As the season changes and daylight savings time has not yet gone into effect, you may have found it a bit more difficult to make it out of bed in the dark mornings. Maybe you have even being feeling a bit stiff and sluggish upon rising? Do you need a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea to get you going? A few simple yoga moves can change the way you start your day this fall.
One of our first physical instincts upon waking is to stretch our arms up over our heads and let out a great big yawn. This is because after hours of limited movement while in deep slumber, our bodies naturally want to move, stretch and lengthen upon waking. And a yawn is essentially a great big gasp and then release of breath. Taking deep, energizing breaths help clear mental fog and stretching helps awaken our muscles and rid the body of any stiffness. Allowing us to embark on our day with mental clarity and physical energy.
I know this to be true as I not only have a personal morning practice but I also teach two early morning hot Vinyasa classes at yogahOMe. I see students come in yawning and drowsy and leave looking refreshing, shining and ready to take on the day. One of the many benefits of morning yoga is its calming effect on the nerves and ability to slow the heartbeat. Yoga also helps to stabilize your moods allowing you to find focus and complete your tasks efficiently and without being bogged down by stress and anxiety. As we know yoga increases the rate of the body’s metabolism and helps the body digest food faster and easier so you are less likely to suffer from digestive issues or slow metabolism. But a quick metabolism isn’t the only weight loss benefit to an AM yoga practice. When you practice yoga in the morning you are more likely to be disciplined with what you eat, often choosing healthier snacks because you don’t want to sabotage your efforts of the morning exercise. Not to mention that you will be working your entire body from head to toe, increasing your flexibility, toning your muscles and strengthening your core. Finally after you have completed your daily tasks, your AM practice has one more benefit, better sleep! Many people that complain of poor sleep frequently exercise in the evening and their bodies maybe too alert and minds to active to rest peacefully and soundly at bedtime.
I would recommending trying a morning yoga class to see the benefits for yourself, but if that is not an option for your schedule try these four simple yoga exercises at home to launch you into your day.
Half Sun Salutation
Start in standing position (mountain pose) with hands in prayer position. Inhale the arms above the head bringing the palms together. Exhale and hinge from the hips as the torso and arms sweep down into a standing forward bend. Then as you inhale, draw the torso halfway up to a flat back, keeping the spine long and the fingertips on the shins or the floor. And as you exhale, fold into the forward bend. Finally, inhale the arms out to the side and sweep back up to standing by bringing the hands together above the head. Exhale the hands to prayer pose in front of the heart. Repeat five times.
Standing Half Moon
From a standing position, stretch your arms above your head and clasp your hands and send your index fingers into steeple position. Press your left foot into the mat as you lengthen the body and bend sideways to the right. Breathe deeply into the ribcage and feel the side body open. Hold for five deep breaths. Repeat to the left side.
From a standing position, take a deep step forward with the right foot into a lunge and press down and back through the left heel. Bring the arms up overhead and reach the arms toward the back of the room so you feel a deep opening in the chest and upper back. Hold for five deep breaths. Repeat on the left side.
Chest-Opening Forward Bend
Standing with your feet hip-distance apart clasp your hands behind your back. Bend the knees slightly, hinge from the hips and fold into a forward bend as you bring the arms up behind you. Then begin to gently straighten your legs. Hold for five deep breaths, then release the clasp of the hands and let the arms and hands dangle down towards the floor. Curl the tailbone under, bringing yourself up to standing, one vertebra at a time.
Practice these few poses after rising in the morning and notice if you feel more focused, calm or make healthier diet choices throughout your day. You may even find that you can sleep more soundly. Now we know why the yogic texts suggest that the best time to practice yoga is in the early morning hours when your mind is still quiet and the benefits are vast.
Bridgid McCarren took her first yoga classes in college but it wasn’t until 2009 that she truly began to understand the power of a dedicated yoga practice. While recovering from a hip injury sustained during practice of her first love– distance running, Bridgid was able to find healing, strength and flexibility through her yoga practice. Bridgid completed the empowering yogahOMe 200 hour teacher training in 2010, and the wonderful gift of the teachings of Rod Stryker, Lilias Folan, Kathryn Templeton, Katy Knowles and Shashank Lahkia. She now teaches vinyasa flow yoga and hot power yoga at 3 yogahOMe locations and also teaches private yoga classes. Bridgid feels blessed and greatful to be practicing and teaching in Cincinnati’s wonderful yoga community.
Find a wonderful start to your day by practicing with her Wednesdays at 6am at the Oakley studio or Fridays at 6:30am at the Mariemont studio.