6 Morning Yoga Stretches to Start Your Day

Start your morning with these yoga stretches that will help you feel calm and ready for the day. Plus, learn why stretches are so beneficial for your body and mind.

Wake and stretch

Raise your hand if you typically start your day with one or two (or three) taps to the snooze button and a mad dash around the house in an attempt to get ready in time for work. The morning hustle doesn’t make for the most relaxing start to the day.

Starting your day with morning yoga stretches will help you feel relaxed and more in tune with your body and mind. It can kick off your day in the right way, leaving you ready to take on the world.

Plus, keeping up with a regular stretching routine is a good idea for people of all fitness levels too.

Let this advice guide you through an a.m. routine that will help you loosen up and set your mind and body up for a successful day.

What are the benefits of yoga?

Regular yoga practice has many benefits, including enhancing flexibility, promoting relaxation, and improving concentration, says Zachary Mulvihill, MD, integrative medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Even better news: it can help manage low back pain, a condition often exacerbated by the sedentary nature of many jobs.

In 2017, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society released updated guidelines for the management of lower back pain. They included yoga (along with nutrition, massage, Pilates, tai chi, and acupuncture) as the first line of treatment against the aches, Dr. Mulvihill points out.

Yoga can release tension in the muscles of the back, which assists in pain relief, he says. The practice can also help in easing other posture-related aches and pains.

The benefits go beyond the physical. According to a review in BMC Psychiatry, yoga may improve sleep. Researchers looked at 19 studies involving 1,832 people and found that women who did yoga had improved sleep quality compared with those who didn’t do yoga.

Other research, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that yoga may help anxiety. The study looked at 226 adults with generalized anxiety disorder who either underwent cognitive behavioral therapy, did kundalini yoga, or received stress-management education for three months.

They found that 54 percent of those who did yoga saw an improvement in their symptoms. Yoga was more effective than stress-management education but not as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Why should I do morning yoga stretches?

“We naturally wake up stiff in the morning from lack of movement during the night,” says Jess Gronholm, a yoga instructor and founder of HIIT and Run Yoga. “Depending on how we slept, that can include a stiff neck and low back pain. Yoga poses encourage you to move your body in a way that truly wakes important muscles up.”

In addition to waking up your body, starting your day with movement that helps you tune into your breath and what’s going on in your mind means you prep your headspace for the day ahead, too, says Gronholm.

One thing to keep in mind before you jump into stretches in the morning: we’re at our least flexible right out of bed, so you have to ease into it.

“Keep in mind that when it comes to flexibility, we always see our limits—what we can’t do, rather than what we can,” he says.

Let go of any expectations and just move in a way that feels good for you and your body.

(This 10-minute, full-body stretch routine will help you get more flexible.)

Morning yoga stretches to kick off your day

Do the poses below, holding each for 15 seconds on the first round. Repeat for up to three more rounds, coming back to Crescent pose between each posture.

“In between each main pose, we’ll come back to Crescent, using it as the counterpose to the forward bends and twists, helping to warm and loosen things up more quickly and safely,” Gronholm explains.

Each of the morning yoga stretches offers great check-in poses, he says.

“They help you get a clear sense of how you feel, what your energy level is like, and where you are starting your day from,” Gronholm says. “And the clearer we are with our starting point, the easier it is to navigate our day and achieve goals both physically and mentally.”

One more thing to keep in mind is connecting your breath to each pose, inhaling during Crescent and exhaling as you move into the other postures.

“Think of it as a moving meditation,” Gronholm says. If you need to, hold any pose for an extra breath.

crescent yoga poseCourtesy Jess Gronholm

Crescent pose

From a kneeling position, with your right foot forward, extend your arms straight overhead. Keep your biceps by ears.

Make sure your back toe is untucked, and clasp your hands overhead. Bend your back slightly backward, as you send your hips forward and open your heart to the ceiling.

This is also one of the best stretches for better sleep.

half splits yoga poseCourtesy Jess Gronholm

Half split

From Crescent pose, straighten your front leg and send your hips back.

Lower your chest toward the floor. Place your hands on each side of your front leg.

half split twist yoga poseCourtesy Jess Gronholm

Half split twist

From Crescent pose, straighten your front leg and send your hips back. Lower your chest toward the floor.

Place your left hand on the floor and extend your right hand toward the ceiling, twisting to the right.

basic twist yoga poseCourtesy Jess Gronholm

Basic twist

From Crescent pose, straighten your back leg. Place your left hand on the floor, to the left of your right foot.

Exhale and extend your right arm toward the ceiling, twisting to the right.

straight leg lunge yoga poseCourtesy Jess Gronholm

Straight leg lunge

From Crescent pose, tuck your back toes and straighten both legs.

Lift your hips and lower your chest toward the floor. Place your hands on each side of your front foot.

standing split yoga poseCourtesy Jess Gronholm

Standing split

From Crescent pose, tuck your back toes and drive through your front foot, placing your fingertips slightly in front of your right foot. Lift your back leg toward the ceiling, flexing your foot.

Ending the stretching series

Need a few more minutes of meditation before jumping into your day? Dr. Mulvihill recommends ending your yoga routine in Savasana, or Corpse pose.

“See how easily you sink into a deep meditation after bathing your body in all those endorphins,” he says.

How to maximize the benefits of your morning yoga stretches

Dr. Mulvihill says one of the best things you can do for your health is following a daily routine, which includes practicing yoga at the same time and in the same place every day.

“Ayurveda says that a daily routine is absolutely necessary to bring about any desired change in the body or mind,” he says of the ancient system of medicine, which is closely related to yoga.

He also suggests adding essential oils to your meditation space and/or lighting candles if you practice in a darker room.

And if you really want to get in touch with how you feel pre- and post-yoga, jot down your feelings in a journal. With that, you’re off to a super strong start to your day.

Now that you know about these morning yoga stretches, check out these other energizing morning stretches.

Woman doing yoga exercise at homeLuis Alvarez/Getty Images

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Sources
  • Zachary Mulvihill, MD, integrative medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City
  • BMC Psychiatry: "The effect of yoga on sleep quality and insomnia in women with sleep problems: a systematic review and meta-analysis"
  • JAMA Psychiatry: "Efficacy of yoga vs cognitive behavioral therapy vs stress education for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized clinical trial"
  • Jess Gronholm, yoga instructor and founder of HIIT and Run Yoga