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Wake and stretch

Wake and stretch
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Raise your hand if you typically start your day with one or two (or three) taps to the snooze button and a mad dash around the house in an attempt to get ready in time for work. The morning hustle doesn’t make for the most relaxing start to the day.

Starting your day with morning yoga stretches will help you feel relaxed and more in tune with your body and mind. It can kick off your day in the right way, leaving you ready to take on the world.

Plus, keeping up with a regular stretching routine is a good idea for people of all fitness levels too.

Let this advice guide you through an a.m. routine that will help you loosen up and set your mind and body up for a successful day.

Learn the types of stretching fitness experts recommend – and one they avoid.

What are the benefits of yoga?

What are the benefits of yoga?
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Regular yoga practice has many benefits, including enhancing flexibility, promoting relaxation, and improving concentration, says Dr Zachary Mulvihill, an integrative medicine physician.

Even better news: it can help manage low back pain, a condition often exacerbated by the sedentary nature of many jobs.

Yoga can release tension in the muscles of the back, which assists in pain relief, he says. The practice can also help in easing other posture-related aches and pains.

The benefits go beyond the physical. According to a review in BMC Psychiatry, yoga may improve sleep. Researchers looked at 19 studies involving 1,832 people and found that women who did yoga had improved sleep quality compared with those who didn’t do yoga.

Other research, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that yoga may help anxiety. The study looked at 226 adults with generalised anxiety disorder who either underwent cognitive behavioural therapy, did kundalini yoga, or received stress-management education for three months.

They found that 54 percent of those who did yoga saw an improvement in their symptoms. Yoga was more effective than stress-management education but not as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Find out more about what causes lower back and hip pain.

Why should I do morning yoga stretches?

Why should I do morning yoga stretches?
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“We naturally wake up stiff in the morning from lack of movement during the night,” says Jess Gronholm, a yoga instructor and founder of HIIT and Run Yoga. “Depending on how we slept, that can include a stiff neck and low back pain. Yoga poses encourage you to move your body in a way that truly wakes important muscles up.”

In addition to waking up your body, starting your day with movement that helps you tune into your breath and what’s going on in your mind means you prep your headspace for the day ahead, too, says Gronholm.

One thing to keep in mind before you jump into stretches in the morning: we’re at our least flexible right out of bed, so you have to ease into it.

“Keep in mind that when it comes to flexibility, we always see our limits – what we can’t do, rather than what we can,” he says.

Let go of any expectations and just move in a way that feels good for you and your body.

Try these other 19 tricks for an instantly happier morning.

Morning yoga stretches to kick off your day

Morning yoga stretches to kick off your day
COURTESY JESS GRONHOLM

Do the poses below, holding each for 15 seconds on the first round. Repeat for up to three more rounds, coming back to Crescent pose between each posture.

“In between each main pose, we’ll come back to Crescent, using it as the counterpose to the forward bends and twists, helping to warm and loosen things up more quickly and safely,” Gronholm explains.

Each of the morning yoga stretches offers great check-in poses, he says.

“They help you get a clear sense of how you feel, what your energy level is like, and where you are starting your day from,” Gronholm says. “And the clearer we are with our starting point, the easier it is to navigate our day and achieve goals both physically and mentally.”

One more thing to keep in mind is connecting your breath to each pose, inhaling during Crescent and exhaling as you move into the other postures.

“Think of it as a moving meditation,” Gronholm says. If you need to, hold any pose for an extra breath.

Crescent pose

From a kneeling position, with your right foot forward, extend your arms straight overhead. Keep your biceps by ears.

Make sure your back toe is untucked, and clasp your hands overhead. Bend your back slightly backward, as you send your hips forward and open your heart to the ceiling.

This is also one of the best yoga poses for a better sleep.

Discover 4 more soothing yoga poses to help you sleep.

Half split

Half split
COURTESY JESS GRONHOL

From Crescent pose, straighten your front leg and send your hips back.

Lower your chest toward the floor. Place your hands on each side of your front leg.

Here are 10 surprising things that could happen when you start doing yoga.

Half split twist

Half split twist
COURTESY JESS GRONHOLM

From Crescent pose, straighten your front leg and send your hips back. Lower your chest toward the floor.

Place your left hand on the floor and extend your right hand toward the ceiling, twisting to the right.

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Basic twist

Basic twist
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From Crescent pose, straighten your back leg. Place your left hand on the floor, to the left of your right foot.

Exhale and extend your right arm toward the ceiling, twisting to the right.

Straight leg lunge

Straight leg lunge
COURTESY JESS GRONHOLM

From Crescent pose, tuck your back toes and straighten both legs.

Lift your hips and lower your chest toward the floor. Place your hands on each side of your front foot.

Standing split

Standing split
COURTESY JESS GRONHOLM

From Crescent pose, tuck your back toes and drive through your front foot, placing your fingertips slightly in front of your right foot. Lift your back leg toward the ceiling, flexing your foot.

Ending the stretching series

Ending the stretching series
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Need a few more minutes of meditation before jumping into your day? Dr Mulvihill recommends ending your yoga routine in Savasana, or Corpse pose.

“See how easily you sink into a deep meditation after bathing your body in all those endorphins,” he says.

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