Wake-Up Yoga

This yoga routine is a good way to kick-start your morning. It is especially useful if you feel sluggish and stiff and need to pick yourself up. It takes fifteen to twenty minutes depending on how long you spend in relaxation.

You can even just do five minutes by doing a few sun salutes and then deep breathing in the Savasana or relaxation pose.  Or pick a pose you enjoy and practice it a few times to stretch the body out.

Overhead stretch

Stand in Tadasana, the mountain pose.  Inhale and sweep your arms overhead. Join your palms and stretch into the fingertips. Lengthen from your heels right up through your spine and into the fingers. Pause there and exhale completely. Take another deep breath and notice where your breath is full and where it’s restricted. Keep breathing and lengthen both sides of your waist evenly. Exhale and bring your arms back by your side with your side body long and your chest lifted. Repeat twice.

Sun Salutes

Do two sun salutes and work up to between five and ten over time. Sun salutes work the whole muscular and cardiovascular system. They stretch out the spine and help to establish a good rhythm to your breathing.

Remember to bend your knees in plank pose if the upper body is not yet strong enough. And relax in childs pose instead of downward dog if the body feels particularly tired and stiff.

Warrior against the wall

Stand with your heels touching a wall. Step forward with the right leg. Turn your left toes out slightly and root the left side of your back heel against the wall. Bring hands into prayer position in front of your heart. Keep your spine long, inhale and bend your right knee, opening your arms out to the sides with your elbows bent. Keep the right knee moving to the little toe side of the foot. Exhale, gently hug your belly to your spine, and straighten your right leg, returning your hands to prayer. Repeat 3 to 5 times, moving with your breath. Switch sides.

Supine stretch

Lie on the floor with both knees bent. Stretch your arms out in line with the shoulders, palms on the floor. Inhale and exhale as you press your knees together and bend the knees to the right. Turn your head and look towards the left. Press the left palm down and drop both shoulders towards the floor as you exhale. Hold for five to six breaths. Repeat on the left side. Finish by hugging both knees into your chest and releasing the lower back into the floor.

Spine stretch 

Lie on your belly with your legs outstretched. Place your elbows on the floor shoulder distance apart, about an inch or so ahead of the shoulder line. Place your hands straight on the floor in front of you or hold on to your elbows. Rest here without slumping into your shoulders or lifting them up. Let your belly and organs sink towards the floor and relax your buttocks and legs. If your back feels sensitive, lightly contract your outer buttocks and inner legs.

When you are ready, place your hands under your chest, and on an inhalation, lift your upper body away from the floor. As you exhale, bend your knees and draw your hips back toward your feet in Childs Pose.

Forward bend

Roll up gently from Childs Pose. Sit up with a straight spine and relaxed shoulders. Bring your legs together. Bend forward at the hips, curving your spine into a forward bend. Use a belt or tie looped around the soles of the feet if your hips are tight and you have trouble reaching forward. Hug your belly to your spine and lengthen the space from pubic bone to ribcage. Breathe into the areas that feel tight and coiled and gently soften and release.

Note that you may feel particularly stiff in forward bends in the morning time or if the room you are in is anyway chilly. Ensure you are warm enough to practice comfortably and use a belt to help you release the spine.

Savasana

Always finish with the corpse posture. It lets the body unwind after practice. It calms the mind and prepares you for the day ahead. You can also take this time – five minutes or longer – to do some breathing practice.

Lie on the floor with a cushion or pillow under the head and shoulders. Or just have the edge of the cushion touching the tops of the shoulders and supporting the head and neck only. If your lower back bothers you, try a small cushion under the lower back. Place a towel or eyebag on the eyes to relax them. Let your legs roll out to the sides and place arms a little away from the body with palms facing upwards. Relax the feet and hands and let the shoulders release down from the ears. Scan through the body and relax each muscle or group of muscles in turn. Or just lie still and listen to your breath.

Pranayama or breathing practice

You can practice pranayama anytime that suits you. Some people find it beneficial in the evening to de-stress after the day and prepare for sleep. Others enjoy breathing techniques first thing in the morning to clear the mind and bring a good supply of oxygen into the system. If you are very tired or feel anxious, try Pranayama lying down and comfortably supported. If sitting, take a simple cross-legged position. Use cushions or blankets under your hips so that your knees are parallel to or below your hips, not above them. Centre yourself on the points of the sitting bones and draw the front spine and side chest up. Soften and relax your lower back. Release the back of the neck and move the head down.

Watch and Breathe

As you lie there, relax your entire body and begin to observe your breath. After several minutes, you will notice that your breath becomes slower and slightly deeper as you relax. Notice where you feel the breath in your body. Observe any movement in the abdomen, chest and ribcage as you inhale and exhale. At the end of a normal exhalation, pause for a second or two before taking your next inhalation.

Now try taking a slightly deeper inhalation. To initiate the breath, move your ribs outward to the side. Instead of forcing the breath in, move the ribs to allow it in. Take a slightly deeper breath, pause for a second and slowly exhale.

Keep the body really relaxed as you breathe. If you feel tension or the breath is strained, you are doing too much and need to relax the breath. If you feel relaxed, practice the complete cycle: a short pause at the end of an exhalation; then a slow, relaxed inhalation; a slight pause at the end of the inhalation; then a slow, complete exhalation followed by a short pause.

If you feel tense or nervous at any time, simply return to normal breathing, observe your breath, and relax.

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