Energize your body & mind with morning yoga
Starting the day with a short movement or pranayama practice energizes the body and sets a positive tone for the rest of your morning.
The number one reason to practice morning yoga instead of later in the day is simple: we have more energy, clarity, and focus when we wake up. We’re better able to put our total effort and attention into our physical and mental well-being before the responsibilities and tasks of the day enter our psyche.
If you lack energy and don’t feel in the mood for a vigorous morning yoga practice, cultivating the habit of waking up and spending 10-20 minutes doing Hatha postures or pranayama (breathing) techniques will support a more sustainable practice of making it to your yoga mat every day—no matter what occurred the day before.
Why do yoga in the morning?
- Greet the day with your body and breath.
- Do a quick workout right away when you have time!
- Stretch and release any tension from sleep.
- Strengthen your core to support movement.
- Clear your mind before work.
Benefits of a Morning Yoga Practice:
The power of the yoga practice is in alchemy; we can shift how we feel and perceive ourselves. The release of positive endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine has the power to shift your mental and physical state. The feel-good endorphins released have a positive impact on our bodies and minds to navigate the day with a more upbeat and productive mindset.
Boosts blood and oxygen circulation through the body to improve the function of the organs. As we move and breathe through specific postures, we provide our organs with an internal massage to enhance their function, no matter how quickly or slowly we shift from pose to pose. The movement of fluids through the body, such as blood and lymph, cleanses the body of toxins to support immunity.
Yoga and pranayama shift the body’s energetic state. As we’ve mentioned, you’ll feel refreshed and energized and less likely to reach for a second or third cup of coffee through the release of hormones and circulation.
Regular exercise reduces and regulates the amount of adrenaline and cortisol released in the body. Adrenaline and cortisol are known as stress hormones and have helped us evolve as humans. Without these hormones, we wouldn’t have the capacity to fight or flee if in danger. Exercise is one way we place positive stressors on the body.
Over-excitement, angst, and nervousness represent an abundance of energy that may be balanced with physical activities like yoga. Physical activity fatigues the body so that we might get better rest. When we release excess energy, we have a better chance of falling asleep and getting proper rest.
10-30 minute classes to do before work
- Hatha, vinyasa, and core flow yoga classes.
- Pranayama practices such as Kapalbhati, Nadi Shodhana, and Bhastrika.
- Sun Salutations to get the blood flowing and build heat.
The best rituals to start your day
Do these yoga poses and pranayamas (breathing techniques) in the morning to stimulate the corresponding organs and hormone release to energize your day.
Backbends stimulate the adrenals. The adrenal glands are associated with the body’s fight-or-flight response and produce hormones that regulate metabolism, blood pressure, and the immune system. Due to the spine’s arch, when we perform backbends in yoga, it may increase the force around the adrenals and stimulate the release of additional adrenaline into the body’s system. Too much adrenaline keeps us feeling awake and alert.
Backbending is also very energizing due to the increased blood flow throughout the body, so if you do backbending in the evening, you want to be mindful of how close it is to bedtime. If you do backbends in the evening practice, add a longer cooldown to allow the body to settle and ground.
The other reason to do backbends in the morning is to open the shoulders and chest. Especially for those who work at desks, drive, or rock children all day, opening the chest in the morning to stretch all the muscles across the front of the chest feels excellent.
B.K.S. Iyengar referred to twists as the squeeze-and-soak action, as the twist creates an intra-abdominal compression. Twisting stimulates blood flow around the muscles of the abdomen. When the twist is released, the digestive organs receive blood rich in oxygen and nutrients. Twisting to the left compresses the descending colon, which pushes everything in the direction to relieve digestive stress.
Twists enhance the mobility of the spine. As we age, the muscles surrounding the spine become stiff and sticky, which leads to a decreased range of motion and discomfort in the surrounding areas. Twisting creates length between each vertebra to lengthen the spine and space between the bones. While core exercises build strength and stability, twisting creates length and improves range of motion.
Core strength is essential to the spine’s longevity and mobility as the core muscles support the spine and affect the hips and pelvis.
A strong core means strengthening the transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominis, and the pelvic floor muscles.
A weak core may result in lower back pain; low back pain indicates the need to strengthen the core, including strengthening the back body’s muscles known as the erectors. The erector spinae is the group of muscles and tendons that run laterally down the spinal column from the skull base to the sacrum beneath the lower back.
Strengthening the core abdominals and erectors creates a corset to support the spine. In yoga, we use the definitions sukha and sthira to describe the qualities of a healthy spine. Suka translates as flexibility, suppleness, and ease. Sthira translates as stability and strength. Ideally, these two aspects are balanced within the spine and the overall posture of the individual. When we tend to one quality over the other, we’re more prone to injury.
To strengthen the core and back muscles, here are a few exercises to do at home:
- Bridge pose, locust pose, and plank pose with a block between the inner thighs to isolate the core stabilizers.
- Small crunches with the lower back and back ribs compressed on the ground to maintain spinal integrity and length. The spine should be neutral during sit-ups and crunches, aiming for the spine’s minimal curvature and the back pressed to the ground.
- Leg lifts, either one or two legs at a time, depending on how you feel, with the back compressed to the ground. This action may be done with bent knees as toe taps to begin.
- Side plank poses to target the side body and obliques.
- Leg and arm extension from plank pose or tabletop if a plank is too much; this strengthens the core and the erectors.
These actions will engage the gluteal muscles (buttock) and hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips) to create stability throughout the entire body and not just the core and back.
A practice that focuses on core engagement may be performed several times a week. Ideally, 2-4 times weekly. It depends on the practitioner’s level and how their body feels. Other muscles step in to compensate for the fatigued area when we’re tired, so it’s all about listening to your body and addressing where you are at each day over pushing through a set plan.
4. Kapalbhati Breathing
Kapalbhati is very stimulating and excitatory; it generates heat, enhances circulation and digestion, and improves liver and kidneys’ function. Kapalabhati translates from Sanskrit as Kapal, meaning the forehead, and Bhati, meaning light or knowledge. This pranayama brings lightness and clarity to mind and frontal cortex of the brain.
This pranayama style involves sharp, active exhales through the nose to stimulate the clearing of the lungs by clearing the stagnant air that collects around the sides of the lung cavity. The sharp exhale pulls the stale air in toward the center of the lungs and pushes it out. Energetically, we’re drawing the air upwards to revitalize the mind and body. The inhale is passive, and as kapalabhati breath is performed, the abdomen repeatedly contracts on the exhale and releases on the inhale. This pranayama is best done on an empty stomach during the earlier part of the day as its excitatory and stimulates the digestive fire.
- Enhanced mental focus and clarity
- Clearing of the lungs and nasal passages
- Excitatory to stimulate blood flow and boost circulation
- Tones the abdomen and lower organs
- Sharpens senses and concentration
- Balances nervous system
- Stimulates the digestive fire and appetite
- Purifies the nadis (energy channels) of the body through prana (breath