6 Yoga Stretches to Wake You Up

A gentle way to ease into your day

Unless you’re one of those cheery morning people who hop out of bed with the sunrise, getting up is tough. Research even finds that heart attacks are more common at this time of day, partly because of the demands of shifting from groggy to full-speed-ahead. “We stifle our natural tendency to stretch and yawn because the alarm goes off and reminds us we have an agenda,” says J. J. Gormley, founder and director of the Sun & Moon Yoga Studios in Arlington, VA, who designed this morning yoga routine to help you relax, focus, and get energized. To begin, slowly inhale and exhale for a minute or two. Then breathe and relax in the yoga poses–don’t push yourself. Hold each stretch for two full breaths. If you don’t have 20 minutes in the morning to do the entire routine, do postures 1, 3, and 5 one day, and 2, 4, and 6 the next.

1. Spinal Stretch

Sitting cross-legged, press your sit (derriere) bones into the floor and lengthen your spine, reaching up with the crown of your head. (If this is uncomfortable, sit on a firm pillow or folded blankets, or extend one leg.) Keep both sit bones on the floor while you do this stretch. (a) Place your left hand on your right knee, inhale, and lengthen your spine. Then exhale and twist to the right. Breathe, return to center, switch sides, and repeat. (b) Slide your right hand onto the floor and extend your left arm overhead. Inhale and reach your fingers up toward the ceiling, then exhale and reach to the right, stretching your left side. If your left sit bone comes off the floor, don’t stretch so far. Breathe, switch sides, and repeat, reaching to the left.

2. Cat Tilt

Come onto all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Lengthen your spine, reaching the crown of your head toward the wall in front of you and your tailbone toward the wall behind you. Inhale deeply, then exhale and round your back up toward the ceiling like an angry cat, drawing your chin toward your navel. On the next inhale, arch your back, dropping your belly toward the floor, lifting your sit bones and collarbones, and gazing up toward the ceiling (not shown). Repeat this sequence three times.

. Puppy Dog

From all fours, (a) press your hands and fingers into the floor, tuck your toes, and (b) lift your hips up and back. Keeping both knees bent, breathe and “wag your tail” (not shown). Then bring one heel toward the floor, straightening that leg behind you (not shown). Breathe; then bend that knee and straighten the other leg.

4. Lunge
Return to all fours, and step your right foot forward so your toes line up with your fingers and your knee is over your ankle. Next, slide your left leg behind you with your knee on the floor. Keep your spine long and straight and your shoulder blades down. To deepen the stretch, press your hips forward and down and your collarbones up. Breathe, switch sides, and repeat.

5. Runner’s Stretch
From the Lunge, lift your hips up toward the ceiling, sliding your hands back a little and letting your front leg straighten as much as possible. Next, press your back heel toward the floor, allowing your toes to angle out slightly. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, with hips reaching up toward the ceiling, relax your upper body down over your front leg. Breathe; then switch sides and repeat.

6. Triangle Pose
From the Runner’s Stretch with your right leg forward, place your right hand on your right shin or ankle, and your left hand on your left ribs. Then roll your torso open to the left so your left shoulder lines up over your right shoulder. Turn your left foot so your toes point forward; right toes point to the side. If you feel steady, lift your left arm straight up toward the ceiling so it’s in line with your right arm. Keep your spine long and look up at your left arm. If this bothers your neck, gaze straight ahead. Breathe; then switch sides and repeat.

Finish off with a resting pose
Sit or lie quietly and tune in to your breathing for several minutes. Then smile–it’s great “mouth yoga” that brightens your face and your mood.
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