Yoga is the perfect morning workout: it gets your blood pumping, stretches your still-sleepy muscles and focuses your mind. And it’s not just an energy booster – when practised regularly, yoga can improve your sleep at night, help to relieve stress and anxiety, and may even ease mild depression. You might not be one of those people who leap out of bed cheerily to greet each day, but with these gentle poses, you may one day salute the sun.
What you need
A yoga mat or towel. If you have space, go outside for some vitamin D and birdsong; if not, your living room will do just fine. Focus on your breathing and allow your body and mind to transition to ‘awake’.
1. Supine twist
Stretches: As well as opening up your back and chest, this pose releases tension in your spine. Appreciate the beautiful stretch in your lower back.
How-to: Lie on your back. Bring your knee across your body, level with your hip, until your knee and calf touch the floor (if your knee doesn’t touch the floor that’s OK, just relax into it). Extend your right arm, palm facing down, keeping your right shoulder grounded. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Change legs.
2. Bridge pose
Stretches: Builds strength in your legs and glutes and opens your chest and hips. Feel your heart open and stress dissipate.
How-to: Lie on your back. Bend your knees with feet flat on the floor and heels close to your buttocks. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, keeping your tailbone tucked under. Stretch out your arms, interlacing your fingers. Hold for 5–15 breaths.
3. Downward facing dog
Stretches: This energising pose stretches and strengthens your whole body. Breathe deeply and be aware of your body.
How-to: Start on all fours, hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart. Plant your hands firmly on the ground. Exhale, lifting your hips, getting into an inverted V. Keep your knees bent, then slowly straighten them as much as you can while maintaining the length in your spine. Press your shoulder-blades down and keep your head and neck relaxed. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
4. Low lunge
Stretches: Get a great leg stretch while strengthening your back and shoulders. Engage your core for stability.
How-to: From downward facing dog, step your left foot between your hands, keeping your knee in line with your ankle. Lower your right knee to the floor. Inhale, stretching your arms overhead. Look towards the ceiling. Hold for 3 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
5. Gate pose
Stretches: This is great for opening up your body. Enjoy stretching your often neglected side body.
How-to: Kneel down then extend your left leg out with your foot flat and torso facing forward. Rest your left hand on your left leg. Inhale and bring your right arm overhead. Exhale and stretch through your right side, looking to the ceiling. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.