18 Morning Yoga Stretches and Poses to Start Your Day • Yoga Basics
There are many reasons to start your day with a morning yoga routine. The morning is a great time to practice yoga poses because it prepares your body and mind for the day ahead. It can also be hard to find time to practice yoga during the day, and at night you might be too tired to do anything. A short series of yoga stretches and poses with mindful deep breaths can keep your body loose and limber, help you release stress and tension, energize your body and calm your mind. To help you get a splendid start to your day, we’ve gathered 18 of the best morning yoga stretches and poses, so you can power your way through the day with peace and productivity.
Tips for practicing morning yoga
- Start slow and warm up the body with rhythmic movements.
- Gently work on building up to deeper stretches.
- Experiment with different asanas to find the best energizing yoga routine for you.
- A faster paced Vinyasa yoga style of movement will be more energizing.
- Incorporate a few minutes of energizing pranayama like breath of fire.
- Be mindful to take slow breaths regardless of the pace of your practice.
- A regular practice and a minimum 15-minute morning yoga routine is recommended to receive the most benefits of yoga.
- Place the most energizing asanas at the end of your morning sequence of postures.
- If you have a hard time waking up, practice morning yoga in bed!
The best morning yoga stretches and poses
We’ve asked several yoga experts for a few of their favorite morning yoga stretches and poses. Practice one or more of these stretches and poses to get up and get moving, and help you start your day feeling refreshed and energized. It’s easy to make yoga work anywhere—all you need is a modest amount of space and a desire to create a healthier body and a more peaceful mind. Choose from a selection of simple poses that you can do at home, or aim to build up to a more strenuous routine. Click on the pose photos for detailed step-by-step instructions.
Mountain Pose / Tadasana
A great pose to start your morning practice with a calm grounded energy is mountain pose. Carrie Froggett teacher and co-founder of The Frog Project notes that “Essentially, it is a meditative pose, but the standing nature of the posture means that your body is physically active. I love the challenge of using the least physical exertion as possible while simultaneously trying to relax my mind. It looks easy, but it’s tough, and the benefits are wonderful. A game changer for any morning!
Froggett recommends holding the hands in prayer position to encourage “a feeling of faith, acceptance, commitment” and to use the pose as an active meditation to provide “a few minutes to introspect, set an intention for the day ahead, or a chance to let go of something you may have been holding onto overnight. This in turn can leave you feeling energized and prepared for the day ahead, and often with new and creative ideas to take with you into your day with momentum, ease and grace.”
Cat and Cow pose / Marjaryasana and Bitilasana
Flowing between Cat pose and Cow pose is a great way to wake up your spine for your morning practice. According to yoga teacher Eloise Skinner, “a night of sleep can leave your back and neck feeling immobile and restricted, and the cat-cow transition helps to bring some movement back to your body.” She suggests that “as you move through the two poses, you can use it as an opportunity to check back in with yourself: perhaps close your eyes, and synchronise your breath to the movement.”
Child’s pose / Balasana
One of the easiest asanas to include in your morning practice is Child pose. OriGym yoga instructor Annie Williams tells us that “as well as being a great and highly effective way to start a yoga practice, Balasana is a brilliant way to start your day as it allows you to reconnect with your breath, as well as providing a gentle release for the lower back, lats and hips—waking them up and preparing them for the day ahead.” Child is excellent for alleviating stress and anxiety, and Williams notes several other benefits. “The Child’s Pose helps release any build-up of tension in the back, shoulders and chest, as well as normalises circulation throughout the body, which is vital for our bodily functions to perform at their optimal potential.”
Hero pose / Virasana
A stable basic pose to start your morning routine with is Hero. Shaw Academy instructor Tanya Shiels recommends This pose as it is “wonderful for improving your posture and is a deep stretch for the quads, knees, and ankles, which often feel stiff and sore in the mornings. Starting your mornings in Virasana is a great pose to set intentions for the day, resting your hands on your knees, palms upturned, in a gesture of receiving for what the day has in store. Pairing this with some heating Pranayama is also a great way to really connect with the body.”
Downward Facing Dog pose / Adho Mukha Svanasana
A great pose to incorporate into your morning practice is Downward Dog. This classic yoga pose strengthens the upper body, improves blood circulation, and brings fresh oxygen to the brain to help you wake up. Skinner appreciates how “the posture delivers a stretch to the back of your legs, as well as creating space along the spine and the back of the neck. You can pedal through your feet in this position to bring some movement and energy into your legs and hips.”
