Ever wake up in the morning feeling less than excited about getting out of bed? You are not alone! The good news is there are better (and more natural) ways to perk yourself up than sugar and caffeine! So before you head straight for the coffee pot… try this instead.
The following poses (asanas) are perfect for practicing first thing in the morning to start your day off on the right foot or in the afternoon when you hit that 3 pm lull and need a natural pick me up! Incorporate them into a regular practice to improve strength and start moving towards more advanced and challenging postures. Have fun and always practice safely by listening to your body and knowing your limitations.
Asana #1 – High Crescent Lunge (Variation)
Sanskrit Name – Anjaneyasana
How to get into it - Standing at the top of your mat, step your left leg to the behind you. Come into a lunge with your left heel off the mat. Keeping your core muscles switched on, reach both arms behind you interlocking the fingers behind your back. Insure that you have a steady balance with enough space between your feet and your gaze fixed on one point out in front of you. If you feel strong and balanced here, gently start to look up to the sky and lift your heart while squeezing the arms and shoulders together behind you. In any back bend, you should always try to protect the low back by bending mostly in the upper back and keeping your low belly pulled in with your tailbone extending down towards the floor.
Hold this for 3 to 5 breaths. Then, to exit, gently release the arms to the mat and press your self back to downward facing dog to rest. Then try the other side.
Benefits – This posture expands and stretches the chest for better breathing and more effective use of the lungs. The shoulders are stretched which helps to relieve tension in your upper body and the legs and hips are stretched and strengthened. This pose can also help to relieve sciatic pain.
Asana #2 – Warrior III
Sanskrit Name – Virabhadrasana III
How to get into it - Standing at the top of your mat, shift your weight into the right leg and balance by evenly pressing down through all four corners of your foot. With your arms by your sides, gently start to lean your upper body forward keeping your hips in the same position and swinging your left leg slowly back behind you. Rest your gaze to the top of your mat. If you feel stable here, then extend your arms out in front of you with palms facing in. Hold for a few breaths then exit slowly the same way you came in and try the other side.
Benefits – This posture strengthens the legs, ankles and abdominal muscles. Balance and focus are improved as well as posture and mental and physical agility. As the whole body is working to hold you in the pose, your heart rate increases and energy levels improve.
Asana #3 – Side Plank Pose
Sanskrit Name – Vasistasana
How to get into it - Start in a high plank position with both wrists stacked below shoulders. Make sure your shoulders, hips and knees are all in one line. Slowly drop your right heel to the mat, balancing on the knife edge of your right foot and stacking the left foot on top. Stretch your left arm to the sky and lift the hips high to keep everything in one long line. If this is too challenging, drop your right knee to the mat for a less intense variation. Hold for a few seconds, then come back to a high plank and try the other side.
Benefits – This posture strengthens the wrists, arms, abdominal muscles and legs. The spine is lengthened and toned and balance is improved. This also expands the chest, improving the functioning of your respiratory system.
Asana #4 – Upward Facing Dog Pose
Sanskrit Name – Urdva Mukha Svanasana
How to get into it -
Benefits – This posture stretches the front side of the body, tones the backside and strengthens the arms and wrists. The abdominal organs are stretched and stimulated in this pose, which helps to improve the functioning of the digestive system. This can also help relieve feelings of depression and back pain.
Asana #5 – Camel Pose
Sanskrit Name – Ustrasana
How to get into it - Start by standing on your knees with the tops of the feet on the floor. Place both hands to your lower back and lengthen your spine by lifting the heart towards the sky. Gently squeeze the thighs towards each other, press your hips forward and start to lean back in the upper body. With your hips over your knees, reach the hands back, one at a time, clasping the heels. Once the hands are down, continue to lift the heart and press the hips forward. Hold for a few breaths, then come back out slowly by placing one hand at a time to the low back. Come down to rest in childs pose for a few breaths to stretch the back.
Note: Be very careful coming into this pose. If there is any pain in the low back, come back out very slowly and take a forward fold. If you are aware that you generally have back pain, it is advised that you avoid this pose.
Benefits – This posture also stretches the whole front side of the body which helps to tone and stimulate the abdominal organs. The back side of the body is strengthened which can help to improve posture.
Asana #6 – Boat Pose
Sanskrit Name – Navasana
How to get into it – Start in a seated position with both feet on the floor out in front of you, knees bent. Stretch both arms out in front of your body with palms facing each other. From here, lengthen the spine by drawing the abdominal muscles in and lifting through the crown of the head. Start to lean the upper body back but keep the same shape of the spine. Come to balance on the backside of the sitting bones and slowly lift the feet, bringing the shins parallel to the floor. If you feel strong enough, then extend the legs out fully and continue to lift the chest. Stay for a few breaths then rest in a cross legged position and practice one more time.
Benefits – This posture strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles, hips and spine and improves the digestive system by stimulating the internal organs.
After practicing these poses, hopefully you will feel strong and energized and that yearning for a double shot of espresso will subside……