(Original article written by: Gabriela Aoun)
Morning time: The birds are singing, you haven’t checked your e-mail yet, and you have a moment of peace before the day attacks. This is your opportunity to start the day off right. Like the common belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, your morning exercise routine is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for your to do list and feel great all day. What’s a great way to get centered and wake up? Yoga.
HuffPost Hawaii asked yoga instructor Noelani Love of Noelani Studios in Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore to show us five poses that anyone can and should do to greet the morning.
1. The sun is up and waiting for you to greet it. As soon as you wake up, try to get outside. You need the vitamin D, and your mood will improve. Live in a concrete jungle? Open a window, breathe some fresh air and fill your room with natural light.
Standing backbend and side stretches: Inhale the arms up straight and bend back slightly to feel elongation throughout your entire body. Exhale and let one hand slide down the side of your body with the other hand still raised. Allow your head and neck to relax, feeling an even deeper stretch in the ribs and side body. Slowly inhale up to center and exhale to the opposite side. Repeat this motion 5 times on each side.
2. You’re probably going to be sitting most of the day, so stretch out now. There’s mounting scientific proof that a sedentary life leads to health problems. Unfortunately, many of us have no choice but to spend long periods of time in a car or a chair. Sitting shortens your muscles, and tight muscles lead to discomfort and injury. Stretch out while you have the chance.
Forward fold: Exhale, folding forward at the hips. Allow your knees to bend and try to bring your chest towards your thighs. Relax the neck and let the head hang heavily. You will feel this stretch in the lower spine as well as in the legs. This pose allows fresh blood to flow easily to the brain, cleansing and refreshing the brain, aiding the circulatory system. Stay here for 10 deep breaths.
3. This might be the only alone time you have all day. Before you have to talk to everyone else, use the morning as an opportunity to have a conversation with yourself. Set an intention for the day, no matter how small, and meditate on that intention for a few peaceful moments.
Tree pose: With feet hip distance apart, spread the toes wide to help plant yourself firmly on the ground. Bring the hands onto the hips or to heart’s center. Inhale to bring one foot up, placing it either on the calf or the thigh (never place the foot on the knee). Exhale. Keep the core engaged, and if you have your balance reach your arms to the sky. Stay here for 5 rounds of breath. Exhale to slowly place the foot on the ground, switch legs. This balance pose is a great time to set an intention for your day — perhaps an intention of balance, perseverance, fun, or whatever you desire!
4. You’re going to need all the energy you can summon today. Yoga can be as relaxing or vigorous as you want it to be. Add a little challenge to your routine, get your blood pumping and muscles working. You’ll feel stronger all day — and strength lends to more energy and confidence.
Cat-Cow: Come down onto the hands and knees. Be sure that the wrists are directly below the shoulders and the fingers are spread wide. Feel each knuckle and the finger pads on the ground to distribute the weight into the hands so that not all of the weight is on the wrists. The knees are hip distance apart and the tops of the feet are on the ground, the big toes are touching. Inhale into cow (the head and tailbone lift up, dropping the belly towards the ground, heart extending forward). Exhale into cat (arch the spine upwards, tuck the chin toward the chest, draw the navel in towards the spine). Continue for 2-3 minutes, moving slowly at first and steadily increasing your speed as you gain flexibility.
5. If you remember to breathe in the morning, you’ll probably breathe better all day. Taking deep breaths lowers stress and improves cognitive activity. But we often forget to breathe regularly and fully. By focusing on this practice right when you get out of bed, you can train yourself to keep it up all day.
Down dog: Tuck the toes under and lift the tailbone towards the sky. Drop the head down and push into the hands to create length in the spine. Draw your navel in towards your spine and press the soles of the feet down towards the ground. Take 5 rounds of deep breath in this pose, closing the eyes if you have your balance.