Sun Salutation A / Surya Namaskar A
Welcome the warming and energizing nature of the sun as you flow through the movements in the sun salutation sequence. “Surya Namaskar A is a key aspect of Ashtanga Yoga which is typically practiced in the morning before eating,” notes Shiels. “This dynamic sequence is a perfect way to warm up your body, increase flexibility and strength, and leave you feeling energised for the rest of the day.” Use the repetitive nature of the sun salutation to connect with your breath and clear your mind. “A common practice is to repeat the Surya Namaskar 108 times,” says Shiels. ” However, even a few rounds of this wonderful sequence is enough to bring energy into the body, so you can greet the day with positivity and gratitude.”
Cobra pose / Bhujangasana
If your day ahead requires creativity and confidence, hold Cobra pose for several breaths. This back-bending pose compresses the kidneys and opens the chest, which is extremely invigorating for the morning. Froggett tells her students to “skip their coffee and do a backbend first thing in the morning. It will give you more energy than your espresso and have you dancing into your day ready for anything.”
Bhunjangasna exercises and tones the deep muscles of the back that support the spinal column to support good posture. Froggett adds, “backbends have a strong impact on your hormones, secretions and chemicals in your brain which stimulate the body and generate feelings of confidence, strong self-esteem and willpower. An added bonus to this pose is the gentle pressure it puts on the abdomen and pelvis, which kick starts your digestive organs into action. Best done on an empty stomach.”
Low Lunge pose / Anjaneyasana
If you’re spending a lot of time sitting at work, include a variation of low lunge in your morning practice. “Low lunge is an energizing pose that powers up your hip flexor muscles,” says Grace Woinicz, CEO at The Brilliant Kitchen. “It also stretches your arms and your torso and powers up your legs. This is a helpful pose to practice in the morning before heading to work as it prepares you for a long day ahead.” To make this asana more energizing, add a round of breath of fire while holding. For more stretch in the hips and legs, use one hand to gently draw the back foot towards the hips.
Camel pose / Ustrasana
Empower your morning yoga flow by taking several deep breaths in Camel pose. “This heart opener is surprisingly energizing, and leaves you feeling ready to conquer the day,” notes Amy Zellmer, editor-in-chief of The Brain Health Magazine. “It can be a challenging pose for some, as it is a deep backbend. You can use a block under your feet to help bring them up closer to your arms, or you can simply allow your arms to hand wherever they reach.” This deep backbend opens your chest and improves lung capacity so it is especially powerful to use a full diaphragmatic breath while holding.
Chair pose / Utkatasana
Fire up the quadricep muscles in Chair pose if your day calls for clarity, balance and groundedness. This standing pose “gives a sense of grounding through the feet, and activation in the biggest muscle groups of your lower body,” according to Skinner. “Chair pose is a great way to bring some energy into your morning practice! The lift up through the arms can bring a sense of openness and invitation—a great way to start your day.”
Twisted Chair pose / Parivrtta Utkatana
You can take Chair pose a step further with its twisting variation. Williams recommends all students to begin their day with Twisted Chair pose as it “helps to increase our circulation as it uses every muscle in the body, and the twisting action helps wake up the internal organs and plays a role in our digestion process. The Twisted Chair pose, just like other poses that feature a twist, present a squeeze and release effect on both our body’s digestive system and internal organs so they help promote detoxification.” A few other important benefits of this twist include “increasing our balance and focus and improving joint range of motion, both of which are important factors that we draw on from the second we wake up.”
Dancer pose / Natarajasana
If your morning needs a big boost of invigoration and motivation, add Dancer to your yoga sequence. This back-bending standing pose “is a great movement to improve balance, flexibility and energize your whole self,” according to Tara Stiles, founder and owner of Strala Yoga. “It’s important not to use the force of your arm strength to try to open your back, same as it’s important not to use force against yourself in any movement. Dancer is a great movement to practice in the morning to create expansion and space in your back as well as a mindset of being open to possibilities.”
Warrior II / Virabhadrasana II
Adding one or more of the warrior poses to your morning yoga flow is essential to wake up your body and mind and empower you for a challenging day ahead. The most accessible of these poses is Warrior II. “This is a powerful pose for balance and strength, but also to help you practice your affirmation statements or to set goals for your day,” says Zellmer. “It is a foundational pose of any yoga practice, and will help you feel more confident, grounded, and focused.”
Warrior I / Virabhadrasana I
Warrior 1 challenges one to stay grounded and present and helps build power and stability in the legs, core and back. This is a excellent asana “for building strength and whole self-awareness as well as getting a nice and gentle opening in your hips and back,” explains Stiles. “Warrior 1 is a wonderful position to practice in the morning to bring your mind to focus as well as engage your body in balanced strength building.”
