Try these poses when you get out of bed each morning before starting your day. A little bit of yoga each morning can make a huge difference in your perspective for the rest of the day and your ability to tolerate and cope with difficult people or experience. Yoga poses boost your self-confidence, lightening your mood, increasing your sense of calmness, and even your overall level of satisfaction and feeling of completeness for the rest of the day. Just like anything else, yoga needs to be practiced. Poses are all about muscle memory; it is liberating for your body instinctively know the natural flow into poses in order for your mind to solely and calmly focus on your pranyama.
Before moving through these 10 poses, loosen up your spine with a series of cat/cow poses beginning on hands and knees in tabletop. Here gently pay attention to inhaling into cow and exhaling, protracting the shoulders (moving the shoulder blades away from each other) and moving into cat. After a few rounds of cat/cow you can now come into the following series of poses.
1). Downward Facing Dog (adho mukha svanasana) – This lengthening pose helps to stretch out the spinal muscles, especially important after a nights sleep. It engages the muscles of the arm, legs, abdomen, and back; if routinely practiced this can help strengthen these key muscle groups. It increases the lung capacity through strengthening muscles of the chest and is beneficial for individuals with asthma. The inverted head increases blood flow to the brain helping to simultaneously awaken the mind as well as the body. With all four limbs (palms and feet) firmly planted on the ground, this pose exudes stability and a solid foundation. This is an empowering way to start the day.
2). Warrior I – With both feet firmly rooted to the ground, arms outstretched overhead and gaze above, this fierce pose offers the benefits of strengthening leg muscles, and stretching the hip flexors. With the gaze above and arms outstretched, the body is opening itself to whatever the day may bring; hands are outstretched and gaze is hopeful as it is raised towards the sky. At the same time, it is important to note that the yogi is still solidly and firmly grounded through both feet; whatever the day may bring, nothing will destabilize this fierce warrior.
3). Humble Warrior – Both arms are interlaced at the sacrum, the yogi takes a slight back bend as if receiving what the day has to bring, before folding to the inside of whichever knee is forward as arms remain interlaced moving away from the back and stretching the shoulders. There are many components that are beneficial to this pose. The initial getting into the pose; the yogi puffs out the chest, opening themselves up to whatever the day may bring and releasing tensions built up overnight. As the yogi folds to the inside of the knee, this is a humbling experience. We must remember that although yoga is empowering and is intended to boost self-confidence and awareness, we must also accept and remain humble through that which we cannot control. The intense shoulder stretch with the hands interlaced and stretched above the back releases tight shoulders, where we tend to store tension.
4). Goddess pose (with option of raising heels variation) – Arms are bent to 90 degrees at the sides and the yogi’s toes outward and heels in with knees bent; this is an intense hip opener. Releasing the inner hip muscles (groins and adductors) in the morning helps the yogi to become in tune with their emotional status at the beginning of the day and can serve as an intense emotional release, perhaps even somewhat cathartic for the yogi. With the vigor and intensity of using the muscles of the legs and gaze straightforward, this pose is definitely empowering.
5). Wild thing – This pose is a tremendous heart opener in addition to acting as a wonderful stretch for the pectoral muscles, the muscles of the chest. It engages the abdominal, arm, and leg muscles, while releasing the chest muscles, opening oneself up for the day.
6). Tree pose (vriksasana) – This pose is a great pose to wake up your ability to balance in the morning. It is also meaningful in its firm groundedness with foot rooted into the floor. In addition to working on balance, tree pose is a hip opener, and while bringing arms outstretched above and the gaze upwards, the yogi is transformed into a firmly rooted, empowered, hopeful yogi.
7). Dancers Pose (Nataranjasana) – Slowly challenging and empowering yourself further, moving into dancers pose is a wonderful opportunity to stretch the shoulders and the chest further, stretch the groins and the quad muscles along the top of your thighs in addition to the hamstring muscles of the standing leg. It strengthens the leg muscles in addition to the ankle and intrinsic muscles of the foot while also challenging balance. Overall, this pose stretches and strengthens; with a gaze looking forward and maintaining focus on one point to help overall balance, this pose is excellent for waking up the mind and attention in addition to waking up the body. It is empowering to engage simultaneously all these different muscle groups while standing on one leg focused on one point.
8). Dhanurasana (bow pose) – On the belly, awakening the intestines from their overnight slumber, reaching back and taking hold of ankles or feet with same side hands and lifting upwards, this pose is an empowering chest opener and abdominal stretch. At the same time, the legs are engaged as they kick back into the hands. This pose serves to engage all muscles of the body if done correctly. Adding on the pranyama with each inhalation, the chest gently rises and each exhalation, the chest gently falls as the stomach inflates and deflates with each breath. This rising and falling reminds the yogi of the importance of breathing; the basic function of the human being. Physically engaged and mindfully aware of the importance of the breath, the yogi is empowered. It is empowering to be aware that one has control over the basic function of their body, their breath, and through deepening their breathing they also have the power to calm themselves. This awareness empowers the individual for the rest of the day.
9). Ustrasana (Camel Pose) – Another backbend, this powerful pose stretches the entire front of the body including the thighs and groin muscles, abdomen, chest, and throat. It stretches the hip flexors, strengthens back muscles and stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck (a definite bonus for an AM ritual). With gaze upward and all muscles engaged in some way in this pose, it is empowering, active, and a great preparation for the rest of the day.
10). Sirsasana (supported headstand) – This is known as the “King” of all yoga poses. Ending a morning ritual with an inversion such as headstand is a great way to keep your body awake and engaged while also calming your brain, relieving stress and depression, stimulating key glands in the body, and strengthening the lungs and core muscles. It is recommended to hold inversions for 3-5 minutes for maximum benefits including some immune benefits. After coming to child’s pose and slowly rising to a seated position with hands at heart center, the yogi may naturally feel bold and empowered for the rest of the day.