The morning is an especially potent time to determine the direction of our day. Most of us experience some sort of tension or stiffness in the body after a night of sleep. When not addressed, tension and stagnation in the body can continue to accumulate throughout the day and lead to pain, decreased mobility and emotional agitation.
What is present in the body, is also typically present in the mind. Therefore, when we create space and ease in the body, we do the same for our mental and emotional landscape, optimizing our day, and overall well-being. Practice these six morning stretches to get your energy flowing, ease tension, and create space in the body and mind.
Come to a comfortable seat, keeping your spine long and upright. Take a few deep and centering breaths through the nose. On an inhale begin to drop your right ear toward your right shoulder and slowly start to roll your head clockwise. Move as slowly as you can, very gently beginning to stretch out the neck and shoulders. Breathe deeply and continue to roll the head for ten rotations, switching directions when finished and repeating the same motions on the other side.
Come to lie down on your back. Bring both knees into the chest and allow your spine to heavy on the ground beneath you. Take a deep breath in and drop both knees to your right. Extend your arms out at shoulder height and bring your gaze over to the left. Take long, deep, and continuous breaths into the mid-section as you relax deeper into the twist. Hold the posture for 10-15 breaths. When finished, engage your core as you bring the knees through the center to switch sides, repeating the same thing on the left.
Bring your knees hips width apart and sit back onto your heels, extending your arms forward. Plant your palms firmly on the ground as you melt your chest toward the mat. If the sensation in your hips is too intense or is causing any pain, you can bring the knees closer together. If you are desiring a deeper stretch in the hips, separate your knees further apart for increased sensation. Take long and deep breaths in this shape and hold for at least one minute.
From child's pose, come up to all fours. Stack your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Keep a long straight spine and gaze down at the floor directly beneath you. On an inhale, drop your belly, arching your spine and bringing your gaze toward the sky. On your exhale, press the mat away and round the spine, directing your gaze toward your navel. Continue moving in this pattern, linking your breath to the postures. Move slowly and with intention as you repeat these motions for 10-15 rounds.
Come to stand with your feet hips width apart. On an inhale, reach your arms up toward the sky, stretching the side body and abdomen. Keep your core engaged and lift your hip points slightly toward your ribs, keeping the integrity of the spine. You can grab opposite wrists and reach to one side and then the other for a side stretch. You can also gently reach back, inviting a slight backbend into the posture. Hold here for a few breaths, exploring the variations of this posture in a way that feels good to your body.
From a standing position, take a deep breath in and on an exhale, fold your upper body forward. Allow a gentle bend in the knees and let the head and neck be heavy. You can allow your arms to hang heavy or grab opposite elbows to add some additional weight to the stretch. Let your upper body relax and hang heavy over the thighs. Hold for 10-20 breaths, sinking deeper into the fold with each exhale.
Gabrielle Marchese is a certified yoga instructor.