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Published on June 27, 2019

15-Minute Morning Yoga Routine for Beginners

15-Minute Morning Yoga Routine for Beginners

Is this usually how your morning begins? You hit snooze, roll over a few times, and groggily wake up and stumble your way to the coffee pot; or maybe you get woken up by kids, pets, or significant others who are running late and have now jolted you wide awake into a frenzied panic…

It seems as though our morning routines are hardly as gentle as we’d like them to be.

A part of that is natural – we have real lives to live, that often require practical solutions. We have families and jobs that demand our precise attention, and no matter how much we plan, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for everyone and everything, let alone yoga time or physical exercise.

In our effort to juggle all of the tasks a typical day throws at us, it’s not surprising that our energy may be low and our attitude about heading into our day may not be enthusiastic.

Fortunately, creating a morning routine doesn’t have to push all of our other priorities out of the way, nor does it have to mean that we’re sacrificing sleep time for waking up super early and getting in a morning yoga practice. Shifting our tasks around to find 15 minutes of free time can drastically improve not only our physical health, but how we take on the morning to seize the day ahead.

In the following sections, we’ll explore how to create a beginner’s yoga routine that is flexible enough to accommodate any schedule and yoga physical ability.

1. Find a Space in Your Home for Morning Silence

This can also be a space in your office or hotel room, if you’re traveling. Creating a morning routine doesn’t have to anchor you to a house. It should be flexible and simple enough for you to take with you wherever you go.

Starting your day off in silence can mean the difference between a day that is running you, or a day that you run yourself. It allows you to sit with your thoughts and feelings upon waking up, and decide which ones you want to take into your day, and which ones are not going to serve your tasks and goals.

Find a space that is quiet enough, and where you can be alone. Turn off your phone or put it on silent if you know you’re going to be disturbed or distracted.

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And when you’re ready, sit comfortably – either on a yoga mat, bolster, or a chair. If you’re sitting cross-legged on the floor, prop yourself up so that your hips are higher than your knees, to ensure that your spine is long and straight.[1]

Close your eyes, rest your hands in your lap or on your knees, and tune into your breath, consciously. Notice how the inhale fills your belly and lungs, and rises up into your collarbones as you sip in as much air as you can; at the top of your inhale, gently pause. When you’re ready, ease into that exhale and notice how the lungs let go and the belly pulls in. Your only job here is to notice this breath cycle, over and over again.

If thoughts come in, as they naturally will, just acknowledge them. Say hello, and maybe even a “Good morning,” and then let the thoughts go, and return to your breath.

You can set a timer for 5 minutes, and just soak in this silence and breath awareness before anything else comes into your day. If an intention arises – a word or phrase that you think you’d like to take into your day ahead – say it gently to yourself and then open your eyes, when you’re ready.[2]

2. Do 2 Rounds of Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutations

Sun Salutations are repetitive in nature, as they allow us to not only feel our body in space and movement, but also to help us sync the movement with the breath. These postures in unison also help us energize the body and the energy, or prana, flowing through it.[3]

You can continue your yoga practice in the same space in which you found your morning silence. If, however, you need to change spots, feel free to do so.

Let’s first take a quick look at how to do the Sun Salutations in this video:

 

Unfurl your yoga mat, and step to the top, standing tall and proud with feet hip-width apart in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Tuck your tailbone gently, as your belly slightly engages, and your chest opens. Bring your chin slightly down and back, to open up the back of the neck, and let your hands come down by your sides, with your palms open to the front of your space. Take a deep breath in and out, rooting your feet down, like tree roots.[4]

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On an inhale, reach your arms up overhead, gazing up if comfortable, and as you exhale, begin to hinge from the hips as you swan-dive down to a Forward Fold.[5] Allow your neck and head to loosen as your upper body hangs here, and root your feet down into your mat to keep stable.

On an inhale, hinging from the hips, rise up into a Flat Back,[6] pulling your belly in toward your spine and keeping your neck long, as your hands rest on your thighs or hips; as you exhale, bring your palms down and step back into your first Plank.[7] Take a deep breath in as the core and glutes engage, and on your exhale, lower your knees and come all the way down to your belly, with your core still engaged and your elbows pulling to the midline of your body.

Keeping your palms down and legs together, inhale to rise up into Cobra Pose,[8] and as you exhale, lift up onto your hands and knees, and make your way into your first Downward Facing Dog.[9] Down Dog is a great pose for lengthening and stretching out those waking-up hamstrings, so bicycle-pedal out your heels to get into this stretch a bit more.

Keep your gaze between your feet or in the center of your mat, depending on what feels good for your neck. Stay here for 3 to 5 deep breaths.

On your next exhale, begin to walk your feet up towards your hands, coming back into that Forward Fold that we did at the beginning of this sequence. Hang there with your head and neck heavy, and maybe take opposite elbows and sway here gently side to side. You can always bend your knees as deeply as you need to here, if your hamstrings are tight.

Take a deep breath in, sending that energy to the back of your heart, between your shoulder blades, and on your exhale, like a rag doll, begin to curl your way up to standing. You may use your hands to walk them up your legs and back up to standing, but do keep your core engaged as you rise. Feel each vertebra, as they stack one on top of the other, re-building the spine as you go. Make your way back into Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Repeat this full sequence one more time, following your breath as you move.

