I'm often asked for a short morning yoga sequence that creates energy but doesn’t require too much of it - something to start the day right.
Here's a gentle, energising sequence that will bring the sun firmly into your heart and a positive attitude to your mind.
It's a variation of the classical yoga sun salutation that's perfect for any season, especially for the summer and hotter days. It creates space in the spine, shoulders, chest and hips, while sneakily building strength in the core, upper body, legs and arms.
Just one or two rounds (both sides) will set you up for the day, feeling physically open, optimistic and ready for whatever it holds.
Breathe naturally during the sequence, without any control or effort. Co-ordinating each of the movements with the breath calms and focuses the mind. This will serve you during the day.
If you prefer, you can also spend a few breaths in each of the poses, and slow down the flow. If you are familiar with ujjayi breathing and would like to use it instead, by all means do (bearing in mind that this will bring some additional heat into the mix).
1. Sit on your heels. Thighs together. Spine long. Focus your attention on your breathing for a moment and see how it feels this morning. Simply observe - shallow, deep? Even, uneven?
2. Inhale as you rise. The breath carries the arms up. Use the strength of your front thighs to initiate the movement and to control your descent back to your starting position (as above) as you exhale.
3. Inhale and rise again. This time lift your chest as you open the arms and gaze upwards. Engage your abdominal muscles to support you here. Feel the heart centre sing as your upper back experiences a tiny backbend. (The heart centre is in the centre of the chest, level with the heart). Exhale to lower.
4. Inhale and take your right leg forwards. Feel stable by pressing down into the earth through your feet. Feel energy from the ground rebound up through your body to the crown of your head and beyond.
5. Either stay here as you exhale, or descend into a lunge: lower the hips with control while engaging your abdominal and inner thigh muscles to support your lower back. Inhale to come up out of the lunge.
6. Exhale as you come onto all fours. Keep your lower abdomen gently engaged for a ‘flat back’ shape. Hips above knees, shoulders above wrists.
7. Inhale as you open your right arm and leg to the side and gaze up towards your right hand. Feel the openness in your chest and hips.
Exhale as you return to all fours.
8. Inhale and tuck your toes under. Exhale and come into inverted V or downward-facing dog pose. Keep the knees bent if that feels better for you (if the backs of your legs feel tight).
Stay here as you inhale. Press down and forwards through the palms, down and back through the feet, energising the arms and legs. Mula bandha, or the root lock (an energetic lift at the centre of the pelvic floor) naturally arises, as the lower abdomen gently engages. Feel length in the spine and the limbs. Let the head hang for freedom in the neck.
9. Exhale and come down into child’s pose. Feel the weight of the head on the ground, calming the mind. (If your head doesn’t reach the floor, place it on two fists, one on top of the other). Stay for a few breaths. This completes the first side and first half of the cycle.
When you are ready for the other side, inhale and rise. This time, take your left leg forward for the lunge and out to the side to complete the first cycle. Take one or two more cycles.
At the end of the sequence sit for a couple of breaths, feel the fresh energy you've created and welcome the day. Have a great one.
Photos: Bellanova photography