Do you ever find yourself repeatedly hitting the snooze button, struggling to drag yourself out of bed in the mornings? If you feel like one of those “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” sort of people, it might be time to re-think your morning routine!
It’s not always easy to find motivation to exercise early in the morning. However, by setting aside even 5 minutes to awaken your brain and body, you may find yourself able to begin your day feeling more clear-headed and energized. Some studies show that even brief exercise sessions result in many of the same effects as a cup of coffee, including improved attention, alertness, and mood (1).
So, before you grab your morning caffeine fix, you might consider reaching for your yoga mat first.
Why Yoga for Morning Exercise?
Yoga for the morning is a popular choice of exercise for many people due to its numerous, scientifically-backed health benefits. The positive effects of a regular yoga practice range from physical (increased strength, flexibility, balance, energy levels, pain management, back health) to mental (reduced stress and anxiety, better executive function), and emotional (greater self-compassion, happiness, overall mood, spiritual well-being) (2).
If you wake up with tense muscles or achy joints, you might be a bit apprehensive to begin your day with an intense workout. More than half of adults in the U.S. experience chronic back and neck pain (3), which can be a significant deterrent to physical activity.
But a short yoga session first thing in the morning can actually help reduce stiffness, inflammation, and improve mobility. A gentle yoga practice is helpful even for those with more severe physical conditions such as osteoarthritis. One particular study found that doing yoga in the morning helped reduce pain, anxiety, stiffness, and blood pressure in partipants moreso than the control group (4).
So, no matter your physical abilities— or perceived limitations — it is perfectly safe to begin your day with some gentle movements.
Buddha once said “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”
Our mind is full of power to attract and create what we internally meditate on.
Is 5 Minutes Really Worth It?
Even if you only have 5 minutes to spare, it is absolutely worth your time to hop on your mat to move through a few asanas.
In order to get the most from your yoga routine, it is important to commit to a regular practice. Studies suggest that the frequency of weekly yoga sessions is directly related to the health benefits experienced. That is to say, people who practice yoga more often (ideally five times per week) are more likely to feel all the positive effects of yoga in many different health categories (2).
Creating a Consistent Morning Routine
Our schedules, energy levels, and motivation may fluctuate from day to day, so it is important to be flexible with your routine. If just a short practice is all you have time for, following through with your wellness routine will help reinforce this good habit.
In yoga, this personal discipline is called tapas and is one of the foundational principles of a well-rounded yoga practice (5).
So, if you find yourself questioning, “does only five minutes really count as a yoga practice?” The answer is: yes! Simply by deciding to show up on your mat, you are building up your tapas, staying dedicated to maintaining a healthy morning routine.
And besides, five minutes is better than nothing at all!
5-Minute Yoga Morning Flow
This simple 5-minute yoga sequence is perfect for yogis at any level, from beginners to more advanced. This short series of yoga poses is designed to gradually awaken your entire body. It will help you build energy and get your blood flowing, increasing the oxygen flow throughout your body and to your brain.
Several of these yoga poses aim to stretch the back and release the hips, which will relieve tension and prepare your body for activity later in the day.
Finally, this short morning yoga routine will also allow you to connect with your breath and begin your day with mindful awareness.
1. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a posture of rest and comfort and is the perfect way to ease yourself into a morning yoga practice as you wake up. It lengthens the spine and gives your back and shoulders a mild stretch. This posture also gently opens the hips and stretches the glutes, which may have become tight after spending all night in bed.
This pose will also help you feel grounded and centered. As you feel your forehead resting on the floor, turn your awareness inward and draw your attention to your thoughts. You can simply notice the quality and pacing of each thought as it arises. Beginning your day with this simple thought awareness technique can help establish a calm and mindful approach to your day.
How to do it:
Begin in a kneeling position. Bring your big toes together and separate your knees, leaving space for your belly.
Walk your hands forward and lower your torso to rest between your thighs. Draw your hips back towards your heels as your arms reach forward. Feel your spine lengthen from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
If you experience any discomfort in your shoulders, try a variation with your arms resting down by your sides instead.
2. Downward Facing Dog
This posture will awaken your entire body! In addition to lengthening the spine and back, Downward Facing Dog also gives your calves and hamstrings a good stretch. It also engages the muscles of the arms and shoulders and gets some blood flowing to your brain.
How to do it:
From Child’s Pose, reach your hands forward a couple more inches, spreading your fingers. Tuck your toes and begin to lift your hips. Exhale and slowly straighten your legs. Broaden your shoulder blades and grip your yoga mat with your fingertips. Keep your ears in between your upper arm bones to maintain the alignment of your head, neck, and spine.
If the stretch in your hamstrings is too intense for first thing in the morning, modify your Downward Facing Dog by bending the knees slightly. This modification will help create more length in your spine.
