Are You Looking for Yoga for the Morning?
Practicing yoga at any time of the day can be so helpful, but did you know that there are specific benefits to practicing in the morning? Not only does yoga in the morning keep you awake and energized as you start your day, but it helps to relieve any pain or tension that may have built up from the night before. There is a reason that there is a specific yoga practice known as Sun Salutations that many do first thing in the morning. The linked poses actually keep the body moving and the blood pumping as you “salute” the sun. Many people practice right when they wake up. Even if the practice focuses mostly on meditation with very gentle, slow stretches, you would still be doing yoga.
Benefits of Doing Yoga in the Morning
Relaxation- Morning yoga also helps to calm the body before a long day. Let’s say you have a stressful day ahead at work and you do not know how to relax yourself. You can achieve a calmer state of being through doing yoga before starting your day.
Mental Health Benefits- Yoga has many mental health benefits, and beginning your day with a practice can help to relieve stress and depression. By starting your day with yoga, you can relieve tension from the body, focus the mind, and go into your day with more positivity. In addition, many people use a morning yoga practice to set an intention for their day.
More Energy- Many times, when you simply roll out of bed in the morning and get ready, you are not giving yourself proper time to wake up and move. By adding more gentle movements into your morning, you are allowing yourself time to wake up slowly, stretch your muscles, and get your blood pumping.
Increasing Focus- For those who struggle with focus, yoga can be a great way to start off your morning. Yoga can increase one’s concentration which is why many schools are now including it in their curriculum. If you find that you have a lot of trouble staying on task throughout the day, try some morning yoga to center yourself and your mind. In addition, by moving around in the morning, you are relieving pent up tension and getting in a gentle exercise. When you get your blood pumping, you feel more awake, and if you find that you do not have much time to move around during the day, morning yoga can add some more movement into your day.
Exercising- As we were just saying, morning yoga allows you to add some exercise into your day. Yoga in general is a great way to build muscle and stay in shape. After a long day at work, it can be hard to find the energy to exercise. That is why so many people get up early to work out. However, it can be a lot sometimes to do a full workout first thing in the morning. Therefore, a few minutes of gentle yoga before starting your day can be a great way to get your body moving and increase your energy. If you’re looking to built a fitness habit for weight loss, getting started with a few minutes of daily yoga in the mornings is a great way to do that.
Reducing Pain- The less you move, the more your body will hurt. This is due to the fact that we have something called fascia within our bodies that surrounds every organ and also sits between the muscles and skin. Fascia is soft tissue throughout the body that can easily harden and lock up if it is not being properly moved. When we stretch out and move the fascia, it begins to soften and become more flexible, allowing our bodies to be able to do more in the long run. This also helps to reduce pain in the body by releasing tense fascia and can also give the muscles, ligaments, and tendons more space to stretch out as well and increase in flexibility as well. This, in turn, can both prevent injuries and even relieve chronic pain.
Doing Yoga in the Morning VS Other Times of the Day
While practicing yoga at any time of the day can be beneficial for you, practicing in the morning can specifically help you to start off your work day focused and energized. Practicing at night helps to let go of the day and relax the body before bed so that you can get more sleep. When you practice in the middle of the day, it can offer a nice break and give you a reset before continuing with your day.
Doing a full hour-long practice in the morning is great, but you can absolutely just add a few minutes of yoga into your morning routine to help you work up to doing more. While there is no right or wrong time to do yoga, each time has specific benefits, and it can be easier to stay up to the task of doing yoga when you first wake up versus when you are half asleep at the end of the day. It truly depends on each individual person and their specific needs.
If you are looking to relax more at night time, then doing yoga before bed can be great for you. If you are looking to feel more energized and awake throughout your day, practicing in the morning is even better. You can even do both, using different practices throughout your day for different reasons.
You also might feel a bit tighter in the morning versus at other times throughout your day after you would have been up and moving. However, this is also a good reason to do yoga first thing in the morning instead of waiting. While your body might slowly loosen up and become less tense as the day goes on, doing yoga when you first wake up will ensure that you are feeling less tight and more mobile. If you find that you might have slept on something wrong and you wake up sore, yoga is especially helpful for assisting in releasing this pain and going into your day feeling good.
B.K.S. Iyengar, a yoga instructor who was the founder of Iyengar Yoga, has actually written about the dilemma of when to practice in his book Light on Yoga. He discusses practicing in the morning and evening and explains how there are benefits to both. He explains that practicing in the morning will make a person better at their job during the day, but practicing at night will help to relieve stress from the day and prepare a person for bed. (Iyengar, 1965)
Best Types of Yoga for the Morning
There are many types of yoga that you can practice in the morning, but some might have more benefits than others.
