Health

9 Yoga Exercises Perfect for a Gentle Morning Stretch

If you’re looking for some gentle movement to start your day, a yoga core workout might be the wake-up sequence that you need.

Whether you’re the type to hit the ground running first thing in the morning or more likely to hit the snooze button instead, there are definitely benefits to adding a gentle morning movement sequence into your mix. For one thing, it helps you reset if you’re the hard-charging type—and brings up your energy if you’re not.

Another big bonus: Even gentle movement can have notable effects for your core, the part of your body which helps stabilize you to lift heavier weights during your workout and perform everyday tasks like bending and twisting easier. So while you might not exactly feel like powering through a sweaty HIIT core workout when you’re still rubbing sleep from your eyes, moving your body with intention—focusing on form and breath—with a yoga-inspired sequence can also activate your core muscles, from your abs to your obliques to your lower back.

A yoga-inspired sequence can not only get your mind in the right place for the day, it can also give you all the advantages of a stronger core, like better posture, more energy, and a higher degree of body awareness, Marcia Denis, D.P.T., a Miami-based physical therapist, certified yoga teacher, and cohost of the Disabled Girls Who Lift podcast, tells SELF. Plus, there are also tons more benefits of yoga—everything from improving lower back pain to building stronger muscles and improvising balance, as SELF reported previously.

As long as you’re connected to your breath and staying present in your movements, you’re doing yoga, Dr. Denis says. So while you may not recognize all of the moves below as specific yoga poses, they’re still serving a similar role. The main cue in a gentle, mobility-based routine like this is to cultivate a sense of joy and appreciation as you’re moving—feelings that should be fueling your purpose as well as your practice.

In this yoga core workout routine Dr. Denis created, not all of the moves are “core specific” and target that area directly, but they all involve some level of stabilization, which activates your core to keep your body in proper alignment. You’ll have a suggested number of reps/number of breaths for each move, but go with what feels right for you. If your core is loving the ideas of more reps on one sequence, listen to your body. And as always, these should be done slowly and with intention—if you find yourself moving too fast and getting into sweaty territory, consider that a cue to back off and slow down.

The Workout

What you need: A yoga mat for comfort. Yoga blocks for modification can also be helpful, too.

Exercises

  • Cat-cow
  • Downward-facing dog
  • Down dog abs
  • Plank
  • Side plank
  • Child’s pose
  • Boat pose
  • Reclining spinal twist
  • Reclining pigeon pose

Directions

  • Hold each pose for the specified amount of time or reps, going from one to the next without rest. (Of course, if you need time to reset, take what you need.) Try to focus on your breath to bring intention to each move.

Demoing the moves below are Shauna Harrison (GIF 1), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Caitlyn Seitz (GIF 2), a New York-based group fitness instructor and singer/songwriter; Cookie Janee (GIF 3), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Erica Gibbons (GIF 4), a California-based personal trainer and graduate student becoming licensed as a marriage and family therapist; Amanda Wheeler (GIF 5), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength; Jessica Rihal (GIFs 6, 8-9), a plus-sized yoga instructor (200-HR) and a strong advocate of fitness/wellness for all bodies; and Crystal Williams (GIF 7), a group fitness instructor and trainer in NYC.



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