Is this usually how your morning begins? You hit snooze, roll over a few times, and groggily wake up and stumble your way to the coffee pot; or maybe you get woken up by kids, pets, or significant others who are running late and have now jolted you wide awake into a frenzied panic…
It seems as though our morning routines are hardly as gentle as we’d like them to be.
A part of that is natural – we have real lives to live, that often require practical solutions. We have families and jobs that demand our precise attention, and no matter how much we plan, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for everyone and everything, let alone yoga time or physical exercise.
In our effort to juggle all of the tasks a typical day throws at us, it’s not surprising that our energy may be low and our attitude about heading into our day may not be enthusiastic.
Fortunately, creating a morning routine doesn’t have to push all of our other priorities out of the way, nor does it have to mean that we’re sacrificing sleep time for waking up super early and getting in a morning yoga practice. Shifting our tasks around to find 15 minutes of free time can drastically improve not only our physical health, but how we take on the morning to seize the day ahead.
In the following sections, we’ll explore how to create a beginner’s yoga routine that is flexible enough to accommodate any schedule and yoga physical ability.
This can also be a space in your office or hotel room, if you’re traveling. Creating a morning routine doesn’t have to anchor you to a house. It should be flexible and simple enough for you to take with you wherever you go.
Starting your day off in silence can mean the difference between a day that is running you, or a day that you run yourself. It allows you to sit with your thoughts and feelings upon waking up, and decide which ones you want to take into your day, and which ones are not going to serve your tasks and goals.
Find a space that is quiet enough, and where you can be alone. Turn off your phone or put it on silent if you know you’re going to be disturbed or distracted.
And when you’re ready, sit comfortably – either on a yoga mat, bolster, or a chair. If you’re sitting cross-legged on the floor, prop yourself up so that your hips are higher than your knees, to ensure that your spine is long and straight.
Close your eyes, rest your hands in your lap or on your knees, and tune into your breath, consciously. Notice how the inhale fills your belly and lungs, and rises up into your collarbones as you sip in as much air as you can; at the top of your inhale, gently pause. When you’re ready, ease into that exhale and notice how the lungs let go and the belly pulls in. Your only job here is to notice this breath cycle, over and over again.
If thoughts come in, as they naturally will, just acknowledge them. Say hello, and maybe even a “Good morning,” and then let the thoughts go, and return to your breath.
You can set a timer for 5 minutes, and just soak in this silence and breath awareness before anything else comes into your day. If an intention arises – a word or phrase that you think you’d like to take into your day ahead – say it gently to yourself and then open your eyes, when you’re ready.
Sun Salutations are repetitive in nature, as they allow us to not only feel our body in space and movement, but also to help us sync the movement with the breath. These postures in unison also help us energize the body and the energy, or prana, flowing through it.
You can continue your yoga practice in the same space in which you found your morning silence. If, however, you need to change spots, feel free to do so.
Let’s first take a quick look at how to do the Sun Salutations in this video:
Unfurl your yoga mat, and step to the top, standing tall and proud with feet hip-width apart in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Tuck your tailbone gently, as your belly slightly engages, and your chest opens. Bring your chin slightly down and back, to open up the back of the neck, and let your hands come down by your sides, with your palms open to the front of your space. Take a deep breath in and out, rooting your feet down, like tree roots.
On an inhale, reach your arms up overhead, gazing up if comfortable, and as you exhale, begin to hinge from the hips as you swan-dive down to a Forward Fold. Allow your neck and head to loosen as your upper body hangs here, and root your feet down into your mat to keep stable.
On an inhale, hinging from the hips, rise up into a Flat Back, pulling your belly in toward your spine and keeping your neck long, as your hands rest on your thighs or hips; as you exhale, bring your palms down and step back into your first Plank. Take a deep breath in as the core and glutes engage, and on your exhale, lower your knees and come all the way down to your belly, with your core still engaged and your elbows pulling to the midline of your body.
Keeping your palms down and legs together, inhale to rise up into Cobra Pose, and as you exhale, lift up onto your hands and knees, and make your way into your first Downward Facing Dog. Down Dog is a great pose for lengthening and stretching out those waking-up hamstrings, so bicycle-pedal out your heels to get into this stretch a bit more.
Keep your gaze between your feet or in the center of your mat, depending on what feels good for your neck. Stay here for 3 to 5 deep breaths.
