As I wrote in this post, my morning routine starts with the 6 movements of the spine…but it doesn’t end there!
What I’m finding is that starting my day with those movements really gets me in touch with my body and gently coaxes me into other movement, such as yoga, dance, pranayama, or meditation. When I’m pressed for time, I stick with the “Big 6”; when I have more flexibility in the mornings (which I usually do, because I wake up early specifically to do these kinds of things), I listen to my body and see what it wants to do next.
Time and time again, I return to the good ol’ seated sun salutation sequence, introduced to me by one of my very first yoga teachers. I love traditional sun salutes as well, but sometimes in the morning my hamstrings and hips just aren’t ready to bend down from a standing position.
Here, you start in dandasana and raise your arms on an inhalation, just as you would in a traditional sun salute.
Next, leading with your heart, fold your upper body over the legs into a simplified paschimottanasana as you exhale. Don’t feel the need to grip your toes or ankles or whatever. Just let the hands fall naturally, without hunching the back. Stay here for 2 or 3 deep breaths.
Inhale, and come up the way you came, arms overhead. Place hands in prayer position and draw them down to heart. Repeat this modified sun salutation 2 more times.
After the third set, proceed as though you are going into a fourth salute, but when you lower down–instead of resting in paschimottanasana–take hold of your right foot, drag it up near your knee, and cross it over the left leg into matsyendrasana. Place your right arm behind you, raise left arm overhead on inhale, and on exhale cross left arm over right knee into a gentle twist.
Take several breaths here, making micro-movements into the twist. Be sure to start the twist from your core and work your up; don’t just crank your head and neck to one side!
After exhaling out of the twist, uncross leg and slide right foot to a spot on the floor between your foot and knee. Place both arms behind you, fingers facing toward body, and, pressing into the floor with both your hands and feet, lift up into a modified upward plank pose, purvottanasana.
Drop you head back slightly if you wish and let your mouth fall open to release any tension. Take a deep inhale, and on exhalation, bend arms and lower yourself back to the ground, extending right foot out to meet the left, both legs straight.
Now, repeat the matsyendrasana/purvottanasana sequence on the other side.
When complete, return to Step 1 and do one last seated sun salute into paschimottanasana.
Do you feel any different in this pose than when you first started? Do you sense slightly more flexibility or more warmth?
I almost always sink just a little deeper at the end of this sequence and feel a little looser in my hamstrings. The focus on inhalations and exhalations calms my mind and primes me for some breathwork.
Stay tuned for a description of the final part of my morning movement–pranayama!