Yoga has many benefits for the mind, body, and soul. It can strengthen muscles and enhance flexibility while also encouraging mindfulness, patience, and acceptance. Yoga comes in many different forms, though they all have two common threads running through them: uniting breath, ujjayi (oo-jai-ee), and poses, asanas. Try a variety of different styles to find one that best fits your fitness level, body type, and personality.
Starting Your Day On the Right Foot
Yoga has a distinct mindfulness aspect that sets it apart from a personal training session at the gym and makes it an excellent addition to your morning routine. Moving through different poses, or asanas, can help you shake the sleep off and stretch out before beginning your day. Try hitting your yoga mat right after you hit the alarm with this simple “Sun Salutation” adaptation.
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Begin with your feet flat on the floor, with your weight evenly distributed. Bring your hands to prayer pose at your chest. Next, swing them straight above your head, hands facing each other. Raise your head up to look at the sky.
- Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Suck in your belly and spread your arms out to the side as you fold forward to touch the ground or as close to it as possible. Keep your leg muscles engaged, and bend your knees if necessary.
- Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
On an inhale, bring your hands to your calves or knees to straighten out your back. Set your gaze about 2 feet in front of your feet, to elongate your neck.
- Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Release your hands back toward the ground to forward fold again and let your head lower towards the floor.
- Plank Pose
From forward fold with your hands on the ground, step both feet back into a plank position. If this is too difficult for you, you can rest your knees on the ground. Your hands should be shoulder-distance apart and your feet should be hip distance. Try holding this pose for 10-30 seconds.
- Lowered Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana)
As you exhale, lower your body to hover above or land fully on the ground. While lowering, keep your elbows tucked into your sides and your heels pressing out behind you.
- Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Murkha Svanasana)
On an inhale, extend your arms so your chest is lifted toward the wall in front of you. You can hover your thighs off the ground or release them to the floor. Roll your shoulders back to squeeze them together, and keep your leg and gluteus muscles engaged.
- Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Push your hips and bottom back from upward facing dog into downward facing dog. Take a moment to evaluate the position of your hands and feet – they should be shoulder and hip distance apart. If you have tight hamstrings, walk a few steps back to create more space. Stay here for a few extra breaths, relaxing your neck and peddling out your legs.
Step the left foot forward into a lunge pose. If this is difficult to do from downward facing dog, bring both knees to the floor and step your left foot between your hands, then straighten your back knee into lunge pose. Play around with tucking your tailbone, and leaning forward and backward into this pose to stretch out your hip flexors.
- Mountain Pose
Bring your right leg up to your left and rise slowly, rolling up so your head is the last thing to rise. Return back to standing firmly in mountain pose with your weight evenly distributed. You can try closing your eyes and breathing deeply as you bring your hands up to prayer at your chest.
After moving through this sequence once, try to do it a second time linking each movement to a deep, belly-filling inhale. Move to the next pose on an exhale.
Yoga can be simple or intricate, calming or energizing. It encourages you to tune into your body and your mind, and releases endorphins. By adding these Sun Salutations to your day, you can improve your posture, tone your body, and clear your head before beginning your day.