If you’re like most people, there’s a good chance you get out of bed every morning and launch right into your busy day. Yet taking just a few minutes for yourself before you race to get in the shower, prepare breakfast, make your way to the office, and start plowing through your to-do list can go a long way toward helping your body and mind feel better, says Randi Ragan, a yoga teacher and author of A Year of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nourish Body, Mind and Spirit. Here are 6 simple stretches to do before you even crawl out from under the covers that’ll help you set the right tone for the day ahead.
On an inhale, reach your arms overhead, clasp your fingers together, flip your palms out toward the wall behind your head, and push your palms away from you. At the same time, reach your toes away from your arms, keeping your knees straight. Hold this fully stretched position for 5 counts, then exhale and release the stretch. Repeat 3 times total. “This releases tightness throughout the entire body, which tends to accumulate during sleep,” says Ragan.
Cross your right foot over your left knee, making the shape of the number 4. Slowly bend your left knee up toward the ceiling, either keeping the left foot on your mattress or hugging it in toward your chest. Be sure to keep your right knee bent out to the right as you try to maintain this shape. Hold for 5 deep breaths, then switch sides. “This stretch helps lubricate the hip joints, thighs, and glutes,” says Ragan.
Swing your feet over the side of the bed so that they touch the floor. Keeping your knees bent, hang your head and arms down to the floor, rounding your back over your knees. Let your head and arms dangle to the floor; hold for 5 breaths. “This helps stretch the back and helps you wake up thanks to a fresh supply of oxygen to the brain,” says Ragan.
From a supine position, bend your knees until the soles of your feet are on the bed. Use your hands to draw one knee in toward your chest at a time, wrapping your arms around both shins. Relax your head on your pillow and hold this “self-hug” for 10 deep breaths, says Brooke Blocker, a yoga teacher in New York City. “This stretch helps you gently wake up the low back and stimulate the mind and body, helping you feel ready to start your day,” says Blocker.
From Knees-to-Chest Stretch, release your grip of your shins and let your arms fall out to a “T” shape on either side of your torso. Use your core to guide your legs over to rest on one side, keeping your knees bent and shoulders planted down into your mattress. If it’s easy on your neck, gaze toward the opposite side. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side. “Twists like this one awaken the body by increasing circulation and stretching the spinal muscles,” says Blocker. (Looking for more ways to live a happy, healthy life? Order Prevention—and get a FREE yoga DVD when you subscribe today.)
Seated Forward Bend
Begin by lifting your torso upright from a reclined position. Keeping your legs straight, inhale and lengthen through your spine; as you exhale, start to walk your fingertips toward your feet. Keep lengthening your spine with your inhalation and sink a bit deeper into this seated forward fold with your exhalation. When you get to your farthest point, let your neck hang heavy toward your legs, releasing any tension. After 10 rounds of breath, slowly lift your torso back up. “This forward bend is especially beneficial after resting all night and before standing or sitting all day, as it stretches the hamstrings, pelvis, and spine,” says Blocker.