An optimal morning routine looks different on everyone. From pre-sunrise rise-and-grinders headed to the gym to those preaching the efficacy of a tactical morning spent in bed, there’s plenty of ways you can make the most of your morning routine, whether your alarm is set for 3AM or 9AM. For many, energising and waking up is a priority once the cockerel crows and — before your reach for the coffee — adding yoga as a morning pick-me-up could do just that.
Under the tutelage of Third Space Master Trainer Clare Walters, we’ve assembled a trio of vitalising yoga exercises to help you start your day on the right foot, whether you’re at home or at the gym.
Box Breath in Semi Supine
Why: “Sama Vritti Pranayama, otherwise known as box breath, is a great technique to use in the mornings to begin your day with a calm mind,” says Walters. “It helps us to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system which elicits the relaxation response in the body.”
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, roughly about hips-width apart, and with your knees bent.
- Close your mouth and let the breath flow in and out through your nose. Begin by evening out the length of the inhale and exhale by breathing in for a slow count of four, and breathing out for a slow count of four.
- Once this feels comfortable we can begin box breath. For box breaths, there are four parts to the breath, all equal in length: the inhale, a hold at the top of the inhale, the exhale and a hold at the end of the exhale. I recommend you keep to the slow count of four you’ve already found, but now incorporate the breath retention.
Why: “To bring some gentle movement into the body, a nice way to transition from our semi-supine position is to move through some reclining postures,” advises Walters.
- Lying on your back, draw your knees into your chest and send the knees wide, aiming your kneecaps towards your armpits.
- Start to extend your knees so that they come to a 90-degree angle with the soles of your feet pointing towards the ceiling.
Clare says: “There are a few different options for the hand grip, you might choose to take a peace finger grip around the big toes. This is the index and middle fingers glued together, threaded through the gap in between the big toe and second toe with the thumb looping around. Otherwise you might hold onto the little toe edges of the feet or the heels. Another variation is to simply hold onto the backs of the knees, this is a nice variation to take if you’re feeling rather tight or sore.”
Once in position, you might choose to rock from side to side, perhaps directing the tailbone towards the front of your mat so that the back of your pelvis drops down on the mat. This will give you more sensation in the stretch.
Modified Sun Salutation A
Why: “Surya Namaskar A, or sun salutation A, is the first sequence from the Ashtanga Primary Series,” explains Walters. “It’s a great way to move the whole body and to connect the body with the breath. But, as the body might not be fully warm, I would advise taking a modified variation as this is a little more gentle on the body.”
- Begin standing tall with the feet together or hips width-distance apart in Tadasana (mountain pose).
- On an inhale, reach the hands above the head and gaze towards the fingertips for urdhva hastasana.
- Exhale fold forwards to Uttanasana (standing forward fold). Inhale and bring the hands to the shins, look forward, lengthening the spine to a tabletop position for ardha uttanasana (halfway lift).
- Exhale and place the hands on the mat, stepping back to a high plank position
- Hold the plank and take an inhale.
- Exhale, lower the knees to the floor and then lower the chest all the way to the mat for half chaturanga.
- Inhale and lift the head and shoulders off the floor, keeping the arms bent for bhujangasana (baby cobra).
- Exhale and press back through a child’s pose, tuck the toes and lift the hips for adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog) Take a few breaths here.
- Lift the heels, bend the knees and look forward as you fully exhale. Step forward to the top of the mat one foot at a time.
- Inhale and bring the hands to the shins, look forward and lengthen the spine to a tabletop position for ardha uttanasana (halfway lift) once again.
- Exhale fold forwards to uttanasana (standing forward fold).
- Inhale and reach the hands high to bring the body to stand; with the hands above the head gazing towards the fingertips for urdhva hastasana.
- Exhale and lower the hands through a prayer position down the centre of the body until the hands release by the sides of the body.