On your next exhale, begin to walk your feet up towards your hands, coming back into that Forward Fold that we did at the beginning of this sequence. Hang there with your head and neck heavy, and maybe take opposite elbows and sway here gently side to side. You can always bend your knees as deeply as you need to here, if your hamstrings are tight.
Take a deep breath in, sending that energy to the back of your heart, between your shoulder blades, and on your exhale, like a rag doll, begin to curl your way up to standing. You may use your hands to walk them up your legs and back up to standing, but do keep your core engaged as you rise. Feel each vertebra, as they stack one on top of the other, re-building the spine as you go. Make your way back into Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Repeat this full sequence one more time, following your breath as you move.
Coming back into Tadasana, Mountain Pose, from your Sun Salutations, step back long onto your mat with your left foot, preparing for Warrior 1. Point the left toes to the upper-left corner of your mat, so that your foot is turned out, and bend into your right knee. Keep the bend at a 90-degree angle, or if you’re nursing a knee injury, back away from the bend slightly.
Make sure your hips are as squared as they can be to the front of the mat, and look down at your feet and imagine you’re standing on railroad tracks. This will mean that your stance is wide, giving your hips enough space to rotate. Reach your arms up overhead, biceps by the ears, or bending your elbows and creating “goal-post” arms if you need some more shoulder space. Looking upwards is optional. Tuck your tailbone and engage your belly, as you find 3-5 breaths here.
Here’s a video that demonstrates Warrior I Pose:
On your next inhale, bring your palms to touch at heart center. As you exhale, come into your Warrior 2, by adjusting your back left foot to have the toes point out straight to the left, with the pinkie-foot side paralleling the back of your mat. This will ensure that your hips are now able to splay open to the left a bit more. Keep the bend in your right knee, and extend your arms long to the front and back of your mat, palms facing down. Rest your gaze over your front middle finger, or if better, look out towards the left with a bit more neutrality for your neck. Take a peek at your right big toe, and make sure you can see it. If not, gently nudge that right knee a bit more over to the right. Find 3-5 breaths here.
Here’s a video that demonstrates Warrior II Pose:
On your next exhale, cartwheel the arms down to the mat, as you step back to your Down Dog. Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale, walk your feet up toward your hands, and make your way back to Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Repeat this sequence on the other side, stepping back with your right foot.
Come back to standing in Tadasana, hands on your hips. Shift your weight to your standing left foot, as you begin to lift and bend the right knee. Square your hips, and root that left foot down into your mat, engaging the left glute muscle.
With your breath, begin to open the right knee to the right side, giving that right hip space to expand; when you’re ready, place the sole of your right foot on the inside of your calf or thigh. If you need extra support, place it against your ankle, with the right toe down for more stability. Leave your hands on your hips, or lift them up overhead to grow your branches. Rest your gaze and find your breath for 3-5 cycle.
Take a look at this video and try to do the Tree Pose:
Repeat on the other side, lifting and bending the left knee.
Come back to standing in Tadasana, this time, with your hands back behind you for either a Reverse Namaste or simply grabbing opposite elbows or forearms.
Stand tall with your tailbone tucked, and take a deep breath in, feeling the opening of your chest and shoulders. On your next exhale, lift up through your sternum and hips, as you lift the heart up and back towards the sky.
Keep your gaze wherever is comfortable for your neck. If you are in a room, it’s helpful to keep it where the wall meets the ceiling. It’s more challenging to take deep breaths in this pose, so focus more on the exhales.
For complete beginners, here’s how to do a Standing Back Bend:
This posture is beautiful in releasing what no longer serves us, so let that surrender happen through your exhales. When you’re ready, keeping your core engaged, slowly make your way back to standing, with your head coming up last. Take a moment to center your balance, before moving on.
Slowly come down to have a seat, and roll down onto your back until you’re laying flat.
Grab a couple of yoga blocks or pillows, and bring the soles of your feet to touch, as the knees come out. Place the blocks or pillows under your knees, and rest your head and shoulders down on the mat.
Close your eyes and rest your hands on your belly to feel the breath coming in and out. Close out your practice here in Savasana, and stay for as long as you’d like.
Check out the demonstration in this video:
A morning yoga routine doesn’t have to overwhelm your schedule or take too much time out of your morning. This sequence brings you back into tune with your breath and your body, and you can practice it anywhere for 15 minutes to energize and empower your day ahead.
Featured photo credit: Fezbot2000 via unsplash.com