The Benefits of Yoga in the Morning
How to Start a Morning Yoga Routine
4 Morning Yoga Stretches
Yoga is a wonderful form of mindful movement that you can practice at any and every stage of life. A consistent practice will benefit your mind and body any time you’re on the mat—or even off the mat, as we’ll soon see. That said, you may be able to snag a few extra perks by practicing yoga in the morning.
Ahead, discover the key benefits of morning yoga. Plus: a few yoga stretches and flows that are ideal upon rising and shining, no matter how much (or how little) time you have to spare.
The Benefits of Yoga in the Morning
It Lets You Start the Day with Self-Care
Any habit or practice—yoga included—that allows you to start your day on a calm and gentle note, in honor of yourself, can work wonders. Caring for yourself before serving others can have a domino effect that can positively impact the day ahead.
“There is a natural reset that happens when you begin a new day,” says Peloton yoga instructor Mariana Fernandez. “Regardless of the ever-changing wake-up hours or schedule changes that come, I am grateful to have a few moments to move and check in with myself.”
We all have obligations to tend to—whether that’s tending to the needs of your family, work, and whatever else. However, “Gifting yourself an earlier rise [for yourself] can make a difference in how you launch from the purest form of where your body and mind are exactly as you head into a new day,” she continues.
It Can Set You Up for a “Miracle Morning”
When you make certain healthy practices such as yoga a habitual part of your morning routine, you have a greater chance of experiencing a “miracle morning” for total well-being. While most of us associate productivity with work, a productive morning with some form of physical movement before tending to your job can improve your health and quality of life in countless ways. For instance, research shows that morning exercise can improve workout consistency and aid weight management.
Moreover, exercising in the morning has been shown to:
Increase markers of physical performance
Balance blood sugar
Improve hormonal health
Positively influence emotions throughout the day
In other words, you don’t want to hit snooze on your alarm clock or these benefits of morning movement.
You’ll Enjoy the Many Benefits of Yoga at Large
No matter if you practice yoga in the morning, noon, or night, you’ll reap the countless benefits of yoga for your mind, body, and spirit.
Numerous studies demonstrate yoga’s ability to promote mental health by:
Fostering a greater sense of well-being
Boosting confidence and body image
Facilitating optimism and a sense of well-being
Physically, yoga can also:
Boost muscular strength
Benefit respiratory and cardiovascular function
Reduce chronic pain
Even A Little Bit Goes a Long Way
Although it may seem far-fetched to add something else to your packed plate, even a few minutes of morning yoga is enough to let the benefits of the practice kick in. “Whether it's a full hour practice or just a quick 10 minutes, it can make such a difference to set the tone for what's to come,” says Mariana.
How to Start a Morning Yoga Routine
“No part of your morning routine is strict or has to be something. Nothing is set in stone,” says Mariana. “The power of adding yoga to your morning is exploring what works for you.” With that in mind, here are some quick tips to inspire your new (or improved) morning yoga routine.
Consider Adding Meditation to the Mix
Mariana suggests starting with a meditation before you proceed with morning yoga to foster a greater sense of calm and anchoring. While that works for her, she also says you can very well move first and meditate after… or even skip the meditative aspect altogether. “Everything is up to you,” she reminds us.
Try Out Habit Stacking to Stay Consistent
Habit stacking is a method that entails adding a new habit to an existing one, which makes it easier for the new habit to become second nature. For instance, it can be easy to remember to do a few quick morning yoga stretches as you’re brushing your teeth or brewing your coffee. (More foolproof tips on this below.)
While habit stacking can be beneficial if you need some extra discipline (and a built-in reminder to enact new healthy habits), you can also incorporate novelty to fit your needs and preferences on any given day.
In the spirit of the “yogi’s choice” approach to morning yoga, you don’t need to limit your options. For instance, one day you may do a few quick yoga stretches in bed before starting your morning. On other days, a longer, juicier, more energizing flow on your mat will call your name. (Tip: Check out the Peloton App, which offers a variety of yoga classes ranging in duration and style.)
