Yoga Teacher Megan D’Amico presents six yoga poses to awaken your body, begin your day, and welcome spring
Change your morning routine, and you will change your life. Just because you’re not like your “gym-rat” co-worker who is on mile five while you’re pressing snooze for the third time doesn’t mean you should give up an active morning routine altogether. Even adding something as simple as three minutes of conscious breathing can make a world of difference.
When we sleep, our muscles are in rest and recovery mode. They go cold because they are not being used, which explains why most of us wake up stiff and sore. Getting up like this and continuing on your day would be like microwaving a frozen Hot Pocket for 30 seconds… all kinds of wrong.
Instead, we should be actively waking up our bodies by doing postures that stretch and activate the muscles, circulate our blood and pump oxygen to our brains. By accelerating the natural wake-up process, you kick those morning blues to the curb and allow yourself to function at full capacity at the very start of your day.
When you first awaken, resist the urge to hit the snooze button. This simple decision sets the tone for the rest of your day. Take 3 huge inhales through the nose, exhaling through the mouth. Reach your hands above your head and stretch as far as you can, pulling your lower body and upper body away from each other, and begin your morning routine.
This is one of the most challenging postures you can do. It is a perfect one to start with because it works the core, charges energy throughout your entire body, and it can be done from your bed!
- Lie on your back.
- Raise your head and heels 6 inches off the ground.
- Toes are pointed and fingers are stretching toward the toes.
- Begin Breath of Fire. Hold for 1-3 minutes.
*Breath of Fire is a fundamental breathing technique in Kundalini and many yoga practices. It is an equal inhale and exhale through the nose while rapidly pumping naval using the full capacity of your lungs.
TIP: The key to this pose is keeping your lower back pressed into the floor (or bed). Don’t let your back arch and create space beneath you.
This is a posture and mediation for releasing blocks. It may be beneficial for you to bring forth a particular block you are faced with while practicing so you can work to let it go. It also works as a confidence booster and is great posture to do before interviews, presentations, and first dates.
- Sit in easy pose.
- Raise the arms to a 60-degree angle and curl the fingertips on to the pads at the base of the fingers, thumbs pointing to the sky.
- With closed eyes, focus above the head. I like to imagine an arc of energy connecting my two thumbs.
- Begin Breath of Fire. Continue for 1-3 minutes.
- To end, inhale as you touch the thumbs together overhead. Hold your inhale at the top for a moment and exhale bringing your hands face up resting on your knees.
- Steep in that blissful moment before moving on to the next posture.
This simple posture helps to stretch the muscles in your lower back, upper back, shoulders and neck. Your back and neck muscles are typically the stiffest and need the most stretching. It’s also a wonderful hamstring stretch.
- Still sitting, stretch the legs out in front of you side by side with toes pointed to the sky.
- Inhale up and exhale, elongating the spine as you bend forward from the naval reaching your fingertips to your toes.
- The head follows last.
- Continue this motion with your breath for 1-3 minutes
You’ve seen this one before, but you might be surprised by how difficult it can be first thing in the morning. Notice how this feels in the morning vs. at the end of the day when your muscles are warm. Downward Dog is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent and complete yoga asana to practice on its own.
- Start on your hands and knees. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out. Toes are turned under.
- Pressing into the ground, slowly lift your hips up and back. (If your calves or hamstrings feel tight, you can warm them up here by lifting your heel and bending your knee while you keep the other leg straight. Continue the movement as you alternate legs). Push your heels towards the floor.
- Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. Lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Widen your shoulder blades and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms.
- Hold 1-3 minutes, then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose.
TIP: The tendency is to round your back if your hamstrings are tight. Press your bellybutton towards your upper thighs to eliminate the urge to round.
Camel is a great chest/heart opener. It does wonders for your posture and prepares you for the 8+ hours of hunching over a computer you’re about to do.
- Begin by kneeling with your knees hip distance apart and your shins and tops of your feet pressing into the floor. Pull your belly button back toward your spine tilting your pelvis slightly upward. Rotate your upper thighs slightly inward.
- Lift the top of your sternum up and let your shoulder blades fall down your back. Rest your hands on the back of your hips. Bending first with your upper back and chin slightly tucked, lean back engaging your thigh muscles and core and expanding your chest and collarbones
- Beginners can hold this position. For a deeper stretch, let both of your arms fall and grab your heels. For an advanced stretch, bring the hands to prayer mudra.
- Allow the crown of your head to drop back toward the floor without holding tension in your neck or shoulders.
- Hold for 1 minute and work up to 3. To release, bring your hands back to your hips, and leading with your heart , inhale your way back up. Your head should come up last. Rest in Child’s Pose.
TIP: Instead of leaning back, picture lifting up and out of your hips and then arching backwards. This will protect your lower back.
This posture is so much fun to do. You will find it to be an immediate mood-booster. This works on bringing all of the beautiful energy you just created outward and extending it into your aura—that thing when everyone stops what they’re doing to look as you enter a room because they felt your presence. You know… Beyoncé status.
- Stand up with the legs hip-distant apart.
- Lean back as far as you can with your eyes open as if you were trying to look at the wall behind you. Arms are reaching above your head.
- Using your arms, swing your upper body forwards bending at the waist and bringing your heads through your legs.
- Continue this swinging motion, inhaling up, and exhaling down for 1-3 minutes.
TIP: Really let loose in this posture. This is your time to let go. My teacher always told us to imagine ourselves as paintbrushes and to move as though you were dipping yourself in paint every time you bend forward. Picture your favorite color and paint the room.
For an even more centering practice, you can end with a meditation of your choice. There are many meditations that each have wonderful healing benefits for different things you may be working on. These can be found online or in yoga books.
If you are new to meditation, sometimes just sitting quietly listening to your breath for 1-3 minutes is a great place to start.
- Sit in easy pose with your hands in prayer or Gyan Mudra (palms face up on your kneed with the thumb and forefinger touching).
- Allow your body to feel in perfect balance and bring your awareness to your breath.
- Eyes are closed and focusing on your third eye (the space in between your eyebrows).
- Visualize the body as luminous and with each inhale, the light increases in brightness. Feel the connectedness you have with the subtle and divine energy that guides all things.
- This is a wonderful time to set an intention for your day or week ahead. Focus on that intention, or what you’d like to welcome into your life. Allow yourself to become open and free.
TIP: The key is NOT to think here. This can be a huge challenge for some of us, but that is the point. When mediating, don’t wait for something to happen. Simply empty your mind and be.
Megan D’Amico is a certified yoga instructor and entertainment industry professional. She strives to live consciously and maintain a lifestyle that balances physical, mental and spiritual health. Megan is passionate about sharing the transformative benefits of a daily practice with others to help them discover their ability to maintain this harmony in their own lives.
All photos by Daniel Caplin.