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In the context of an entire day, 20 minutes can seem pretty inconsequential. But consider how even slowing down your breath for a few moments can ease your tension—both in your body and your mind—and help you experience life from a less reactionary place. Imagine that effect multiplied.
This is what happens when you find just 20 minutes to practice yoga in the morning before life and work start to overwhelm your day and cause you to put it off until tomorrow…and tomorrow…and tomorrow. Some yoga is always preferable to no yoga.
A 20-minute morning yoga sequence to jump-start your day
Come onto your hands and knees and stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. As you exhale, press down through your palms, round your back, and tuck your chin in Cat.
As you inhale, slowly arch your back and lift your chest into Cow. Begin to move your spine in a rhythmic motion, moving with your breath for as long as you need.
Table Top to Superman
From all fours, lift your belly in toward your spine. Pause here. When you’re ready, extend your right leg straight behind you and reach your left arm alongside your ear. Bend your right leg and reach behind with your left hand to grab your foot. Press your foot away from you as you lift your chest and come into a slight backbend. Breathe here. Slowly lower to the mat and repeat on the other side.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose to Knee-to-Nose
From Tabletop, inhale as you tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back. Pause here and breathe. Downward-Facing Dog Pose, inhale as you lift your right leg up high behind you, and then exhale as you round your spine as you draw knee to chest. Keep your pelvis low and round your upper spine toward the sky. Hug your right thigh to your chest and knee to your nose. Keep pressing the floor with your hands. Return to Downward Dog and then repeat with the left leg.
From Down Dog, shift your weight slightly forward so your shoulders are almost stacked above your wrists. Roll your heels to the right. Shift your weight into your right hand and the outer edge of your right foot. Turn your gaze down as you stack your left foot on top of your right (or you can keep the inner edge of your left foot on the mat). Fire up your thigh muscles and press your feet and right hand down as you lift your hips. Bring your right hand to your hip or extend it toward the ceiling. If you feel steady, slowly turn your gaze up to the ceiling. Breathe. Either return to Downward-Facing Dog or proceed to Wild Thing.
From Side Plank, slowly step your right foot behind you. Keep your left foot grounded onto the mat and your left leg straight. Lift your hips and chest toward the ceiling and reach your right arm alongside your ear. Press down through every part of you that touches the mat to lift the rest of your body into a slight backbend. Let your head gently hand. Breathe. Return to Downward Dog. If you need, take Child’s Pose for several breaths before returning to Down Dog. Repeat Side Plank and Wild Thing on the other side.
From Downward Dog, shift your shoulders forward over your wrists. Keep your legs and core engaged and press your hands and feet into the mat. Press your heels toward the wall behind and reach through the top of your head toward the wall in front of you. Breathe.
From Plank, bend your elbows and slowly lower halfway to the mat, keeping your elbows drawing in toward your sides. Press your hands into the floor, push back through your heels, and engage your core. You can modify the pose by lowering your knees to the mat.
From Chaturanga, press your hands and the tops of your feet down as you lift your chest. Keep your thighs lifted off the mat. Draw your upper arm bones toward your back to open your heart. Keep your neck long as you gaze forward.
From Up Dog, roll over the tops of your feet, press into your hands, and lift your hips up and back into Down Dog. Spread your fingers wide, lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling, and draw your belly and low ribs toward your spine.
From Down Dog, step your left foot between your hands. Press through your lifted back heel and release your pelvis toward the mat to stretch your back hip flexor. Lift the sides of your waist out of your hips. Bring your arms alongside your ears and gaze straight ahead. Breathe.
If you’d like to twist in High Lunge, bring your hands to prayer at your chest and twist your chest to the left. Press your right upper arm into the outside of your outer left thigh. Press your palms together and draw your shoulder blades away from your ears. Turn your gaze upward or keep looking straight ahead.
From High Lunge or High Lunge with a twist, exhale and bring your hands back to the mat. Step back to Plank and make your way to Down Dog, either by drawing your hips up and back or going through Chaturanga and Up Dog. Repeat on the other side.
To complete your practice, repeat the poses after Wild Thing for up to 5 rounds.
This article has been updated. Originally published January 7, 2015.