“Try switching it up: Move before breakfast, or do yoga after you've had some morning routines,” Fernandez advises. Whichever route you take, “It's great when you know what gets everything geared up right to go into the next chapter of your day.”
If you’re looking for a guided morning yoga flow, the Peloton App has Morning Yoga and Morning Slow Flow-themed classes to take out the guesswork, whether you want a 10-, 20-, or 30-minute class.
4 Morning Yoga Stretches
1. Supine Spinal Twist
“More often than not, you get out of bed and feel a little bit stiff—a little bit like the tin man,” Mariana explains. After all, our joints and muscles need to wake up, too. “My morning yoga practice starts in bed. I lay face up and do a gentle spinal twist to get the joints and spine moving,” she explains.
A. Lay flat on your back without a pillow under your head. Make a T shape with your arms out to the sides and keep your legs straight.
B. Bend your right knee into your chest and cross it over the left side of your body. Your knee doesn’t have to touch the bed (or floor), but your right shoulder should stay grounded the entire time. Look over your right shoulder for a full spinal twist.
C. Repeat on the opposite side.
2. Half Standing Forward Fold
Mariana does this variation of half-standing forward fold before brushing her teeth. You can do the same if space permits, or move this morning yoga stretch to your dining table or desk.
A. Place your palms on a sink, table, or desk.
B. Fold forward and press your hips back (so your upper and lower body make a 90-degree angle) to wake up your shoulders, hips, and hamstrings.
3. Neck Rolls
Fernandez seamlessly integrates yoga stretches into her morning routine, even when she’s crunched for time. “I sometimes only have time to do five or 10 minutes at home before heading out, but I make sure to find a few minutes to close my eyes and check in,” she shares. One surefire way to move gently without a major time commitment is to do a few neck rolls as your coffee brews.
A. Stand up straight with feet at hips’ distance apart, shoulders relaxed, and eyes facing forward.
B. Slowly bring your right ear towards your right shoulder, continuing in a counterclockwise motion to complete the circle. (Your gaze should be down at 6 o’clock and up to the sky at 12 o’clock, though you may also close your eyes.)
C. Repeat the same number of neck rolls in the opposite direction.
4. Sun Salutations
If you ask me, there’s no better way to practice morning yoga than to do a few sun salutations. You can “even do a half sun salutation to make sure everything is still working,” Fernandez adds.
A. Stand at the top of your yoga mat with toes together, heels slightly apart, and arms down at your sides.
B. Circle your hands up towards the sky with your gaze following.
C. Circle your arms back down as you hinge from the hips for a forward fold.
D. Raise up slightly so you have a flat back parallel to the mat, gently resting your hands on your shins or thighs with your gaze slightly forward.
E. Fold back down and place your palms down directly under your shoulders as you move your feet back, hips’ width apart, to a plank position.
F. Gently hinge your body forward so your shoulders go beyond your wrists. Keep your elbows tucked in as you lower your body down to a low pushup position.
G. Untuck the toes and place the top of your feet on the mat as you straighten your arms and roll through to an upward dog, with thighs hovering above the mat.
H. Tuck the toes under as you lift your hips up to downward dog. Hold for a few inhales and exhales, and/or pedal out your feet to further loosen up your back body.
I. Gaze forward and walk or hop your feet to the top of the mat in a standing forward fold.
J. Raise up slightly so you have a flat back, gently resting your hands on your shins or thighs with your gaze slightly forward.
K. Release back down to a forward fold.
L. Circle your arms back up to the sky with your gaze following.
M. Circle your arms back down to your sides.
N. Repeat as many sun salutations as you’d like.
While morning yoga offers a few unique benefits, be kind to yourself if it’s not the best time for your schedule. The time of day matters less than sticking to a consistent practice over time. Again, Mariana emphasizes the importance of flexibility—which isn’t necessarily the kind you’ll enhance from all the yoga stretches shared above.
“Make it yours. Give it the time that works for you,” she advises. “Ultimately, regardless of what you're going through, just make sure to check in how your body is moving [and] how you are feeling on any given day.”
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