Yin Yoga- If you are looking for a gentle, deep stretch, then yin yoga might be a good option for you. This practice involves intense stretcing of the soft tissues of the body.
Restorative Yoga- Restorative yoga is similar to yin yoga and can be great for working through injuries, but both of these practices do not involve a lot of movement, so if you are looking to feel more awake, these might be better for later in the day.
Vinyasa Yoga- Some of the best practices for first thing in the morning would involve some form of vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa yoga is a practice that involves doing multiple poses in a sequence and linking the movements with the breath. If you want some movement but not so much that you are involving cardio, a gentle vinyasa flow can be great for when you first wake up. If you want some more cardio, a faster paced vinyasa is most likely what you would be looking for. The most popular vinyasa sequence to practice in the morning is called Sun Salutations. This is a specific series of poses linked together with the breath that is meant to salute the sun and wake up the body. There are alternatives to this sequence as well with some involving more standing and muscle strengthening poses, and others being more gentle. In addition, there are even variations of this practice meant for before bed known as Moon Salutations.
Power Yoga- You also might try power yoga which is a more intense version of a vinyasa practice, involving holding each pose for longer to really engage the muscles.
The right morning yoga practice for you fully depends on what you are looking to gain from the sequence. Ask yourself what benefits you are hoping to receive and then pick the best practice from there.
What to Look for in a Yoga Class for the Best Morning Session
While each person will have a different practice that works best for them in the morning, overall, the majority of people will benefit from having a practice that involves more movement to wake the body up. A practice should not have so much movement first thing in the morning that you are exhausted the rest of the day, but it should have enough that you are more awake after practicing. Vinyasa yoga is overall one of the greatest types to practice in the morning, and if you are looking for a sequence of poses to do at home, sun salutations is probably the most popular and best to do. However, this will vary person to person.
Some classes will be labeled for the morning. You might see names of classes along the lines of “Morning Yoga,” “Wake Up Yoga,” “Awakening Yoga,” etc. These would be specifically designed to be practiced in the morning, but you can always pick classes that resonate more with you instead. If you absolutely do not want to move much in the morning, you can pick a more gentle practice like yin or restorative yoga.
How to Establish a Sustainable Yoga Habit for the Morning
Jumping right into a long practice when you first start might not be the best for everybody. Going from no movement in the morning to an hour long practice can be a lot. If you are practicing at home instead of in a studio, you can begin by doing even just a few minutes of yoga a day and work your way up over time. Even just five minutes a day can offer you many benefits and help to get your blood pumping in the morning. Body By Yoga offers many short but impactful practices that you can do from home. In fact, we even have a yoga class that is just under fifteen minutes for you to try out. Check it out below!
If you feel overwhelmed when first beginning a morning routine, take your time to work your way up to it. Just do a few minutes a day, stretching when you first wake up with some deep breathing, and notice how that affects you. You should start feeling more awake and ready for the day ahead versus when you simply roll out of bed and get going.
5 Best Yoga Poses for the Morning
1. Forward Fold- While this pose is one of the more gentle ones, it is a great way to stretch out the lower back and send blood towards the head, making you feel more awake and prepared for your day ahead. To do this pose, step the feet about hip-width distance apart in mountain pose. From here, inhale and bring your arms to the sky as you stretch through the back of the body and engage the core. As you exhale, fold forwards. You can either reach for the toes or just let yourself hang here. You can also grab onto your opposite elbows with your hands and gently rock side to side. You can hold this for as long as you would like or at least for five breaths. If you can not reach your toes and do not want to swing side to side here, you can gently rest your hands on your thighs or shins (not your knees) or you can use two blocks here to reach the hands towards, bringing the ground closer to you.
2. Cat/Cow- Though these poses are veyr gentle, they are great for stretching out the back and relieving pain in the back of the body first thing in the morning. If you wake up sore, this is a great stretch for you. To do this pose, start on the hands and knees on your mat. If the knees are sore here, you can roll up the edge of your mat beneath them, or you can place a pad or pillow underneath them. On the inhale, arch your back and look up to the sky, pressing into your hands. As you exhale, round your back and tuck your chin to your chest. Continue this at your own pace, slowing the movement as you deepend the breath, and repeating as many times as you would like. If you find that being on the hands and knees is too intense, feel free to sit in a chair and bring the hands to the legs, arching your back with each inhale and looking up to the sky, and rounding your back with each exhale to tuck your chin to your chest.
