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The 5-Minute Yoga Routine Literally Anyone Can Start Their Day With

Calm stress, increase flexibility, and improve your general well-being by doing this simple yoga routine as little as once a week.

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Welcome to sun salutations!

A series of 12 graceful, flowing postures, sun salutations are considered the core yoga practice. Each position counteracts the one before, stretching and strengthening the body in a different way so that you feel limber and energized from head to toe. Take five minutes or so, and slowly do the following program. One round of sun salutations consists of two sequences, the first leading with the right foot (during stepping poses) and the second leading with the left. Yoga lovers sometimes do 12 routines a day, but you can calm stress, increase flexibility, and improve your general well-being by doing them as little as once a week. If you’re new to yoga, some of these poses may be challenging at first; do what you can without taxing yourself. Over time, as your body begins to stretch and strengthen, the moves will come easily. (Related: You can do these energizing yoga stretches without even leaving your bed.)

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Step 1: Mountain pose

1. Stand straight with your feet about hip-width apart and your hands either at your sides or in prayer position in front of your chest. 2. Raise your toes and spread them wide, then place them back on the floor. Your weights should be distributed evenly across the bottom of each foot so you feel grounded, not leaning forward or back.
3. Exhale.

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Step 2: Overhead reach

1. Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the sides and high overhead until your palms are together. 2. Stretch upward, allowing the fullest expansion of your chest, then arch backward and look up at your hands. 3. Hold the position for a few seconds with your body in pose, holding your breath and keeping your eyes focused and your mind silent.

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Step 3: Forward fold

1. Exhale as you gently bend forward from the waist, keeping your palms together, tucking your head and keeping your back straight and long. 2. When you’ve bent as far forward as comfortably as possible, grasp the backs of your legs (anywhere from the ankles to the thighs), bend your elbows, and very gently tuck your chin to your chest and move your upper body toward your legs. 3. Hold for a few breaths.

 

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Step 4: High lunge

1. Step back with your right foot into a lunge, bending your left knee and keeping it directly over your left ankle (you may need to slide your right foot back farther). 2. Lean forward and press your fingertips or palms into the floor in line with your forward foot. 3. Roll your shoulders back and down and press your chest forward while looking straight ahead. 4. Relax your hips and let them sink toward the floor while straightening your back leg as much as comfortably as possible. 5. Hold for a few breaths. If it’s difficult to reach the floor with your hands in this position, place books on either side of you so you can support your weight with your hands on the books. You may also rest your back leg on the floor if necessary.

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Step 5: Plank

1. Move your left foot back next to your right foot and straighten your body into the plank position. 2. Spread your fingers so that your middle fingers are pointing forward. Your hands should be on the floor beneath your shoulders, as if you’re doing a push-up. 3. Tuck in your tailbone so your legs, hips, and torso form a straight line. 4. Press the crown of your head forward, tuck your toes, and press your heels back, stretching down the entire length of the back of your body. 5. Hold for a few breaths. If this is too difficult, perform the move while resting on your knees instead of your toes.

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Step 6: Caterpillar

1. Bend both knees to the floor (if they’re not already there), then slowly lower your chine and chest straight down to the floor. 2. Keep your elbows close to your body as you lower your chest between your palms and lift your tailbone toward the ceiling.
3. Hold for a breath.

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Step 7: Cobra

1. Drop your hips to the floor. 2. Raise your head and chest so your torso is supported on your forearms (if you’re very flexible, you can extend your arms). 3. Keep your shoulders down and back, pressing your chest forward and reaching toward the ceiling with the crown of your head. 4. Hold for a few breaths.

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Step 8: Downward-facing dog

1. Press your palms into the floor, straighten your arms and legs, and press your hips up so your body forms an inverted V. 2. Let your head and neck hang freely from your shoulders or tuck your chin to your chest. 3. Press your heels toward the floor while pressing your hips toward the ceiling for a full stretch. To make this position easier, keep your knees bent. You can also place your hands on a low step. 4. Hold for a few breaths.

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Step 9: High lunge 2

1. Step forward with your left foot. Position yourself so your left knee is directly over your left ankle and your right leg is extended behind you. 2. Support your weight by placing your palms or fingertips on the floor in line with your left foot. 3. Roll your shoulders down and back and press your chest forward, looking straight ahead. 4. Relax your hips and let them sink toward the floor while straightening your back legs as much as comfortably possible (if flexibility is a problem, keep your back leg resting on the floor). 5. Hold for a few breaths.

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Step 10: Forward roll 2

1. Bring your right foot forward to meet your left. 2. Gently straighten your legs as much as comfortably possible, letting your hands rise off the floor as necessary.
3. Grasp the backs of your legs (anywhere from your ankles to your thighs), bend your elbows, and very gently tuck your chin to your chest and move your upper body toward your legs. 4. Hold for a few breaths.

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Step 11: Upward sweep

1. Sweep your arms out to the sides and overhead, stretching them up and back as you expand your chest. 2. Place your palms together and look up toward your hands.
3. Press your feet into the floor and contract your thighs to gently pull your kneecaps up (without locking your knees). 4. Hold for a few breaths.

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Step 12: Mountain return

1. Sweep your arms out to the sides and down, bringing your palms together in front of your chest and as in Step 1, stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. 2. Raise your toes and spread them wide, then place them back on the floor so your weight is evenly distributed. 3. Contract your thighs, pulling your kneecaps up and tucking your tailbone so it points straight toward the floor. 4. Lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling, feeling your spine grow long and straight. 5. Drop your shoulders down and back, pressing your chest forward. 6. Hold for a few breaths; repeat the cycle, starting with your left leg. (Related: Here are 13 things yoga teachers are secretly thinking.)

Originally Published in Reader's Digest