Your morning yoga flow doesn’t need to be complicated. Use it as a way to stretch out the body, or clear the mind before a long day of using the brain, or use it as that morning meditation everyone’s always saying you should be doing!
We’re staunchly opposed to “should-ing” on yourself or anyone else for that matter at Honey Yoga. The only should we believe in is that you should do whatever the hell is right for you in any given moment. That being said, you may have heard one of us mention in class a few poses that you “should” do every day.
Take it with a grain of salt, but here’s a little mini-morning yoga flow that one might consider to greet that glorious San Diego sunrise.
1. Extended child’s pose
Start here and take a little time to connect to your breath and body. If it’s more comfortable, start in a seat and move into child’s pose when you’re ready. If you can, stay for at least a full 60-seconds–a couple minutes would be ideal! Deepen your breath when you’re ready and think about sending the breath out into the rest of the body.
When you’re grounded and ready from your child’s pose, take your time to roll yourself up, being gentle with the spine, to a table-top position. Feel the joints stack (this is a great practice for arthritic joints!) then gently start to the move the spin into cat and cow. Try moving one-vertebra-at-a-time and as a mindfulness practice, see if you can feel each little articulation of the spine. Take at least three, and as many as you want!
3. Organic movement on all-fours
Allow your cats and cows to move naturally into some organic movement. Allow the breath and the body to lead. It is such a powerful practice to start the day practicing not-using your mind, and letting the body show you the way instead. Really allow yourself to move and be surprised by the body and what it has to show you.
4. Downward-facing dog
A classic for a reason! From your table top, move your hands forward about one-handprints-length, tuck your toes and lift your hips up into the air. Take more time for organic movement, allowing the body to move; greeting your hamstrings and your shoulders and whatever else you’re feeling for the first time today. When you feel complete, take a couple breaths in a strong, still down dog.
5. Forward fold. And hold it.
After a couple of breaths grounding in your down dog, take a leisurely, luxurious stroll to the top of your mat, keeping your head down, finding a forward fold at the top of your mat. Bend your knees generously and let your belly drape over your thighs. Keep your breath alive; keep the muscles in the face soft. Move if you want, be still if you want–just let the weight of the head and the shoulders and the arms make the spine get really, really long. This is definitely one of those everyday-kind-of-poses. If you have a spine and you live in gravity, you need to forward fold.
Tips: Be mindful of the low back! Bend your knees as much as you need to to take strain out of the lumbar spine.
6. Mountain Pose
Once that spine feels nice and long and decompressed, bend the knees real deep, tuck your chin and roll on up to standing, being so gentle on the low-back, bringing hands to the thighs if you need extra support! Circle the arms up and over head and then bring them back to rest at your sides. Stand strong and tall and peaceful and set your intention for the day. Imagine in that moment you’re at the end of your day and you felt exactly as strong, confident, joyful, playful, fill-in-the-blank-ful as you wanted to. Breathe it in.
7. Knees-chest-chin to baby cobra
Circle the arms wide and high and with a soft bend in the knees, slowly swan dive back down to your forward-fold. Plant your palms and step back to plank. Drop your knees and chest to the mat keeping the booty nice and high! Slither forward to come to your belly. Press strongly into the tops of the feet, pull your low-belly in and peel the heart, shoulders and head off the mat for a little gentle cobra. Activate your back-muscles, lengthen the neck and take a couple breaths into your collarbones. When you’re ready, engage the core and use the belly to come back to your knees, then up to downward-facing dog.
8. Modified high-lunge with a twist and a heart opener
From down dog or table-top, step your right foot up in between the hands, getting it nice and far up there, ankle below the knee. Drop your back knee down to the earth (padding with a blanket if it feels tender) or keep the back knee lifted if you prefer. Bring your hands to your right thigh as you prepare to rise to your high lunge (back knee stays down, unless you want a little more heat this morning). Keep your low belly strong and be mindful not to crunch into your low back. Take a moment to organize (i.e. even out) your pelvis then cactus your arms and open your heart, lifting your sternum to the ceiling. Alternatively, you could interlace your fingers behind your back and press the knuckes to the back of the room for a slightly different heart-opener. Whatever feels best to you.
Stretch your arms back up and then take a twist to your right: prayer twist with your hands touching at heart center and your left elbow hooked over your right thigh, or an open twist for a gentler alternative, staying up right in the spine and stretching your left arm forward and your right arm back. Take a couple moments here, using breath and muscle to twist deeper. Then bring your hands back down to the earth and step back to down dog. Now do the same thing on your left side.
9. Half pigeon
From table top or down dog, bring your right knee forward outside of your right wrist and right hip. Even out the pelvis by sliding a blanket or a block under your right hip if topples over and comes to the earth. You want both hips to be in line with each other, neither dipping lower than the other.
Stay here with hands on the earth and take a couple breaths. Or if you’d like to stay for a while fold foward and rest your third eye (the space between your eyebrows) on the mat or your stacked fists. Surrender to the stretch, releasing any tension in the face or jaw. When you feel complete, either slide the knee back up for table-top or tuck your back toes, lift your back knee off mat then lift your right leg all the way up and back. Either way, take some circles with the hip and bring some prana back to that right hip.
10. Optional, highly-recommended wild-thing
With your right hip still stacked open, you might drop the right leg all the way behind you, flipping it over for Wild Thing. If you’re not familiar with this pose, I’d probably skip it. If you feel strong and safe, flip it over and take as many breaths as feels good into the front of your body. This is an excellent way to energize for your day ahead. Come back to Down Dog with control when you’re complete. Complete steps nine and ten on the left side.
This practice is meant to be modified! Throughout it, please let the body move in ways that feel good, and always back off if you think you’re hurting yourself. As always, if you have any health concerns, please consult a doctor before practicing. Breath and presence are really the only important things you need to get the most out of your morning yoga flow.