When most of us roll out of bed in the morning, our first instinct is to take a big stretch. Maybe your neck is stiff, or your shoulders are tight, or you just need to yawn dramatically. While you might feel like a creaky, inflexible wreck, there’s a scientific reason why your body gets like this in the morning.
Your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day and night, in time with your circadian rhythm. When your body temperature is higher, you might feel more mobile because your muscles are able to function better. In the late afternoon, most people’s body temperature is at its peak, but in the morning, it’s the lowest. For example, that’s why an AM yoga class can feel more difficult than a class in the evening.
Luckily, stretching can help wake up your body, increase your range of motion, and prevent injuries down the line. Ahead are some easy stretchesto do first thing in the morning from Bethany Lyons, co-founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, and Charlee Atkins, CSCS, founder of Le Stretch, and Master SoulCycle Instructor. They’re short but effective, and can easily fit into your usual morning routine. Over time, you may find that your mornings — and the rest of your day — feel a little less rigid.
Press To The Sky
Stand with your feet hip width apart. Interlace your hands, and press your palms straight up to the ceiling so your upper arm bones frame your face. Squeeze your biceps in by your ears, hugging your skin, muscles, and bones toward your spine. Think about gently pulling your upper arm bones back. Take five deeps breaths seated and standing.
Why it’s great: “I do this seated in bed first with my dog Josie doing her own stretches next to me — and then standing,” Lyons says.
Bring your feet hip width apart, and bend your knees to take some strain off of your hamstrings, which tend to be tight first thing in the morning. Hinge forward from your hip creases to bring your ribs down onto your thighs. You can place your hands to the floor, your feet, on yoga blocks, or grab opposite elbows over your head to add weight to the stretch. Let your head hang. Shift your hips forward, so they are stacked over your ankles, and press firmly down into the four corners of each foot. Aim to straighten your legs, while keeping your ribs on your thighs. Bring your attention to your breath, and make it even and steady. Continue to release tension in the back of your neck.
Why it’s great: “This pose is calming, centreing and gets me grounded and ready to begin whatever is needed in my day,” Lyons says.
You’ve probably done this yoga pose before. Start in a plank, with your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart, and feet hip width apart. Then, shift your hips back and move your torso toward your legs. Your body should be in an upside-down V shape. Ground firmly into your hands, engage your upper back muscles, and think about lifting your upper arm bones toward the ceiling.
Why it’s great: “This is a pose that is strengthening (it engages a lot of muscles groups) and lengthening (the hamstrings get to release),” Lyons says. “All around, it makes me feel vitality in my mind and body.”
Foam Roll Your Shoulders And Back
Atkins says she “goes straight for the foam roller” in the morning and manages a full body massage in 10 minutes. She likes to hit all the “hot spots,” which tend to be her hips, shoulders, and back. To foam roll your shoulders, lie on your back with your hands behind your head, and position your shoulders on the foam roller. Lift your glutes off the floor and gently press into the roller, shifting side to side. Then, move the foam roller to your back (try to avoid direct pressure on your lower back), and place your hands behind you for balance. Shift forward and backward.
Why it’s great: “[The foam roller] allows me to be moderately lazy, because it does the work, I just move on it,” Atkins says. Foam rolling is also very efficient if you’re short on time in the morning, she says.
Foam Roll Your Hips
If you sit at a desk all day (or ride a bike all day, like Atkins), it’s wise to foam roll your hips in the morning. Sit on your foam roller, then place your ankle over the opposite thigh like a figure-4 stretch. Lean into the side of your bent leg and rock back and forth. Some people also like to lie face-down, so the foam roller is under their hip flexors.
Why it’s great: This simple stretch is enough to get Atkins ready to jump on a bike or go for a run, she says. “I know this is true because this is my ritual.”
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