What’s the first thing you do when your alarm goes off in the morning? If you’re like the vast majority of people, it might involve clicking or scrolling. A whopping 79 percent of people reach for their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking, according to a recent survey from firm IDC Research. Simply swapping out that swiping habit for a few minutes of morning stretches might help you start your day with a calmer mind and more energized body.
“Doing some stretches before you even get out of bed is the best way to kick-start your day,” says Aaptiv Trainer Ceasar F. Barajas. For one thing, it can help give your body a little jolt after being still all night. “People often feel a stiffness when they wake up,” he says. “That results from blood pooling in your extremities while you sleep. It’s important to reboot that blood flow.” Plus, your body produces a protein that represses inflammatory pathways while you sleep, leaving your limbs stiff when you wake, according to findings from the University of Manchester in the U.K.
Shallow breathing overnight can also leave you feeling stiff and drowsy in the morning. So holding a few stretches, and taking a few deep breaths while you do, is a great way to get your body reinvigorated. Any poses that get your hips over your heart (like downward dog) are especially good for getting the blood pumping again. “Focus on flows that get your body moving in the opposite direction from how you typically move,” says Tony Vidal, who leads the Tame restorative classes at Beast in New York City. “Going against the grain can give people a revitalized feeling to take into their day.”
You’ll Reap the Benefits Throughout the Day
When you start your day with a few stretches and moves that focus on mobility, you set yourself up for feeling better not just in that moment but throughout the entire day, Vidal says. For instance, if you work at an office, moving your hips first thing will help keep your back relaxed later on. “To combat the aches of sitting at a desk, focus on hip mobilization and move into a hamstring stretch,” he suggests. “This will help with lower back stress.”
But, stretching first thing in the a.m. isn’t just a good idea for the physical boost you’ll feel from it. Making this your morning ritual can also nix anxiety and stress and help you start the day with a clear head, especially if you pay attention to taking deep breaths while you do it. Boost the mindfulness benefits by using the time you stretch as a moment to reflect or focus on something that you’re grateful for, suggests Barajas, or to rhythmically repeat a mantra or powerful phrase to yourself as you inhale and exhale.
So, go ahead, leave your phone on your nightstand a bit longer and make these stretches your go-to when you wake. They only take a few minutes and will get you into the right mindset to take on the day ahead.
Lie faceup on your bed (or on the floor next to it, if you want more stability under your spine). Extend your arms and legs toward the ceiling, circling your wrists and ankles. Continue for at least two to three deep breaths.
While still lying faceup, pull your knees into your chest. Wrap your forearms around your shins and pull your legs in close to your body. Hold for two to three deep breaths.
Roll over so you’re on all fours (on your bed or the floor). Push back, lowering hips to the floor between your knees, while keeping arms extended overhead. Take two or three deep breaths while you hold the pose.
Push back up to all fours. Let your belly sink toward the bed (or floor) as you lift your head and take a deep breath. Then exhale and lower head as you round your back to complete one rep. Do five to ten reps.
Kneel on the floor. Step right foot forward, with your knee bent so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Push your hips forward slightly until you feel a stretch on the front of your left hip. Hold for two to three deep breaths, then repeat on opposite side.
Stand next to your bed. Lift right leg, bend your knee, and rest your shin on the mattress. Keeping torso tall, extend your left leg behind you until you feel a stretch on the front of your left hip. Hold for two to three deep breaths, then repeat on opposite side.
Start on all fours on the floor. Tuck your toes under your feet and straighten your arms and legs, pushing hips toward the ceiling so that your body forms an upside-down V. Hold for several deep breaths, then return to start. Repeat once or twice.
Start your day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated with this quick series of morning stretches that you can perform on or next to your bed.