Getting out of bed in the morning can already be hard enough when the alarm clock is blaring and all you can think about is the laundry list of to-dos for the day — but add in creaky joints, tech neck, and lower-back aches, and waking up can just be plain rough. Sometimes we don’t realize how much our day-to-day stressors, on top of long stretches of time in bed, can take a toll on our bodies. However, incorporating stretching into your morning routine before rushing out the door can be a simple way to ease into your day. According to Harvard Medical School, stretching in the morning can help wake up the body, improve circulation, calm the mind, and increase energy throughout the day. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a full-blown yoga session — even just a few minutes of morning stretching can help kick-start your day with intention, movement, and mindfulness. Here are some simple morning stretches to help you wake up on the right side of the bed.
This is a great stretch to start with, because you don’t even have to sit upright in bed! The Supine Twist wakes up the lower back and even helps stimulate the digestive system. To perform this stretch, lie down on your back and hug both knees into your chest. Still holding your right knee to your chest, allow your left leg to straighten down on the bed. Cross our right knee over to your left side, keeping your shoulder blades planted. Use your left hand to press down on your right knee, and stretch your right arm out to the right. Turn your head to the right, breathing into the stretch, then repeat on the other side.
For those who wake up with back tension and sore shoulders, a Seated Twist is a great way to open and lengthen the spine, hips, shoulders, and chest. Plus, the gentle twist can help improve digestion and relieve lower-back pain. Start by sitting with your legs crossed, spine long, and hands resting on your knees. Then, take your left hand to the ground directly behind you while your right hand rests on your left knee. Inhale to lengthen the spine, then exhale and press your right hand into your knee, gently twisting your torso to the left. Breathe into this position for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
This one’s great for releasing tight hips and the side body. Lie on your back and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle. Rest your arms overhead and allow both needs to fall to one side, keeping both shoulder blades evenly on the ground. Breathe into the stretch for a 5 count. Or, if you want an even deeper stretch, try placing the front ankle on top of the back knee, pressing it firmly to the floor.
Reclined Hero Pose
Another pose that doesn’t require getting out of bed, the Reclined Hero Pose gives a gentle stretch to the front body, opening up the heart and lungs. To begin, lie on your back and carefully fold one leg at a time, bringing your feet as close to your hips as you can. Rest your ankles by your outer hips and reach your arms overhead. If your front ribs are jutting out, try using your hands to press them down slightly, lengthening your lower back toward the floor. If this position is too much for your hips, lower back, or groins, try elevating yourself onto a higher support.
A classic yoga pose, Downward-Facing Dog is an energizing, active posture that warms up the shoulders, legs, and core while stretching the hamstrings and spine. Especially if you often wake up with an achy back, this pose is definitely a must. Begin in a plank position, and use your core to draw your hips up and push your heels down to the floor. Draw your shoulders down your back. Spread your fingers wide, and press firmly and evenly into both hands. Breathe into the stretch, and maybe even try pedaling the feet to further stretch out the calves.
To target the back muscles and open up the chest, try moving into Cobra. An invigorating back bend, Cobra helps strengthen the upper and lower back muscles while also engaging the abdominals. First, start by lying on your stomach with your forehead on the ground. Place both hands flat beneath your shoulders, and snuggle your elbows into your sides. Slowly lift your head and chest off the ground by engaging your abs and keeping your hips planted beneath you. Relax your neck and shoulders and breathe into the posture. If you feel supported and comfortable, you can try going deeper into the stretch by lifting your tummy off the floor.
To get the body flowing and energized, try finishing off your morning stretch with a few Sun Salutations. This move combines a sequence of postures and targets the entire body, limbering the spine, expanding the lungs, and strengthening arm and leg muscles. Begin by standing in Mountain Pose, rooting both feet evenly into the earth. Inhale and stretch your hands above your head, and gaze toward the sky. Exhale and dive forward, and place your hands by your feet. Inhale to lift your chest halfway, lengthening your spine and gazing slightly forward. Exhale to step or jump your feet back into a Plank Pose, and take a full inhale. Exhale into Chaturanga, then inhale to open your heart to the sky in an Upward-Facing Dog. Exhale and lift your hips for Downward-Facing Dog. Pull your shoulders back, pedal your feet, and remain here for a few breaths. Inhale and step or jump your feet to the front of your mat, exhaling in a forward fold. Inhale to lift your chest halfway, then exhale back into forward fold. Inhale to stand, energetically reaching your hands to the sky and returning to Mountain Pose.