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Yoga Sequences

Live Purposefully: Intention-Setting Sequences for Morning + Night

These two sequences are designed to empower you to set an intention for your day, and then to let go at the end so you can relax deeply before bedtime.

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At the start of most yoga classes, the teacher asks you to call to mind your intention—someone or something to help inspire your practice. When you do this, it acts like an inner compass, guiding your attention to whatever quality you’d like to embody as you move through your asana. When you don’t set an intention, however, you tend to default to go-to habits and routines, which may take you away from self-awareness.

The following two sequences are designed to empower you to set an intention for your day, and then to let go of the day so you can relax deeply before bedtime. The morning practice gathers your energy for the day ahead, while the evening practice releases mental clutter so you can get a restful night’s sleep. As you flow, remember to focus on the quality of energy you want to bring to the experience. The hope is that this will help make you more conscious of the choice you have in where your attention goes, as well as help you stay connected to that freedom, both on and off the mat.

The Morning Routine

sunrise over lake

When we first wake up, we have a clean slate—a whole day ahead of possibilities. Use this sequence to prep your body and brain to greet the day with mindfulness and intention. Go through the whole sequence once on your right side, and then repeat on your left (where applicable), starting with the second pose.

See also Rina Jakubowicz’s Life Hacks for Morning, Noon and Night

Cat-Cow Pose

cat cow pose

Marjaryasana/Bitilasana

Start in Tabletop: on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. On the inhale, arch your spine so that your belly releases to the floor as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. On the exhale, reverse the move by rounding your back toward the ceiling as you press the floor away. Start this wavelike movement from your navel to establish a place of inner connection deep within yourself. During your day, make a point of reconnecting to this inner compass. Repeat the flow 6 times, or more if you’d like.

See also A Morning Meditation with Deepak Chopra

Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose, with twist

Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose, with twist

Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana

On an exhale, push back from hands and knees into Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Use the next inhale to lift your right leg into the air, and then bend your knee while twisting your torso to the right. Lengthen fully from your hands through the lifted knee. Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths; as you hold this pose, imagine that every part of you is saying an unwavering “Yes!” to the experience. Notice what a full-body “Yes!” feels like so you can practice it during your day as well.

See alsoA Morning Meditation to Start Your Day Mindfully

Crescent Lunge, with Eagle arms

Crescent Lunge, with Eagle Pose arms

Alanasana, with Garudasana arms

Straighten your lifted leg and step it through to your hands; press up to Crescent Lunge, with the front knee aligning over the front ankle. Bending the arms at the elbows, cross your right elbow beneath the left, resting it in the crook of the left arm. See if you can adjust your forearms to link your hands as well. Once your arms are linked, gently float the elbows up and arch into a slight backbend as you lift through the sternum. Hold for 3 to 4 breaths.

See alsoTwo Fit Moms’ Good Morning Flow

Warrior Pose II

Warrior Pose II

Virabhadrasana II

From Crescent Lunge, drop the back heel, with the foot parallel to the back edge of the mat or turned in slightly. Raise your arms to shoulder height and keep the front knee directly over the ankle. Keep your gaze and body relaxed, even as the pose becomes more challenging. This is great practice for cultivating calm even as you focus intensely on a specific goal. Breathe deeply for 3 to 5 breaths.

See alsoCalm Energy Morning Makeover

Reverse Warrior Pose

Reverse Warrior Pose

Viparita Virabhadrasana

On your next exhale, drop the back hand to the back thigh. As you slide the hand gently down the thigh (without gripping), lift actively through the top arm. (Optional: Tilt the head slightly and gaze toward the top hand.) Maintain the 90-degree bend in your front leg. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.

See alsoMake-It-a-Good-Morning Yoga

Standing Forward Bend, with shoulder stretch

Standing Forward Bend, with shoulder stretch

Uttanasana

On an exhale, step the back foot to meet the front while folding at the hips. Interlace the fingers behind the low back; roll the heads of your shoulders back to squeeze the tips of your shoulder blades together. If possible, let the interlaced hands pull away from your back, increasing the stretch across your front chest. Keep a slight bend in the knees, and lengthen through the spine to create a clear line of energy from seat to crown. Literally and metaphorically take your gaze to the heart, tuning out the outside world to reconnect to your intention. Today, what quality within you would you like to embody? Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.

See alsoKathryn Budig’s Yoga Superhero for Smooth Digestion

Upward Salute

Upward Salute

Urdhva Hastasana

On an inhalation, come to standing with arms fully extended overhead, palms facing each other. Root down through the feet as you lift through the sternum and each side body to slightly arch the spine into a gentle backbend. Can you feel the rebound of energy move back up your legs as you press down into the floor? Notice how even in this full-body reach you’re still deeply supported by the earth under your feet. Take this feeling of support with you throughout your day. Breathe deeply for 3 to 5 breaths, or until the stretch feels complete.

