I am not a morning person. I hit snooze a dozen times as I slump out of bed; I’m barely awake as I brew my tea and as I sit at my desk at work at 8 a.m.; I am constantly shaking my head up to keep from nodding off. I’m really not “awake” until ten (even 11 a.m.) in the morning, which is frustrating with my early-rising job and all of the demands of the day. However, recently I’ve started pushing myself out of bed earlier, brewing myself a fresh cup of jasmine green tea and moving on my yoga mat before I do anything else.
What I’ve noticed is that doing a basic Sun Salutation along with a few other energy-boosting yoga poses has not only increased my energy and gotten me out of my brain fog, but also put me in a much happier mood as I start my day.
Sun salutations are our salute to the sun, a way to express gratitude to our source of light and energy, and are best practiced as the sun begins to rise. As the gentle rays of the sun illuminate the earth, they illuminate us as well as we face the sun and take in its warmth. The energy of the sun helps to restore and renew the energy within us. Sun salutations bring positivity and awareness of our connection the world around us and to ourselves. Gently stretching and toning our muscles in the morning not only help to awaken our bodies, but also be more mindful of our physical restrictions. We become more humble, more conscious and more grateful for what the day brings simply by thanking the sun.
Below is my morning yoga sequence, a variation of sun salutation with energetic yoga poses to help awaken our bodies and prepare our minds and hearts for the day. Practice this sequence facing the sun (preferably around dawn) in a room surrounded by nature or outdoors.
Begin in child’s pose, on your knees with your torso folded over your thighs and arms stretched out to slowly come into your breath.
Move from here into lotus pose (pictured is half-lotus) with your legs crossed and feet on the tops of the opposite thigh. Rest your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes and practice Surya Bhedana or right nostril breathing. This type of breathing is associated with the sun and will help you come into your body’s energy. Cover your left nostril with your thumb and begin breathing in and out through your right nostril for five breaths. Release your left thumb and breathe through both nostrils for a few breaths.
Begin your sun salutation in mountain pose standing up with feet about hip-width apart and hands facing front with arms extended out to your sides. Reach your arms up and extend backward a little.
Swan-dive down into standing forward bend with your hands touching the ground. Inhale and lift your torso up with your back straight and hands on just below your knees. Exhale back down and wrap your arms around your legs and touch your hands to the back of your calves. Bend your knees if necessary. Remember, it is still early and your body is just getting warmed up.
From standing forward bend, bring your left leg in between your palms and come into high lunge pose. Make sure your left knee is bent and right leg is straight. After a few breaths, secure your right foot flat onto the ground and lift up your torso into Warrior II. Have your arms parallel to the floor with your right leg straight and left leg bent. Look toward your left hand. While doing Warrior II, practice Breath of Fire, a rapid breathing technique where you inhale and on the exhale you pump your belly in.
After Warrior II, come into triangle pose. Straighten your left knee and then reach your left arm forward and down to your shin. Lift your right arm up to the sky and slowly turn your head to look up at your right hand.
Turn your body back to the center and move your left leg back into plank pose with your torso lifted. Place your knees, chest and chin down to the floor and then lift up into cobra pose. With the tops of the feet flat on the floor, elbows back and hands placed on the floor under the shoulders, inhale and lift your chest off the floor. Make sure your pelvis and legs do not lift. Stay here for a few breaths.
From cobra, move your hips back into downward facing dog with feet and hands on the floor and hips stretching up. Lift your left leg toward the sky for downward dog split. Make sure you thigh is turned inward and separate your toes to stretch them. Repeat on the right side.
Place your extended right leg between your hands for high-lunge pose on the right. Then come up into Warrior II and triangle pose on the right side.
From triangle, turn your body to the center and go into Warrior III pose. Lift your left leg up and parallel to the floor. With your back straight, place your hands in prayer over your heart. When you have found your balance, stretch your hands out in front of you.
After a few breaths in Warrior III, place your hands to the ground and put your left foot down next to your right. Rest in standing forward bend for a moment. Inhale and raise your arms and chest up to the sky.
Bring your hands to your heart and lift your right leg up, bending your torso forward into Warrior III pose on the left leg.
Lift your torso back up and place your right leg down next to your left. Place your right foot just above your left knee with your right knee bent and extending out to your side for tree pose. Place your hands in front of your heart or reach them to the sky. Repeat on the left side.
Come into chair pose with knees bent and arms lifted up. Make sure your tailbone is down and not sticking out.
From chair, exhale back into mountain pose. Finish with a few breaths in mountain.
Also in Yoga: Yoga Sequence for Opening the Third Eye Chakra
Therapeutic Yoga Poses for Menstruation
Photo: Jessica Renae