make your way back to downward facing dog and peddle your legs.

-Modifications: opt for a reclined pigeon (otherwise known as reclined figure-four )

Camel Pose

Camel Pose
-Benefits:  increases spinal flexibility, strengthens back muscles, improves posture, opens chest and lungs increasing breathing capacity and helping to relieve respiratory ailments, stimulates the kidneys and improves digestion

1.       Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly, narrow your hip points, and firm but don't harden your buttocks. Imagine that you're drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Keep your outer hips as soft as possible. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.

2.       Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down. Use your hands to spread the back pelvis and lengthen it down through your tail bone. Then lightly firm the tail forward, tilting the pelvis and at the same time press your front thighs back, countering the forward action of your tail and engaging muscles. Inhale and lift your heart by pressing the shoulder blades against your back ribs (beginners may keep their hands on their lower back).
3. Now lean back against the firmness of the tail bone and shoulder blades. For the time being keep your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis. Carefully reach hands back for heels continuing to lift through the ribs as you come into the back bend. If you're not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and elevate your heels.
4. Press your palms firmly against your soles (or heels), with the bases of the palms on the heels and the fingers pointing toward the toes. Turn your arms outwardly so the elbow creases face forward, without squeezing the shoulder blades together. You can keep your neck in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or drop your head back. But be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat.
5. Remain for 10 breaths.
6. To exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up, not by jutting the chin toward the ceiling and leading with your brain. Try to rest in child’s pose after this back bend.

-Modifications: keep hands placed on low back