3. Chair Pose- If you are looking to strengthen your legs and energize your body first thing in the morning, this pose is a great option for you. To do this pose, start with the feet hip-width distance apart. On an inhale, bring your arms up at a diagonal, engaging the arm muscles to hold you in place. As you exhale, bend into your knees, dropping your hips back as if you are sitting into a chair. From here, breathe into the pose, using your core and thigh strength to support you. Hold for at least five breaths and then inhale to come up. You also have the option to use a block between the thighs here for more traction, or you can hold onto a chair or use a wall for support here.
4. Downward Facing Dog- This is a very popular yoga pose and is great for sending blood towards the head while engaging the muscles of the arms, legs, core, and back. To do this pose. Start on the hands and knees and, on an inhale, tuck your toes under. On an exhale, press into the hands to lift the knees up, pressing the hips back and away. Make sure to keep your spine long here, even if you need to bend into the knees to do so. Engage the core as you continue to press down through the hands, and create a straight line from the hips to the top of the head. If you have to round the back here, bend the knees further and do not worry about bringing the feet to the ground. If this pose is too intense, a variation would be to use a chair to bring the hands on so that you are not folding as far forwards. You can also use blocks here if you need to rest your hands on. FInally, you can place a block between the thighs, squeezing the legs together to help engage your glutes, core, and thigh muscles.
5. Lizard Pose- Doing gentle lunges in the morning is a great way to engage the muscles of the legs and core while opening up the hips. To do a lizard pose, start in downward facing dog and inhale to step one foot forwards between the hands, bending into that front knee. As you exhale, you can either keep the back toes tucked here, or you can drop the knee to the ground. You have the option of bringing the forearms to the ground or staying on the hands depending on what feels best for you. Just make sure to keep the spine long. For a variation of this pose, to bring in a twist, feel free to bend the back knee and bring the foot up. From here, reach the hand from the opposite side around and towards the back foot. You can either grab onto your foot here or use a strap if you need extra support. You can see how to do this pose below.
5 best Yoga Routines That Are All Less Than 5 Minutes Long to Help You Establish a Daily Morning Habit
Now, let’s take a look at some yoga routines that you can try in the morning that are less than five minutes. You do not have to have an hour long practice to start your morning off right. Taking your time to work your way up to a longer practice can be key for those who are overwhelmed by the idea of a longer morning class right off the bat. You can also switch off the routines each day to give your body different stretches throughout your week.
The following are five Body By Yoga practices that are less than, or around, five minutes that you can do first thing in the morning to establish daily habits.
1. Wake Up with Child’s Pose to Cat Cow- This two minute yoga series is a great way to relax first thing in the morning while also waking up the body and strengthening the core and spine. If you are looking to relieve back pain and find some time to relax before starting your day, this practice would be a great option for you. Check it out below.
2. Plank and Wild Thing Sequence to Build a Better Morning Habit- The next Body By Yoga sequence is less than three minutes long, but it walks you through an energizing practice that involves a plank pose, wild thing, and even a quick cobra pose at the end. Doing this sequence a few times, or even just once on each side, is a great way to begin your morning practice and feel more awake. Check it out below.
3. Yoga Abs Warmup for Beginners Core Strength- This two minute morning practice is a great way to strengthen your abs and get your core working first thing in the morning. This practice is specifically designed for getting your day started right and keeping you energized. You can check this practice out below.
4. High Lunge Morning Twist- This is another sequence for beginners looking to begin a morning practice. This is a great way to work on legs and core strength as well as adding some twists for detoxification. Check out this practice below.
5. Reclined Dynamic Twists for Core Strength and Back Pain- If you are looking to both strengthen the core and relieve pain in the back, this is a great practice for you. Specifically designed to do first thing in the morning, this one minute yoga sequence involves reclining twists that require use of the core. You can practice this once or multiple times in a row depending on what you are looking for. Check it out below.
Best Body By Yoga Programs for the Morning
Are you ready to start your morning yoga practice? If so, we have many routines and practices that can help you. To check out our free fifteen minute morning yoga routine– Yoga Rise–click here!
In addition, we offer a practice called Yoga Charge. This practice has yoga for the morning as well as yoga for the evening. It includes three morning routines, one power yoga routine, two routines for winding down in the evening, and one pre-bed routine for right before you go to sleep. Ready to check it out? Click here!
Reference: Iyengar, B. K. S. (1965). Light on yoga: Yoga dipika. London: Allen & Unwin.