Women at the top of their game often say a well-honed morning routine is key to kick-starting your day, but for many, those precious first few hours can be the most stressful. If you struggle to squeeze in a morning gym session or you rise feeling clouded and overwhelmed, there's a simple method that's proven to provide clarity, no matter where you practice it or how many minutes you can dedicate: stretching. Like exercise, stretching boosts endorphins, which make you happier and calmer. An added bonus: It also improves posture, which can make you appear more confident and competent in the office.
Yoga expert Karly Treacy explains that practicing simple poses each morning is an effective and often underrated routine. "A good yoga practice means you are taking long, smooth, deep breaths as you work through your postures. This has the effect of awakening every muscle in the body while decompressing your nervous system," she tells MyDomaine. "The result leaves you feeling relaxed and alive!"
Here, she suggests five poses you can do anywhere, anytime to boost your mood and energy. "If you start from the very first exercise lying on your back and follow through sequentially it will be invigorating," she explains. "If you reverse the order and finish line on your back it will be grounding."
Try these four simple stretches tomorrow morning to start your day the right way.
When done correctly, it's believed Happy Baby pose can help relieve lower back pain, stretch and soothe the spine, and open the hips, inner thighs, and groin. Follow Treacy's instructions to try it at home: "Lying on your back, hold on to the outer edges of your feet. Draw the knees toward your armpits to feel a stretch and release in the inner thighs. Hold for eight to 10 breaths."
Feeling anxious about the day ahead? Yoga Journal suggests Janu Sirsasana, also known as Head-to-Knee Forward Bend, can help relieve anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and menstrual cramps.
"Seated on a folded yoga blanket or beach towel, extend your legs straight front," Treacy instructs. "Bend the right knee and take the sole of the foot to the inner left thigh. The shape of your legs should be similar to a figure four," she says. "Inhale to lengthen the spine to the sky, exhale to spin your belly toward the left thigh, and fold forward keeping a long spine. If you have to round to reach your foot, grab a yoga strap or a towel to assist. Stay folded for four to six breaths, come up, and switch sides."
Upavistha Konasana pose might seem frustrating for the inflexible, but adding it to your morning routine will help stretch the insides and backs of your legs, strengthen the spine, and calm your mind. If you don't have a mat, Treacy says a towel will also do. "Sit on a yoga mat and open the legs open in a wide V," she explains. "Make sure the toes and knees stay pointing toward the sky. Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to fold forward. Hold for eight to 10 breaths."
Don't be fooled by this seemingly simple pose. Cat Cow, also known as Marjariasana, is a common sequence in yoga and is believed to have a host of benefits, from improving posture and stimulating organs in the belly to calming the mind and creating emotional balance.
To do it at home, get on your hands and knees. "Align your wrists beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Keeping the arms strong and straight, press the tops of the shins down to feel the thighs strong," says Treacy. "Keep the arms and thighs strong like pillars and with your breath let the spine undulate through these four points. Inhale to lift your heart and sit bones to the sky; exhale to scoop the belly in, press the mat away, and round [your back]. Repeat for six to eight breaths," she recommends.