Sometimes we all need a little bit of help waking up in the morning. If you're looking for a way to get your brain + body ready for the day, beginning with a few simple yoga poses is a great way to start. Yoga is known to increase circulation from head to toe, activate all of our senses, and physically and mentally settle the nervous system so that you can tackle your conference calls and meetings (or your kids). Don't worry - 10 minutes is all you need, and coffee is right around the corner!
I recommend starting with a few Sun Salutations for a warm-up. Then head into each asana below for 3-5 breaths per pose. Be sure to do each pose on both sides, breathing equally on both sides.
From left to right, beginning in the top row:
1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - If you sit a lot at work, it's especially important to stretch out the back of your body. Down dog is an amazing pose because it's technically an inversion (yes - that's right, if you can do downdog, you can do inversions!). This pose stimulates your internal organs and gets your blood pumping for your day.
2. High Lunge - No agreed upon sanskrit name for this one; but that doesn't discount it's benefits. This pose opens up the front of the groin, an area that is compressed during sitting. When our hip flexors (the muscles that run from our abdomen and connect to our quadriceps (thighs) are shortened for long periods of time during sitting, this can throw off pelvic balance and cause the lower back to overcompensate - have you heard of "banana back"? By opening and strengthening the front of your hips, you're protecting your lower back. Who knew? Bonus points if you're feeling strong enough to take your arms off the floor for Crescent Pose.
3. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) - Another draw back to sitting all day is that most of us don't have the upper back/shoulder strength to keep an open chest while sitting at a desk. That's what leads to that hunched-over-your-keyboard look that ends up causing a plethora of upper cervical spine issues. Warrior I opens the chest while strengthening the muscles in-between your shoulder blades. This pose also opens up the psoas muscle, which is chronically tight in a lot of folks and contributes to back pain and hip discomfort.
4. Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana) - After a long day of sitting or travel, this is one of my favorite poses to come into. This pose not only opens and strengthens the hips, but extending the arm overhead allows for the side body to get a deep release. Paired with deep breathing, this posture allows blood flow into the sides of our bodies that don't generally see a lot of action. Opening and stretching the fascia (a thin layer of muscle that connects our whole body) in the side body creates a little more "slack" for the muscles above: the chest, shoulders, neck, and head. That means less pain at your desk!
5. Tree Pose (Vrksasana) - Ah yes, beloved tree pose. The first pose that comes to most people's minds when you say "yoga". Meet a yogi who hasn't done this pose on a beach or on top of a mountain and I'll personally give you a dollar. This pose is great because it gets us feeling balanced and strong emotionally and physically while opening the chest and side body. Like a real tree sways with the wind, this pose allows us to try and focus on stabilizing the muscles in our abdomen while doing out best not to fall over.
6. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) - I have a lot of "favorite" poses, but this one is for real at the top of my list. I think it dates back to when I first started practicing yoga and I felt like I was going to die halfway through the class and this pose made everything right in the world. Providing a deep release for your back and legs, this pose has many benefits for our internal organs, perhaps most importantly our brains. Another variation of an inversion, this asana increases alertness by bringing more blood flow to our brains. It's therapeutic for a number of ailments and can be done at any time of the day. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed at work, duck out into a space where no one can see you and get into a forward fold. Hold it for a few deep, long, soothing breaths, and you'll come out feeling refreshed and recharged.