Warrior III / Virabhadrasana III
You will get a quick boost to your heart rate and energize your entire body when you balance on one foot in this Warrior pose. “Warrior 3 feels like it sends waves of activation to every muscle in your body,” says Woinicz. “Starting from shoulders, to hamstrings, calves, ankles, and back. It also stretches and tones your abdominal muscles. If you are ever running short on time and can only do a single pose, this is the one.”
Triangle pose / Trikonasana
A classic yoga asana to include in your daily yoga practice is Trikonasana. This standing pose is “great to open up your whole body together and gives a big sense of expansion emotionally,” according to Stiles. “It’s awesome to practice triangle pose in the morning to wake up your whole self, release any tightness in your body and energize your mind. The benefits include strength building in the legs, balance and coordination improvement and mental focus.”
Wide-Legged Forward Fold pose / Prasarita Padottanasana
It is important to integrate and balance out the powerful energizing properties of the warrior poses and other standing postures. Zellmer recommends to “follow up Warrior II with a gentle wide-legged forward fold. Forward folds calm the central nervous system, increase circulation, and help you center your body and mind. Focus on grounding into the earth beneath you, using a block to rest your head if you can’t reach the floor.”
Pigeon pose / Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Another powerful pose to practice if you sit a lot at work is Pigeon. Michelle Bagnato at Bliss from Balance tells us that it is common for her to wake up with tight hips. “This pose, with the help of a block for support and to keep my hips even, is amazing at loosening the area. To help me feel focused in the morning I make sure to reserve a few minutes in the pose resting my forehead on my hands or the mat.” Pigeon is a key yoga pose to help her wake up. She notes that “Spending this time with a few deep inhales and exhales helps me feel grounded and at peace, allowing me to check in on how I am feeling that morning so I am prepared for the day ahead.”
Bow pose / Dhanurasana
A glorious morning pose to boost energy levels and promoting a strong metabolism for the day ahead is Bow. This belly down backbend stretches the entire front side of the body while strengthening your back. It invigorates the internal organs and stimulates the adrenal glands and strengthens diaphragmatic breathing. According to Williams, “as the Bow Pose works to open our chest, it can help us have an easier time breathing. By promoting a steadier breath pattern, the Bow Pose can help calm us and reduce stress, leading to improved concentration levels and mental determination which directly improves our mindset and productivity on a day-to-day basis.”
Seated Spinal Twist pose / Ardha Matsyendrasana
It is important to start your day with a happy spine, so include at least one twisting pose like Ardha Matsyendrasana. Placing Seated Spinal Twist at the end of your morning yoga routine soothes and invigorates the back muscles and is calming to the mind. Shiels tells us that “This is a great pose for mornings as it brings energy into the spine after sleep, where often our spine is in one position for long periods of time. Also, one of the best poses to aid digestion, a seated spinal twist will leave you feeling energised, and stimulate your digestive system before eating breakfast. After doing this pose in the mornings, drinking a glass of warm water with lemon will help to fully kick start the digestive system, and prepare your body for the day ahead.”
Seated Forward Fold pose / Paschimottanasana
An excellent asana to integrate and release tension and tightness in the back body is Seated Forward Fold. Froggett explains that “the longer you hold and breathe into it, the deeper the stretch and the more ‘release’ you feel along the spine, from the base of your skull, between the shoulder blades and all the way to the lower back. The effect of this opening up across the whole back of the body is an extremely energising way to start the day. You will experience any compression that has built up overnight, or indeed anything left over from the previous day, begin to melt away. Leaving space for ease, energy and inspiration to take into your day ahead.” This calming floor pose also tones and massages the abdominal and pelvic region, which is great for stimulating digestion at the start of the day.
This posture encourages a feeling of letting go, surrender and release as Froggett explains, “I love how it can help me let go of anything that I might have woken up thinking about and really helps me start the day with a fresh slate. The nature of a forward fold is that it’s hard to do anything but breath and let go, so it’s wonderful for getting you grounded, focused and ready for the day.”
Bridge pose / Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
A great way to close your morning practice is with the energizing and heart opening Bridge posture. This gentle backbend stretches your chest, belly and shoulders, while strengthening the back, buttocks, and hamstrings. Bagnato tells us that “This pose is a little more active, which I love to incorporate at the end of my practice. It helps me to wake up by generating heat in the lower body and back, and making me feel more limber. To ease into the pose (or if you prefer a less active version) try doing a supported bridge with a block under your sacrum. This is perfect to help alleviate back tension from sleeping. No matter which variation you chose, this full-body pose will help you switch on mentally and physically, so you can easily transition from a drowsy state to fully waking up.”