A morning yoga session at home—even a brief one—can boost your mood and energy, and help you start your day on a positive note. While there’s a wide array of yoga poses to choose from, performing poses that activate your nervous system can provide the stimulation you need after you wake up. Backbends tend to be energizing, for example, while standing and balancing poses get your heart pumping and help sharpen your senses.
For an invigorating morning practice, consider the following five postures to awaken your body, mind and spirit.
*Note: The following poses are for those who have had some yoga experience.
Half Sun Salutation (ardha suryanamaskar)
This is a short vinyasa, or series of movements coordinated with breath. Start out standing in Mountain Pose (tadasana): Position your arms by your sides and press all four corners of your feet (the pad of the big toe, the pad of the little toe and both sides of your heel) evenly into the ground. Inhale and lift your arms out to the side and over your head, reaching your upper body toward the sky as your lower body continues to root into the earth. Then exhale and swan dive forward, bending at the hips and bringing your upper body toward your feet into Standing Forward Bend (uttanasana). Next, inhale, slightly raise your upper body to a flat back and then exhale back into forward bend. Finally, inhale and reverse the swan dive, coming all the way up with your arms over your head. Exhale and return to tadasana. Repeat this sequence three times.
Chair Pose (utkatasana)
Utka means “fierce” in sanskrit, and it definitely takes some of its namesake trait to hold this energizing pose for more than a couple of breaths. Start out standing in Mountain Pose, then bend your knees deeply until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your upper body upright. Raise your arms up so that your biceps are beside your ears. Lean your torso slightly forward, reaching out from the hips. Imagine that you’re sitting in an invisible chair. If it feels difficult to keep your arms up, lower them into prayer position in front of your chest. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
Half Moon (ardha chandrasana)
Start out in a wide-legged standing position, with the toes of your right foot pointing to the side and your right knee bent. Lean your torso over your right knee into a side bend and reach your right hand to the floor while placing your left hand on your hip. Ground your right palm on the floor and lift your left leg until it’s parallel to the ground and level with your hip. Lastly, reach your left arm up toward the sky. Feel all your limbs reaching out from the center of your body, helping you balance. After a few breaths here, come down slowly, landing lightly on your left foot. Repeat on the other side.
This pose is closely related to Warrior 1 (virabadrasana 1). Start in Downward-Facing Dog (adho mukha svanasana) with your palms planted firmly at the front of your mat, your feet grounded at the back of your mat and your hips lifted in the air. Lift your right leg high into the air and then step your right foot forward between your hands. (If it doesn’t make it there on its own, you can use your right hand to move it forward.) Lift your torso up so it is completely upright and raise your arms up so your biceps are beside your ears. Stay here for several breaths, engaging your back leg to support you. If you feel like your lower back is crunched, bend your back leg slightly so that you can lengthen your tailbone. After several breaths, place your hands on the ground, step your right foot back and return to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat with the other leg.
This is a deep backbend that will flex your spine and wake up your nervous system. Start in a kneeling position and place your palms on the back of your hips. Lean back and move your hands to the soles of your feet. Drop your head back—without crunching your neck—and reach your chest toward the sky, finding the backbend in the upper spine. If your neck feels compressed, you can leave the chin tucked into the chest. Too deep of a bend? Rise up onto your toes, creating a shorter reach for your hands. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds. Bring your hands back to your hips and raise your torso up, returning to a kneeling position.