5 Yoga Poses You Can Do Every Morning to Improve Your Health

Story at-a-glance -

  • Set aside a few minutes in the morning for the ancient practice of yoga, including centering and energizing poses such as forward fold, tree pose, cat-cow, standing backbend and down dog
  • Yoga is sometimes referred to as a form of meditative movement offering physical benefits like improved flexibility, core strength and balance
  • Yoga also helps with relaxation, breathing and mental well-being
  • Yoga has been found to improve low back pain, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, irregular heart rhythms, ADHD and more
  • Foundation Training is another gentle form of exercise to help strengthen and realign your spine and core while counteracting the negative effects of too much sitting

By Dr. Mercola

One of the secrets of successful, happy people is rising early in the morning, a habit that gives you an extra bit of free time before starting your day.

What you do with this precious time is up to you, but one way to give both your mind and body a boost is yoga. In just a few minutes time you can complete a series of poses designed to help you wake up, get centered and begin your day with positive energy.

5 Yoga Poses to Start Your Day Off Right

The Huffington Post recently talked with yoga instructor Noelani Love of Hawaii, who shared five yoga poses that virtually everyone can easily do in the morning.1

1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.”

Yoga Provides Unique Mind-Body Benefits

Originating in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga is sometimes referred to as a form of meditative movement because in addition to offering physical benefits like improved flexibility, core strength and balance, it also helps with relaxation, breathing and mental well-being.

For instance, a review of more than 100 studies looking at the effect of yoga on mental health found evidence that yoga has a positive effect on mild depression, sleep problems, schizophrenia and ADHD.2 Meanwhile, yoga has been shown to have a beneficial impact on leptin,3 a hormone that plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, as well as atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).4 Other research shows that yoga is beneficial for chronic low back pain, anxiety, high blood pressure and improved function (the ability to walk and move).5

See This Amazing Yoga Transformation

Oftentimes, seeing is believing, and the following video, featuring Arthur Boorman, a disabled veteran of the Gulf War, is perhaps one of the most inspiring yoga success stories I’ve ever seen. His injuries had put him on a downward spiral for 15 years, and his doctors had told him he'd never be able to walk unassisted again. Due to his injuries, he couldn't perform high-impact exercises, but one day he came across an article about yoga, and the rest, as they say, is history...

If you've ever doubted the transformative power of a low-impact exercise such as yoga, I urge you to take a look at this video. It's a truly remarkable story. Not only did he rapidly start losing weight, he also gained tremendous strength, balance and flexibility—to the point he proved his doctors' prognosis wrong by walking unaided in less than a year!

You Can Also Start Your Day with Foundation Training

Yoga is an excellent form of exercise and meditation that many people enjoy and thrive on, but personally, I have tried it a number of times and for whatever reason I was never able to stick with it long term.

I do enjoy Foundation Training (created by Dr. Eric Goodman), which incorporates many yoga principles, but is modified to focus on muscle groups that most Americans are at risk of injuring because of the enormous amount of time they spend sitting. Foundation Training can also be used in addition to yoga or for those who are unable to do yoga.

In recent years, researchers have taken a serious look at the effects of inactivity, and have repeatedly found that not moving or engaging in very limited-range movements for extended periods of time has a profoundly negative impact on health and longevity. In one analysis of 18 studies (which in total included nearly 800,000 people), those who sat for the longest periods of time were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sat the least. While prolonged sitting was linked to an overall greater mortality risk from any cause, the strongest link was to death due to diabetes.6

A separate 2009 study also highlighted much of the recent evidence linking sitting with biomarkers of poor metabolic health, showing how total sitting time correlates with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other prevalent chronic health problems—even if you exercise regularly.7

Do the Basic Program in Just 20 Minutes a Day

Foundation Training is based on integrating the muscular chains of your body with simple, powerful exercises that help strengthen and realign your spine and core. Like yoga, no equipment is needed, so you can do them just about anywhere, and most of the exercises take only a few minutes, making them perfect to add to your morning routine. Every exercise included in Foundation Training lengthens the front of your body, which is over-tightened, and strengthens the back of your body, which will help you stand tall and move with strength and flexibility.

I have been doing “The Founder,” which helps reinforce proper movement while strengthening the entire back of your body, about eight times a day recently and have noticed remarkable improvement in some nagging low back I have had. If this is a challenge for you, I would strongly recommend that you consider adding the “Founder” exercise to your daily routine. Dr. Goodman demonstrates the Founder in the video below.

The basic Foundation Training program takes about 20 minutes and is ideally done daily. You can easily start your day off with this program, and even add in the yoga poses above as well, all before you’ve had your morning shower!

You can purchase the Foundation Training DVD from my online store. FoundationTraining.com also offers several free videos, and their thought-provoking first book called: Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence.

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