3. Upward Facing Dog
Like its counterpart Downward Dog, Upward Facing Dog helps energize and strengthen your entire body. It engages all the muscles of the arms, and lengthens the entire front side of the body. It provides a full body stretch from head to toe, to stimulate blood circulation. This posture also opens the heart, expanding the chest to increase lung capacity.
How to do it:
From Downward Dog, round forward to plank position (top of a pushup). Untuck your toes, placing the tops of your feet on the floor. Engage your quads and glutes as you drop your hips towards the floor. Squeeze the legs together, keeping the thighs lifted.
Widen your collarbones and draw your chest forward. Create length in the spine by reaching the crown of the head up and forwards. Press into your mat firmly with your hands and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
Pull your belly in and up to activate the deepest muscles of your core to avoid lower back compression.
Stay in Upward Facing Dog for a few breaths as you feel your lungs expand. To exit the pose, tuck your toes and use the strength of your arms, shoulders, and abdominals to push back to Downward Dog.
4. Low Lunge
Low Lunge, or Anjaneyasana, is a great posture to do in the morning as it offers many benefits for the whole body. It helps strengthen the legs and build energy by firing up your glutes and hamstrings. This pose also stretches the hip, lengthens the hip flexors and stomach.
Adding a slight backbend to your low lunge will increase blood flow to your internal organs, and open up the lungs.
How to do it:
From Downward Facing Dog, swing your right leg between your arms and plant your right foot in between your hands.
Untuck your back toes and place the top of the left foot on your mat. Gently lower your left knee to your mat.
Square off your hips by pulling your right hip back and left hip forward. Allow your hips to sink toward the floor as you bend into your right knee. For safe alignment, be sure that the front knee stays pointing in the same direction as the toes (straight forward).
Inhale and reach your arms overhead. As you exhale, add a gentle backbend by lifting your heard to the sky.
Hold your low lunge for a few breaths, deepening with each exhale.
To exit the posture, plant your hands on either side of your front foot, and step the leg back to Downward Facing Dog. Switch legs to repeat Low Lunge on the second side (stepping the left foot forward).
5. Lotus Pose
This classic yoga posture is a great way to end any yoga sequence. However, it is especially suitable for a morning practice.
Lotus Pose opens up your hips and stretches your ankles and knees for increased range of motion, and can even help improve spinal posture. So, whether you are headed to work at a desk job or planning to be on your feet, this asana will ready your body for the day ahead.
Often viewed as the ultimate meditative posture, Lotus Pose will also help prepare your mind for whatever awaits you off of your yoga mat. This pose can help you calm your thoughts and cultivate a grounded, centered feeling.
With this final posture, take the opportunity to create an intention for your day. Envision an idea or quality you would like to incorporate into your daily life. Spend a few moments imagining how you can turn your intention into action.
How to do it:
Begin in an easy seated position with the legs crossed. Sit tall and lengthen the spine by reaching the crown of the head toward the sky. Feel your sitting bones rooted to the ground beneath you.
Take ahold of the right shin and draw it towards your torso. Place your right foot in the crease of the left hip. Lift the left leg in the same manner and cross it over the right leg, placing the left foot in the crease of the right hip.
Widen the collarbones and draw the shoulders away from the ears. Place each hand mid-thigh, palms up to receive energy, or palms down to feel grounded.
Stay in quiet contemplation in your Lotus Pose, breathing with intention for at least one minute. When you’re ready to exit, uncross your legs slowly and gently, being mindful of the knee joints.
The Last Word
Whether you’re an experienced yogi, just becoming interested in yoga, or into another type of fitness, there are numerous physical benefits to beginning your day with movement. And when you start your day with a bit of yoga, it can set a positive tone for the rest of your day mentally and emotionally as well.
So before you reach for your coffee, see what five minutes on your yoga mat can do!
I hope you enjoy this five minutes morning yoga routine.
- Tello, Monique. “Exercise versus Caffeine: Which Is Your Best Ally to Fight Fatigue?” Harvard Health Blog, 8 June 2017, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/exercise-versus-caffeine-which-is-your-best-ally-to-fight-fatigue-2017060811843.
- Wiese, Christine, et al. “Effects of Yoga Asana Practice Approach on Types of Benefits Experienced.” International Journal of Yoga, Wolters Kluwer – Medknow, 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746050/.
- Laporte, John. “Topic: Back Pain in the U.S.” Statista, 21 Nov. 2019, www.statista.com/topics/4333/back-pain-in-the-us/.
- HR;, Ebnezar J;Nagarathna R;Yogitha B;Nagendra. “Effect of Integrated Yoga Therapy on Pain, Morning Stiffness and Anxiety in Osteoarthritis of the Knee Joint: A Randomized Control Study.” International Journal of Yoga, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 5 Jan. 2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22346063/?from_term=morning%2Byoga&from_sort=date&from_page=4&from_pos=5.
- Malossi, Christine. “The Third Niyama: Tapas – Inner Fire.” YogaUOnline, 2016, yogauonline.com/yoga-basics/third-niyama-tapas-inner-fire.