3. Do Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 Standing Postures

Coming back into Tadasana, Mountain Pose, from your Sun Salutations, step back long onto your mat with your left foot, preparing for Warrior 1. Point the left toes to the upper-left corner of your mat, so that your foot is turned out, and bend into your right knee. Keep the bend at a 90-degree angle, or if you’re nursing a knee injury, back away from the bend slightly.

Make sure your hips are as squared as they can be to the front of the mat, and look down at your feet and imagine you’re standing on railroad tracks. This will mean that your stance is wide, giving your hips enough space to rotate. Reach your arms up overhead, biceps by the ears, or bending your elbows and creating “goal-post” arms if you need some more shoulder space. Looking upwards is optional. Tuck your tailbone and engage your belly, as you find 3-5 breaths here.[10]

Here’s a video that demonstrates Warrior I Pose:

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On your next inhale, bring your palms to touch at heart center. As you exhale, come into your Warrior 2, by adjusting your back left foot to have the toes point out straight to the left, with the pinkie-foot side paralleling the back of your mat. This will ensure that your hips are now able to splay open to the left a bit more. Keep the bend in your right knee, and extend your arms long to the front and back of your mat, palms facing down. Rest your gaze over your front middle finger, or if better, look out towards the left with a bit more neutrality for your neck. Take a peek at your right big toe, and make sure you can see it. If not, gently nudge that right knee a bit more over to the right. Find 3-5 breaths here.[11]

Here’s a video that demonstrates Warrior II Pose:

On your next exhale, cartwheel the arms down to the mat, as you step back to your Down Dog. Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale, walk your feet up toward your hands, and make your way back to Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Repeat this sequence on the other side, stepping back with your right foot.

4. Find Balance in Vrksasana, Tree Pose

Come back to standing in Tadasana, hands on your hips. Shift your weight to your standing left foot, as you begin to lift and bend the right knee. Square your hips, and root that left foot down into your mat, engaging the left glute muscle.

With your breath, begin to open the right knee to the right side, giving that right hip space to expand; when you’re ready, place the sole of your right foot on the inside of your calf or thigh. If you need extra support, place it against your ankle, with the right toe down for more stability. Leave your hands on your hips, or lift them up overhead to grow your branches. Rest your gaze and find your breath for 3-5 cycle.[12]

Take a look at this video and try to do the Tree Pose:

Repeat on the other side, lifting and bending the left knee.

5. Stretch with a Reverse Namaste

Come back to standing in Tadasana, this time, with your hands back behind you for either a Reverse Namaste[13] or simply grabbing opposite elbows or forearms.

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    6. Open Your Heart in a Standing Back Bend

    Stand tall with your tailbone tucked, and take a deep breath in, feeling the opening of your chest and shoulders. On your next exhale, lift up through your sternum and hips, as you lift the heart up and back towards the sky.

    Keep your gaze wherever is comfortable for your neck. If you are in a room, it’s helpful to keep it where the wall meets the ceiling. It’s more challenging to take deep breaths in this pose, so focus more on the exhales.

    For complete beginners, here’s how to do a Standing Back Bend:

    This posture is beautiful in releasing what no longer serves us, so let that surrender happen through your exhales. When you’re ready, keeping your core engaged, slowly make your way back to standing, with your head coming up last. Take a moment to center your balance, before moving on.

    7. Prepare to Have a Seat and Come into Savasana

    Slowly come down to have a seat, and roll down onto your back until you’re laying flat.

    Grab a couple of yoga blocks or pillows, and bring the soles of your feet to touch, as the knees come out. Place the blocks or pillows under your knees, and rest your head and shoulders down on the mat.

    Close your eyes and rest your hands on your belly to feel the breath coming in and out. Close out your practice here in Savasana, and stay for as long as you’d like.

    Check out the demonstration in this video:

    Final Thoughts

    A morning yoga routine doesn’t have to overwhelm your schedule or take too much time out of your morning. This sequence brings you back into tune with your breath and your body, and you can practice it anywhere for 15 minutes to energize and empower your day ahead.

    More Yoga for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Fezbot2000 via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Yoga Journal: The Pose of Happiness and Ease: Sukhasana
    [2] MindBodyGreen: The Power Behind Setting an Intention in Yoga
    [3] DoYouYoga: What is Prana?
    [4] Gaia: Tadasana: Mountain Pose
    [5] Yoga Basics: Standing Forward Fold
    [6] Yoga Journal: Standing Half Forward Bend
    [7] Yoga Journal: Plank Pose
    [8] Yoga Journal: Cobra Pose
    [9] Yoga Outlet: How to Do Downward Facing Dog in Yoga
    [10] Yoga Basics: Warrior 1
    [11] Yoga Journal: Warrior II Pose
    [12] Yoga Journal: Tree Pose
    [13] Style Craze: What is Reverse Prayer Yoga?

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    Aleksandra Slijepcevic

    Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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    Last Updated on November 11, 2019

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

    To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

    Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

    1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

    Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

    Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

    To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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    2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

    Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

    If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

    Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

    3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

    Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

    Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

    4. Feed Your Brain

    Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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    This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

    Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

    Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

    5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

    According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

    Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

    Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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    6. Write it Down

    If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

    It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

    You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

    7. Listen to Music

    Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

    8. Visual Concepts

    In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

    Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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    Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

    9. Teach Someone Else

    Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

    Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

    10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

    Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

    So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

    Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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