Before you reach for that second cup of coffee, consider starting your day with a yoga routine, even if you only have 15 minutes to spare. Take deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose during the entire practice to provide your body with fresh oxygen and promote the release of carbon dioxide, toxins, and negative energy. Breathing well is energizing. These particular postures build heat and require concentration, which will enhance your focus, get your prana, or life energy, flowing, and stoke the metabolism. The practice regulates hormones, reduces stress levels, and brings the body into balance. Caffeine doesn’t boast these benefits. Whether you’re interested in losing weight, fighting fatigue, banishing tension, or would simply like to cultivate a sense of wellbeing, you will find a regular morning yoga session can lead to a healthy body, mind, and soul.
Prior to delving into the following practice, start with a quick warm up. Take a comfortable seated position, feel your connection the earth, and begin to clear your mind. As you inhale through the nose feel the belly expand and as you exhale through the nose feel the belly contract. When thoughts inevitably arise, bring your attention back to the breath. Relish the silence and draw your focus inward. Do some neck rolls and shoulder rolls. Then, place your hands on the ground, swing your legs around, and come onto all fours for several rounds of cat-cow to awaken the spine. When you’re feeling a little more limber, it’s time to start your practice. Repeat the sequence two times on each side.
- Downward Facing Dog: From cat-cow, curl your toes under, exhale, press into the floor through the knuckles, lift the hips, draw your chest back toward your thighs, let your head dangle and look up toward your belly button. Inhale and bend the knees slightly, tilt the tailbone toward the sky, and then lower the heels toward the floor. It’s okay if they don’t touch! Try to keep a slight bend in the knees to avoid hyperextending. Roll the inner thighs to the wall behind you, take the shoulders down and away from the ears, and rotate the outer-edges of the upper arm toward the floor. Hold this for five breaths.
- Plank: From downward facing dog, exhale and shift your weight forward, bringing your shoulders over your wrists. You want to form a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Press through the floor, drawing the energy up through the arm bones. Take your shoulders down and back away from the ears. Your drishti, or gaze, should be down on the floor. Engage your abs by pulling your belly button in toward the spine and then up toward the rib cage. Lift the hips slightly to ensure that you’re not sagging through the midsection. Lengthen the tailbone toward to heels. Engage the backs of the thighs so that they’re lifting toward the ceiling. Press back through the heels and at the same time pull the chest forward to create traction. Hold for five breaths.
- Warrior III: From plank, inhale pressing back into downward facing dog. Bend your knees and sink your hips toward your heels. Look through your hands to the front of the mat. Exhale completely, engage the abs, retain the breath, and hop lightly or step to the front of the mat. At the front of the mat, roll up one vertebrae at a time into standing. Shift your weight into your left leg. Inhale and bring the right knee up toward the chest with hands at your sides. Exhale and hinge at the hips, lowering your chest parallel to the floor and at the same time lengthening the right leg behind you, also parallel to the floor. Engage the right leg, flex the foot, and push through the foot to the wall behind you. Keep your arms lengthened behind you and when you are feeling balanced, try to extend them forward along side of the ears with your palms facing each other. Draw the shoulders down away from the ears and engage your abdominals. Find a gazing point about six inches in front of your standing leg. Hold for 5 breaths and then switch sides.
- Tree: From standing, bend your right leg and inhale your knee toward your chest. Keeping your hips squared, rotate the knee out to the side and place the sole of the foot either on your inner-calf or on your inner upper thigh. Don’t place the foot on your knee. If you’re having trouble balancing, you can even keep the toes on the ground while still externally rotating the bent knee. Bring your hands to your hips. When you feel steady inhale your arms to the sky, palms facing each other, by your ears. Take your shoulders down away from the ears and hold for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
- Prayer Twist: From standing, place your feet hip width apart. Bring your hands into prayer position in front of your heart center. On an exhale, sink down like you are sitting in a chair. Make sure your knees don’t extend past your toes. Curl your tailbone under slightly, engage the abdomen, and lift up through the chest and crown of the head. Make sure to bring your shoulders down and back. Take an inhale and then on your next exhale, rotate your upper body to the right and bring your left elbow to the outside of the right knee. Keep your hips squared, which means you may have to pull your left hip back slightly. On the inhale lengthen the torso and on the exhale twist through the rib cage looking up to the sky. Spiral the inner thighs down toward the floor and press into the leg with the elbow to get more leverage. Hold for five breaths and then switch sides.
- Wood Chopper: Once back in standing, take your feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Bend at the knees. Interlace your fingers and bring your palms together. Inhale the arms above your head, visualizing them as an axe or mallet. Contract the belly and exhale with a loud “Hah,” while swinging the arms down and between the legs and dropping the head as if you are chopping wood. The “Hah” should emanate from the diaphragm and not the throat. Inhale back up, bringing the hands overhead and repeat 10 times. Each time you let out a “Hah,” imagine destroying something that you are holding on to that no longer serves you.
When you have completed your practice come down onto your back. Bring your knees into your chest and rock side to side and then prepare for savasana. Stretch the legs out with your eyes closed and bring them to the edges of your mat, allowing them to splay out. Take your arms by your sides, palms up, about a foot from your body. Continue to inhale and exhale through the nose and melt into your mat. Take note of the energy and space you’ve created in your body. Stay in savasana for five minutes before slowly rising and enjoying the rest of your day.