Fitness

4 Yoga Pros Share Their Go-To Morning Flows

From cat/cows to breath work.

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For many people, starting a new year means setting goals to live intentionally, be more present, and not rush through your daily personal and professional commitments. Starting your day with a morning yoga flow routine can help you approach your day feeling calm and having gained some clarity. But where do you start if you've never had a morning yoga routine before? That's where advice from the pros comes in.

Lindsay McClelland, an ERYT-200 certified yoga instructor in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a fan of taking things slowly in the morning and letting her body move slowly and intuitively. “I love starting a morning practice with deep, intentional breath,” she says. “From there you can really tune into your body and notice the areas that might need some attention.”

For McClelland, that's usually tightness in her lower back and hips, so she’ll often move through cat/cows from hands and knees and build it into a flow, moving with breath, to incorporate child's pose. She also enjoys doing gentle supine twists in the morning to begin and end a flow.

Kelly Turner, an E-RYT 500-certified yoga instructor and director of education at YogaSix in Irvine, California, recommends starting the day with a bit of focused movement and breath to create clarity, focus, and ease for what's to come. “While before having my son, I could take my time with a 20-30 minute flow (or longer), these days I tend for a shorter five to 10 minute routine while the coffee brews,” she says.

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Turner’s goals for a morning yoga flow include warming up her muscles and spine, deepening her capacity for full breaths and getting her blood pumping after waking up. She recommends the following routine:

  • In child's pose, walk your hands over to the right for a few breaths, and then the left.
  • Rise back up to a tabletop position, and cycle through a few rounds of cat/cow.
  • Reset your tabletop, then bend your right elbow until it touches the mat, gazing over your left shoulder. Lengthen out of the arm, then repeat on the second side. Repeat this simple twisting action to complete your six movements.
  • Move into a gentle down dog, pedaling out your feet to wake up your hamstrings. Bring yourself to the top of your mat, if using one, and slowly roll up to a standing position.
  • Cycle through a few half sun salutations to deepen the breath and warm up the body.

Dominic Anthony, an NASM-certified personal trainer in Los Angeles, loves starting his day with an affirmation, mantra, and stating three things he is grateful for. “I find this helps center myself, but it also sets a nice tone and flow to the day,” he says. “There is nothing better to me than feeling centered and being able to collect my thoughts.”

Anthony recommends following the above ritual with this yoga flow: Start with cat/cows. Next move into a plank, followed by a chaturanga to a downward-facing dog. Finally, move into the warrior one and two poses. “I repeat this three times,” he says. ”This is more a quick, yet efficient flow to wake the body and start your day off on a positive and energized note.”

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Finally, it can be helpful to start your day with some breathing exercises to clear your mind. Courtney Somer, a certified kundalini yoga and prenatal yoga instructor in New York City, recommends the following breathwork routine: Use your left thumb to gently block the left nostril while you inhale and exhale through the right side. Keep the other fingers straight and extended upwards. Keep your spine straight, eyes closed, and breathe deeply. You can do this for one minute up to three minutes daily.

"This is a simple breathwork technique to help wake you up in the morning and clear your mind. It’s a focus on breathing through one nostril to activate energy in the body,” she explains. “The right nostril is the energy of the sun, more fiery and bright and inhaling through this side accesses the opposite (left) or thinking side of your brain. It helps you wake up, get more energy and clarity for a warming, sunny energy.” You can also switch the technique and breathe through the left nostril for the opposite effect, Somer says. This is the moon energy, so it’s more calming, cooling and reflective. It can also help you calm your mind or ease into a restful mode before bed.

Sources:

Lindsay McClelland, an ERYT-200 certified yoga instructor

Kelly Turner, an E-RYT 500-certified yoga instructor and director of education at YogaSix

Dominic Anthony, an NASM-certified personal trainer in Los Angeles

Courtney Somer, a certified kundalini yoga and prenatal yoga instructor