Morning is a prime time to practice yoga to help you set an intention to begin a new day. With our body and mind fresh, morning yoga practice is beneficial as it allows us to operate from a centered and connected state of mind for each day’s interactions. We can only give others what we have for ourselves, so let’s fill up our cups bright and early by tapping into the quiet, morning energy to align ourselves with nature. Personally, a morning practice feels nice and energizing to start the day with positivity for my mental health and well-being.
According to yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, an ideal time to wake up is half an hour to an hour before the sunrise or around the dawn. Start by planning your morning to make sure that you have a comfortable amount of time to stretch, breathe, and explore the postures without feeling rushed. Finding a suitable time with your schedule and priorities makes it easier to stay motivated and practical without feeling overwhelming to achieve.
Ayurvedic Snippet: Why Mornings are Great for Yoga
Sattva Guna, is most prevalent, which is the cosmic quality of clarity, harmony, and peace.
What is Guna? Guna is a Sanskrit term from Samkhya philosophy, which refers to cosmic qualities of the universe. These Gunas comprise everything on our planet, the living and animate. There are three Gunas: Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva. Rajas are the quality of the activity, Tamas is the quality of inertia, and Sattva is the quality of purity. All three qualities are essential to balance relative to each other. However, the morning is associated with sattva-guna. It’s the most conducive time for meditative and creative practices, given the tranquil state of a morning before society begins hustling and bustling.
If you’re not a morning person (yet), consider easing into morning yoga by waking up 30 minutes earlier than your usual time. Do this incrementally. Go to sleep 30 minutes earlier. Be mindful that slow changes tend to be more sustainable over more extended periods. Allow yourself to progress without hurrying into new habits.
So, what are the ideal postures to start your day? Truthfully, countless poses will brighten your day, and your body’s needs will vary over time and from season to season. I chose the following four poses because they begin with opening the spine and progressively awaken the body. When practiced independently, these poses are equally effective and beneficial. These poses also are commonly found in a vinyasa-based or Hatha-based sequence for intuitive yoga practice.
Chakravakasana (Cat to Cow Pose)
With good reasons to be very popular with yogis of all ages, this pose promotes spinal flexibility. The spine is central to the human skeleton’s architecture; increasing flexibility and creating space allows us to breathe and move more efficiently. Many of us spend hours on end seated in front of the computer, resulting in less mobility and spine stiffness. The dynamic cat and cow pose helps release stiffness and embody flexibility in our lives.
- Start in Child’s Pose (Balasana). Take a few moments to listen to your breath.
- Rise to a neutral pelvis tabletop position with wrists under shoulders and knees under hip joints. Spread the shoulder blades apart from each other while pressing evenly into the palms of the hands.
- Inhale, lower the ribs, arch the back, and lift the gaze. Keep the chest open.
- As you exhale, press into the palms as you round through the spine with your gaze to the navel.
- Repeat. Breathe through cycles until you feel open in the front and back body.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
Downward dog is a great posture to open and strengthen the back of the body. This posture is an inversion where the heart is higher than the brain with the support of your legs. The inverted relationship with gravity increases blood flow to the brain and helps to energize the body naturally. This pose can be challenging for many beginners since you have to hold yourself in an inverted position with your hands on the floor.
Ease into longer holds to avoid injury to wrists and shoulders.
- Begin in a neutral pelvis tabletop position with wrists under shoulders and knees under hip joints. Spread the shoulder blades apart from each other while pressing evenly into the palms of the hands, tuck the toes, lift the knees, and press your thighs back up into an upside-down V shape.
- Press all knuckles and your palms with fingers long and broad across the mat. Pull your shoulders away from the ears, and warp your armpits towards each other.
- Keep the knees slightly bent, and then possibly slowly straighten your legs without locking your knees.
- Relax the head and neck. Look between the ankles.
- Stay steady and give yourself three full breaths.
- Lower back to tabletop or child’s posture to rest.
This posture is part of the classical Surya Namaskara C sequence; Sun C Salutations. Low-lunge poses are especially helpful to open the hip flexors. Awakening these muscle groups helps us walk with a balance of stability and grace.
- Enter this posture from all fours (tabletop or downward-facing dog)
- Place your right foot by the right thumb. Lower the left knee to the ground.
- Bring hands to the top of the right thigh, find balance in the legs, then sweep both arms over the head.
- Lift the sternum towards the sky. Look up if comfortable on the neck.
- Lean forward into the hips to intensify the hip stretch. Lean back to lessen the intensity.
- Hold for five breaths.
- Lower the hands to the ground. Bring the right foot back to a tabletop or downward-dog position.
- Switch and repeat on the left side.
Pada Sanchalasana (Yogic Bicycle)
This posture engages core muscle groups of the abdomen and helps awaken the digestive system. Core work is perfect for building heat in the body, massage the internal organs, and naturally, support healthy bowel movement.
- Lay down on your mat with your belly button facing up.
- Bend the knees into a 90-degree angle, shins parallel to the floor.
- Bring palms together, interlaced, behind the head.
- Press the lower back into the mat to engage the core muscles.
- Exhale, draw the right elbow to the left knee. Option to fully extend the right leg out, keeping it hovering above the floor.
- Inhale, come to the center.
- Exhale, switch side, drawing left elbow to the right knee. Option to fully extend the left leg long.
- Repeat ten rounds on each side. Release and relax. Repeat for additional cycles to build up the heat if desired.
There, you have four commonly taught and well-known poses. Then sequence in some sun salutations to find some groove along your spine. Allow each morning practice to be a celebration of life itself. Whether you pick one or decide to try them all, remember to focus on your breathing for a greater sense of calm and joy throughout your day.
By Ariana Brandao
November 20, 2020