13 Gentle Morning Stretches That'll Wake Your Body Right Up

To quote Kylie Jenner: "Rise and shine."

by Emilia Benton and Carolyn Steber
Originally Published: 
Expert-approved gentle morning stretches that'll wake your body right up.
Getty Images/Goodboy Picture Company

While a morning stretch routine might not seem super appealing when you’re comfy under the covers, it can make all the difference in how you feel throughout the day. By adding a few bendy stretches and yoga poses to your a.m. routine, you can effectively reduce any stiffness or soreness that you might wake up with. And what’s even better is that amazing post-yoga glow can stick with you the rest of the day.

“Yoga feels so good first thing in the morning because you've been inactive while you sleep, so your bones and joints are a little stiff and achy,” says yoga instructor Rachel Cohen. “Most people wake up a little inflamed, which is related to lack of lubrication in the joints while we sleep.” To loosen up all the tightest spots, Cohen recommends focusing on areas like the hamstrings, hip flexors, neck, and spine.

Of course, the best morning stretches are the ones you can easily incorporate into your existing routine, says Lindsay McClelland, an ERYT-200 certified yoga instructor. “Don't think about it being a full hour-long yoga class,” McClelland tells Bustle. “Instead, carve out five to 10 minutes that you can do on a regular basis.” That way you won’t have to think too much when you’re still groggy, while still getting all the benefits of a morning stretch.

Read on below for a few stretchy poses you can do first thing in the a.m. to start your day off right. FWIW: Some of these you can even do in bed.


Knees To Chest

Yoga teacher Heather Carroll recommends starting off with this simple stretch the moment you wake up, especially if you notice any lower back pain. Pulling your knees into your chest gives the spine a little bit of space and also opens up the hip flexors.

- Lie on your back.

- Lift your knees towards your chest.

- Grab your knees and gently pull down to “hug” your legs towards you.

- Push your tailbone down and away.

- Hold for a few breaths.


Supine Twist

Another one you can do before even lifting your head? The supine twist, aka a juicy side bend that can help reduce tightness in your spine and prep your back for the day ahead, says yoga pro Samantha Deutchman.

- Lie on your back.

- Hug your right knee into your chest.

- Let your right arm extend wide out to the right.

- Using your left hand to guide the right leg up and across the body to the left.

- Let your knee fall to the left as the bottom leg stays straight.

- Release your left arm to the left and, if comfortable, bring your gaze to the right.

- Hold for 5 breaths.

- Repeat on the other side.



“The dynamic bridge opens up the hip flexors and shoulder joints,” Cohen says. “The rhythmic movement gets the fluids moving, creates mobility in the joints, reduces inflammation, and is nice for the nervous system.”

- Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart.

- Let your arms relax by your sides.

- Press into your feet to raise your hips up.

- Lengthen through your spine.

- Lower back down.

- Keep going and raise up again.


Reclined Figure-4 Stretch

According to Deutchman, the reclined figure four stretch preemptively opens your hips for the day — which is particularly helpful if you’re about to spend a lot of time sitting at work.

- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor

- Cross your left ankle over your right knee so your left shin is perpendicular to your right thigh.

- Keep your right foot flexed.

- Lift your right foot off the ground.

- Interlace your hands under your right thigh, bringing your right knee towards your chest.

- To get a deeper stretch, use your hands to pull the knee closer.

- Take a few breaths and switch sides.


Neck Rolls

Since sleeping in an awkward position can cause you to wake up with a stiff neck, McClelland recommends doing a few gentle neck rolls while sitting on the side of your bed.

- Sit up.

- Drop your chin to your chest.

- Gently roll your head to the left.

- Gently roll it to the right.

- Roll for one minute until you feel loose.


Side Bends

You can also stay seated for this one, McClelland says.

- Place your left arm at your side.

- Sweep your right arm up and overhead, reaching to the left for a deep side bend.

- Feel a stretch in your right side.

- Play with your neck positions by gently rocking your chin to your shoulder and back.