See also17 Poses To Keep You Young In Body + Mind

Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose

Tadasana

On your next exhale, bring your hands together at heart center. Relax your eyes and jaw. Lift gently through the sternum while simultaneously anchoring down through your tailbone. Nestle your shoulder blades on the upper back and keep your chin parallel to the floor. Feel the energy flow freely from head to toe as you hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths.

See also17 Poses for Finding Fulfillment

The Evening Routine

At the end of your day, yoga is a great way to release your grasp on your agendas and open yourself to receive rest, nourishment, and restoration. These poses wind down the body physically and energetically, so you can truly practice the art of being.

See also6 Ayurvedic Nighttime Rituals for Better Sleep

Extended Puppy Pose, with shoulder stretch

Extended Puppy Pose, with shoulder stretch

Uttana Shishosana

Start in Tabletop. Place your forearms on the mat with the palms flipped up toward the ceiling. Keeping your arms firmly planted, begin to walk your knees back until your arms are fully outstretched. Rest your forehead on the mat as you isometrically drag back on the forearms and keep the seat high. Let the day metaphorically slide off your back in this pose. Hold for 5 to 10 deep, slow breaths, or for as long as you’d like.

See alsoWill a Vigorous Evening Vinyasa Class Disrupt Sleep?

Thread-the-Needle Pose

Thread-the-Needle Pose

Parsva Balasana

Return to Tabletop and find a neutral spine. On an inhale, lift the right arm high to the sky, opening the torso to the side while keeping your hips pointed down toward the mat. On the exhale, thread the right arm under the body, twisting the torso until the right shoulder and right side of your face touch the mat. Relax into the twist for 5 to 10 deep breaths, pressing down into the left hand to increase the intensity as you see fit. Repeat on the other side.

See alsoTwo Fit Moms: 3 Breathing Exercises for Stillness and Peace

Wind-Relieving Pose

Wind-Relieving Pose

Pavanamuktasana

Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your arms at your sides. On an exhale, draw the right knee into the chest, holding the leg close to your body with your hands wrapped around the knee or shin. Lift your head off the floor, bringing it as close to your right knee as you can. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 breaths while breathing into the back body. When ready, release the right leg and repeat on the other side.

Practice tip Imagine yourself melting into the floor in this pose. Now that the day is over, what do you need to let go of to restore a grounded sense of energy to your body and mind?

See alsoElena Brower’s 10-Minute Yoga Nidra to Alleviate Stress

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, variation

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, variation

Supta Padangusthasana

Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your arms at your sides. On an exhale, draw the right knee into the chest, holding the leg close to your body with your hands wrapped around the knee or shin. Lift your head off the floor, bringing it as close to your right knee as you can. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 breaths while breathing into the back body. When ready, release the right leg and repeat on the other side.

Practice tip Imagine yourself melting into the floor in this pose. Now that the day is over, what do you need to let go of to restore a grounded sense of energy to your body and mind?

See alsoHappiness Toolkit: Why an Eye Pillow Is Your Stress Rx

Supine Twist

Supine Twist

Supta Matsyendrasana

From your back, exhale and draw the right knee into your chest; extend your right arm onto the floor at shoulder height while gently guiding the right knee across your body until your torso twists, keeping your shoulder blades pressing toward the floor. You might turn the gaze toward the right hand as you hold the pose for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Close your eyes, and turn your attention to the rhythmic flow of your breath; no matter how many different thoughts arise, keep returning to your breath. Use this to quiet the mind in preparation for a restful night of sleep. When you feel ready, complete the pose on the opposite side.

See also 4-Step Bedtime Restorative Practice for Better Sleep

Easy Pose, with meditation

Easy Pose, with meditation

Sukhasana

Come to a cross-legged seat on the front edge of a thickly folded blanket. Pull back your buttock flesh until it feels like you’re grounded through both sitting bones. Rest your palms gently on your knees or thighs. Close your eyes and bring your full attention to the breath. With each inhale, imagine that you’re calling back any of your power you may have unknowingly given away to others during the day. With each exhale, imagine that you’re breathing out whatever energies or attitudes no longer serve you. Stay with this meditation until you feel an inner sense of balance emerge.

See alsoMom-asana: Slowing Down for Better Sleep

About Our Pro

Reverse Warrior Pose

Teacher and model Amy Lombardo is a yoga instructor and life coach in Los Angeles who trained extensively in Anusara Yoga. She has also received significant training in the vinyasa, hatha, and Yin styles of yoga, as well as in tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Lombardo is also the co-founder and co-director of Karma Krew, a yoga-based nonprofit that sustains a nationwide grassroots network of socially conscious yoga studios and practitioners. For more information, visit amylombardo.com.