It’s early Monday morning, and the dreaded alarm goes off. Groan. After a fitful night, all you want to do is stay in bed until noon.
With only 15 minutes to spare before you have to get ready for work, what’s the best way to slough off that grogginess? Instead of turning to a cup of espresso to wake you up, try these 15 minutes of yoga exercises to get jazzed for the day ahead.
Coffee vs. Yoga
We know what you’re thinking — give up my beloved coffee? Really? — but hear us out. While many studies suggest that a moderate amount of coffee has numerous benefits, many of us tend to overdo it, relying on several cups of java to get through the day. The fact of the matter is caffeine is addictive and may disrupt our sleep patterns in the long run.
And while a jolt of coffee certainly makes you more alert, it can also heighten your anxiety — and nobody wants to start their day feeling more stressed and more anxious than they have to.
A morning yoga exercise routine, on the other hand, may be just as effective at waking you up as your daily cup of coffee (or even more so). A study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research showed that yoga can help decrease cravings in addicts, while a pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests yoga sessions can increase brain GABA levels, which can dramatically help with mood disorders.
By improving your blood flow as well as focusing on your mental state, yoga counteracts the anxiety and addictiveness of caffeine, while giving you a boost of energy.
The 15-Minute Routine
So the next time you wake up craving caffeine, why not spend the time it would take to brew and drink a cup of Joe doing these exercises instead? You just might find that a morning yoga routine is better than coffee for starting you day off right.
1. Child’s Pose
Begin by kneeling with your knees hip-distance apart and your big toes touching just behind your body. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, lower your upper body over your thighs, lengthening your spine by pulling your ribs and tailbone away from each other and your neck by drawing the top of your head away from your shoulders. Extend your arms in front of your body. Hold for 10 deep breaths.
2. Pelvic Tilt / Bridge Yoga Pose
With your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, lie on your back in neutral position. Notice how the natural curve in your back keeps your lower back lifted slightly off the floor. As you exhale, move your hips toward your head.
Instead of lifting your butt, you should feel your lower back pressing into the floor. Keep exhaling deeply, then inhale as you return to neutral. Repeat for a total of 10 breaths.
3. Cat-Cow Yoga Pose
Start in a tabletop position (casually known as all fours), with your knees directly under your hips and your wrists below your shoulders. Your spine should be neutral. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, enter the cat position: tucking your chin and releasing your neck, arch your spine toward the sky. Think about pulling your belly button in and up as you engage your abs. As you inhale, enter the cow position by arching your back the opposite direction. Let your abs relax and raise your head and tailbone up to the sky. Repeat the Cow Pose on your inhales and Cat Pose on your exhales for 10 more breaths.
4. Downward Facing Dog Yoga Pose
Start in a tabletop position. As you inhale, tuck your toes under your heels. Exhale as you lift your hips up off the floor and into the sky, making an upside-down V with your body. Keep your arms straight and your neck relaxed. Spread your fingers, lower your heels to the ground, keep your legs straight, and toward your hips. Hold for 10 slow breaths.
5. Standing Forward Bend Yoga Pose
Start in Downward Facing Dog. Keeping your hands on the mat, step one foot at a time toward your hands, until your hands and feet meet. Keeping your back flat, inhale and gaze forward just a little. As you exhale, fold forward with a straight back and engaged abs. Relaxing your shoulders, tuck your chin in and extend the crown of your head to the floor. Straighten your legs as much as possible (while still maintaining a tiny micro-bend) and allow your back to release. Put your hands on the ground, fingertips facing forward. Hold for 10 breaths. As you come up, make sure to roll your spine one vertebrae at a time.
6. Tree Pose Yoga Pose
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your toes spread wide and your hands on your hips. As you inhale, put the sole of your right foot on your calf or thigh. As you exhale, reach your arms straight to the sky. Hold for five breaths. When you’re ready, exhale as you return to the starting position. Then switch legs and hold for another five breaths.
7. Warrior I Yoga Pose
Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward, between your hands, as you rotate your left foot so that your heel is in, perpendicular to your body. Press into your feet as you raise your torso. Now lift your arms up to the sky directly above you and press your palms together. Roll your shoulder blades down toward your hips as you look up at your hands. Hold for five breaths. Return to Downward Facing Dog and begin again with your left foot stepping forward. Hold on this side for five breaths.
Benefits Of Daily Yoga
Yoga workouts benefit your physical and mental health in a variety of ways. When it comes to your physical health, numerous studies have shown that yoga that it can better cardiovascular health, ward off metabolic syndrome, lower blood pressure, and aid in maintaining one’s weight. But it’s not just about the outside, either. Practicing yoga regularly can help decrease anxiety, fight depression, promote better sleep patterns, and contribute to an overall greater quality of life.
All it takes is 15 minutes a day to notice the benefits mentioned above. Start your day off with a quick hit of yoga, and you’ll see how you notice a difference — not just in the way you look, but more importantly, how you feel.