Yoga Sequences

Top Yoga Teachers Share Their 7 Favorite Morning Stretches

These just might be the easiest way to tee yourself up for a better day.

Mornings can be rough—even if you’re a “morning person” and even when you get a solid eight hours of shut-eye. After all, most of us have to set an alarm and blast through a morning routine rather than wake up to our own body clock and relax under the covers.

Yet taking just five minutes to stretch before you make the coffee, jump in the shower, or do whatever else it is you do in record time every morning can pay off big-time. Starting each day with intention, movement, and a few deep breaths can be a game changer.

See also YJ Tried It: 30 Days of Guided Sleep Meditation

Need a little inspo? We asked some of our favorite yoga teachers to share their favorite morning stretches. Here’s what they say leads to more productive and happy-making days.

Rina Jakubowicz, founder of Rina Yoga

Rina, morning stretch

Morning Stretch: Reclined Spinal Twist

Get close to the left edge of the bed. Bring your right knee into your chest and cross your right knee over to the left side of the bed. Turn your head to the right and take five deep breaths in the twist. Then, repeat on the other side. Next, scoot yourself to the right side of the bed. Bring your left knee in and cross it over to the right side and off the edge of the bed. Turn your head to the left. Hold the twist for 5 deep breaths.

Why she loves this morning stretch:

“Whether you slept like a baby or spent the night tossing and turning, a deep twist early in the morning releases any tightness built up in the body throughout the night. What’s more, letting your knee hang off the bed makes for a deeper stretch, which lets the body know, ‘We are getting up soon—let’s find the skip in your step.’ For me, this pose sets the tone to make sure I remember to be flexible, as well as centered physically and mentally throughout the day.” 

See also Q&A with Bilingual Yoga Teacher Rina Jakubowicz

Kino MacGregor, founder of Omstars

Downward dog, kino, morning stretch

Morning Stretch: Sun Salutations

MacGregor begins every day with her yoga and meditation practice, and her yoga practice begins with Sun Salutations. She says this series of movements is the perfect combination of strength and flexibility, warming up the body physically and stimulating the light of awareness.

Start off in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). On an inhalation, raise your arms above your head, with your palms together and gaze at your thumbs. On an exhalation, fold forward and place your hands by your feet. On an inhalation, lift your chest and gaze slightly forward. On an exhalation, step or jump back to Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana). On an inhalation, open your heart to Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). On the exhalation, lift your hips up and back to Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Stay here for five breaths. On an inhalation, step or jump your feet forward between your hands. On an exhalation, lift half way to Upward-Facing Dog. On an inhalation, stand up and lift your hands above your head, palms together, gaze at your thumbs. Return to Tadasana, also known as Samasthiti.

Why she loves this morning stretch:

“Sun Salutations are an easily accessible foundation of all the basic poses of the yoga practice. The best part is that they can be modified to fit any body. Whether you feel stiff or flexible, weak or strong, Sun Salutations can be a part of your practice. Plus, in just five minutes, you can move quite deeply into the body, getting you in touch with your body right away.”

See also Yogi Assignment: 5 Ways to Put the Niyamas Into Practice Right Now

Eoin Finn, founder of Blissology Yoga

Eoin Finn, morning stretch

Morning Stretch: Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

Finn says this pose combines his asana, meditation, and pranayama practice into one delicious pakage.

Start in seated position, with your right leg crossed over your left. Activate your feet so that they’re not floppy, but rather rooting down. This action in the feet stabilizes the knee and ankle joints so that you can safely stretch your hip muscles. Spend about five minutes in this pose and then repeat on the other side.

If your body shifts and loosens up after a few minutes, go deeper by actively pressing your top knee across your mid line with your left hand or elbow, and lean forward to bring your hips more into flexion. Dynamically pull your right sitting bone backward to enhance the hip opening. Continue to breathe long and deep.

Why he loves this morning stretch:

“I like to start my mornings early—think 5 a.m. under the stars outside my villa in Bali—tuning in to the Muslim call to prayer. I take long, mindful inhalations, feeling the hip area expand like when I blow up a balloon. When I breathe out, it is like deflating tire pressure around the hip—the issues leave my tissues. Gomukhasana also removes all tightness from my hips and lower back. When you open these places, the body is able to body flow better through space and consequently, the mind is more in flow with life.”

See also Yoga for Back Health: Got Tight Hip Flexors? 3 Poses for Instant Relief

Mary Beth LaRue, co-founder of Rock Your Bliss

Mary Beth LaRue, morning stretch

Morning Stretch: Seated twists and shoulder stretching

Start in a comfortable seat and meditate on the breath for 11 minutes. Then, on an inhalation, reach your arms overhead and side bend over to the right, placing your right hand on the floor and your left hand overhead. Lift your heart toward the sky on the exhalation. Stay for a couple breaths and repeat on the other side.

Why she loves this morning stretch:

“I always do seated twists and some shoulder stretching after my morning meditation. My meditation is what grounds me and sets the tone for my day, and a little movement moves me into a space of embodiment and ease.” 

See also 3 Things I Learned After Taking a Break from My Yoga Practice

Sage Rountree, author of EVERYDAY YOGA and LIFELONG YOGA

Sage Rountree, morning stretch

Morning Stretch: Supine Bharadvajasana

Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees. Relax your arms overhead and drop your knees to the right. For a deeper stretch, cross your left ankle over your right knee and rest for a few breaths. Then, repeat on the other side.

Why she loves this morning stretch:

“I love to rest in bed for a few minutes after waking up. Added bonus: This gives my husband time to get the coffee brewing! Since I sleep on my side with my knees bent, this twist stretches the front of my hips, which have been flexed all night.”

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Larissa Hall Carlson, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist and Practitioner

Larissa Carlson, morning stretch

Morning Stretch: Sleeping Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)

Lie down on the bed facing up. Gently bend and fold one leg at a time, with your feet as close to your hips as possible. Snuggle your ankles against your outer hips, interlace your fingers, and stretch your arms overhead. Tuck your chin in toward your chest to lengthen the back of your neck. Close your eyes, relax your jaw, and breathe deeply and slowly.

Why she loves this stretch:

“Savoring the precious transition from sleeping to waking is magical in Sleeping Hero’s Pose. I love the balance of opening my heart and lungs, freeing my belly, and loosening my quads after sleep. Another benefit is that it reduces morning puffiness, increases alertness, and stimulates healthy digestion and elimination. I like to tap into the grounded energy of the hero while setting an open-hearted intention for the day.”

See also Larissa Hall Carlson Says the Future of Yoga Is in Shifting the Sankalpa from Self to Community

Kia Miller, creator of Radiant Body Yoga

Kia Miller, Downward Dog, morning stretch

Morning Stretch: Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Why she loves this stretch:

“I begin every practice here,” Miller says. “If I am tired or sluggish, it helps to energize me. If my mind is racing, it helps to calm it. On a physical level, it warms my shoulders, brings energy into my upper body, and stretches my hamstrings and lower back.”

See also Kia Miller’s Green Goddess Soup

About the Author
Bridget “Bee” Creel is the editorial producer for Yoga Journal. She works as a yoga teacher in NYC and is the co-founder of the wellness community, Mood Room