We all have those mornings… you know, the ones where your eyelids feel glued shut, your body is heavy and sluggish, and the very thought of peeling back the covers tempts you to smash your alarm across the room the next time it jars you from your snugly slumber.
Lately, I’ve been unusually tired and having one two many of these mornings. Having just moved, I’m adjusting to a new commute that requires me to pry my butt out of bed an hour and a half earlier than I’m used to. So, I’ve taken to incorporating a few yoga techniques to ease the waking process and get myself up and at ’em with some pizzazz, rather than the typical feet-dragging, zombie-walk to the bathroom!
Set Yourself Up for a Peppy Wake-up
If you know you have to get up early, or even if you’re just not a morning person, there a few little things you can do at bedtime that will knock a few snoozes off your typical morning routine.
Eat light, not late
It’s wise to pack your heavier, protein and carb-dense meals into breakfast and lunch. Make dinner primarily veggies with a modest portion of whole grains and light, lean protein (like beans or fish). It’s also an excellent idea to avoid eating at least 4 hours before bedtime. Sugar, alcohol and caffeine are also evening enemies, making it difficult to fall asleep and even moreso to sleep well. If you know you need to be functioning at full throttle early in the AM, following these dietary tips will prevent your body from struggling to digest when it should be getting some rest!
Set your alarm earlier
Be honest with yourself — how many times do you normally hit the snooze button? Do the math, and set your alarm that many minutes earlier than you actually need to be out of bed. Utilize your snooze time to wake slowly and still get moving at a time that works best for your schedule.
Sleep in your yoga clothes
If you’re planning to start your day with a yoga practice (Yes, yes, yes! Do it!), swap your PJ’s for yoga pants! You’ll have no excuses in the morning, and yoga clothes are way cozier, anyway! While you’re at it, roll out the mat and set up your props, too. If you practice to a DVD or video, cue everything up so you can just press ‘play’.
Breathe yourself to sleep
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, skip the counting sheep and instead count the length of your breath, increasing the duration of your exhale so that it’s longer than the inhale. Let the breath be soft — not forced — and scan your body from toes to nose, inviting your breath to relax every muscle inbetween. If you’re still too energized, try the tense and release technique: squeeze and tense every muscle in your body, holding your breath, clenching your fists and drawing into your core for 3-5 seconds, or until you feel fatigued. Then release, and relax into your bed. Repeat 2-3 times until you feel your whole body grow lighter.
Yoga Yourself Awake
When the dreadful alarm clock rings and you just can’t bear to move, hit snooze if you must… but then try this simple routine to get the blood and oxygen flowing so that waking comes naturally.
Fill up to wake up
The easiest way to begin waking the body doesn’t even require you to move! Stay right where you are, but begin breathing deeply. Just as if you’re waking from savasana, fill your chest to the brim, imagining that you’re flooding each and every cell with clean, energizing oxygen. Keep your eyes closed, and as you begin to feel more alert, roll onto your back and place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Feel your breath and feel the weight of sleep begin to shed like you’re slipping out of a heavy sleeping bag.
Stretch long and wide
When you feel ready, reach your arms overhead and take another big breath, then an even bigger one as you stretch all the way from the tips of your toes to as far as you can reach behind you. Stay here for a few breaths, letting your muscles grow longer. If you have room in your bed (and won’t kick anyone sleeping next to you…!), spread your legs and arms apart wide and stretch out like a star shining in all directions.
Give yourself a morning hug
Still moving slowly and breathing deeply, step your feet behind your hips, then hug one knee, then the other, into your chest. Wrap your arms around your shins and say “Good Morning!” to your lower back. If it feels nice, rock around gently — side to side, back and forth.
Twist into a new day
Next, take your left hand to your right knee, hug your right arm around your pillow, and drop your knees to the left for a gentle spinal twist. Let your gaze fall to the right and sink your hips into your mattress. Take 5 long, deep breaths before lifting your knees on an inhale and exhaling to the opposite side. Careful not to knee your partner, if you have one!
Sit up, Sunshine
By now, your alarm may have gone off again. Time to actually start moving out of bed. But, not so fast! Roll onto your right side and help yourself up as you would after a deep, rejuvenating savasana. Then turn yourself to the edge of your bed and let your feet hang off the side. Sit up straight and reach your heels forward, circling your ankles and stretching out your hammies. Delish!
Juicy side stretch
Let your feet come down, then beginning with your right arm, plant the left palm on your bed as you reach your right arm up and overhead for three longs breaths (see photo at the top of the page). Switch to your left, and if you have time, repeat once more on each side.
Stand tall: Ready for the day
Finally, plant your feet and on one giant inhale, stand up into tadasana (mountain pose). Feel your feet on the ground below you. Feel the expansiveness in your lunges and chest. Know that now, you’re ready for anything. Take the first step into your day with confidence and ease.