- Switch to the other side.


Seated Twists

Seated twists are another simple and gentle way to bring some movement into your body first thing in the morning. They can also get your digestive system going, McLelland says, so you’ll feel less sluggish throughout the day.

- Sit up.

- Cross your legs in front of you.

- Take your hand and place it on the opposite knee or thigh.

- Twist in that direction as you place the other hand behind you for support.

- Spend a few breaths on each side.


Seated Cat-Cow

Next up try the famed cat-cow yoga pose, which McClelland says will wake up your spine.

- Sit up.

- Rest your hands on your thighs or knees.

- Arch your back to look up as you breathe in.

- Tuck your chin and start to look down.

- Hollow your body to push your spine behind you as you breathe out.

- Alternate between the two positions for a few breaths.


Forward Fold

Ready to get up? Then shift into a standing position for a forward fold. “Just take your time and be gentle with your body, as your hamstrings are likely to be tighter in the morning,” McClelland says.

- Stand with your feet together.

- Place your hands on your hips.

- Inhale then exhale as you bend forward at the hips.

- Extend your spine.

- Reach your fingertips on the floor.

- Lower to reach the crown of your head toward the floor.


Low Lunge

“When you sleep, your hip flexors are often in a flexed position,” Deutchman says. To unflex them, slowly drop down into a low lunge.

- Start in a downward dog position.

- Lean forward so your shoulders are over your wrists.

- Step your foot in between your hands.

- Place your foot so your ankle is directly underneath your knee.

- Keep your back leg straight and strong.

- Pull your chest in between the upper arms.

- Take a few breaths then switch sides.


Cobra Pose

Dr. Chad Walding, DPT, a physical therapist and co-founder of NativePath, a nutritional supplement brand, recommends pressing up into cobra pose to help relieve back pain caused by sitting too long and poor posture.

- Lie face-down on the floor or a mat, legs fully extended, tops of feet resting on the floor.

- Place your hands next to your shoulders, fingers pointing forward, elbows tight against your body.

- Inhale as you fully extend your arms to gently press up as far as you can comfortably go.

- Keep the insides of your elbows facing inward.

- Hold for a few seconds.

- Keep your back, glutes, and legs relaxed as you breathe.

- Lower to the floor and repeat as needed.


Dead Bugs

Walding also recommends “dead bugs” to help strengthen your core while teaching you how to stabilize your pelvis when moving.

- Lie on your back with your arms and legs in reverse tabletop.

- Gently stretch your right arm directly behind your head and extend your left leg straight out.

- Make sure your back remains flat on the ground.

- Return your arm and leg back to the starting position.

- Alternate with the opposite arm and leg.

- Repeat for 10 reps per side.


Child’s Pose

Finish off your morning stretch with a relaxing child’s pose. “This helps elongate the spine, stretch the arms, open the hips, stretch the tops of the feet and ankles, and it allows the body to relax closer to the earth [so you feel more grounded] with each deep breath,” says yoga instructor Trin Perkins, M.S.Ed, RYT 200.

- Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.

- Open your knees and touch your big toes together.

- Shift your hips back toward your heels.

- Walk your hands forward until your arms are stretched out in front of you.

- Keep your palms down.

- Lower your head and stretch.

Studies referenced:

Cary, D. (2021). Examining relationships between sleep posture, waking spinal symptoms and quality of sleep: A cross sectional study. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0260582.

Djalilova, DM. (2019). Impact of Yoga on Inflammatory Biomarkers: A Systematic Review. Biol Res Nurs. doi: 10.1177/1099800418820162.

Opplert, J. (2018). Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0797-9.


Rachel Cohen, yoga instructor

Lindsay McClelland, ERYT-200 certified yoga instructor

Heather Carroll, yoga instructor

Samantha Deutchman, yoga pro

Trin Perkins, M.S.Ed, RYT 200, yoga instructor

Dr. Chad Walding, DPT, a physical therapist and co-founder of NativePath

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