Move. Breathe. Sit.

Start your day right with a gentle practice to wake up body and mind.

Illustrations by Elena Megalos

As the saying goes, when you win the morning, you win the day. Moving your body and focusing your mind just after you wake up can help you feel clear and energized for hours.

We’ve all experienced the feeling of stiffness when we get out of bed, like your joints and muscles clumped together overnight. Last year researchers at the University of Manchester, UK, discovered that inflammation in the joint cells of mice decreases during the dark of night but reactivates during waking daylight hours. Turns out, humans also experience a circadian rhythm in our joints, leading some to speculate that morning stiffness is actually the “reawakening” of the inflammatory response.

Moving your body, especially after hours of inactivity, helps to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and flush fluid that accumulates in the tissues and can make you feel heavy and sluggish.

Furthermore, mindfully tuning in to your body with gentle movement and focused breathing enhances awareness of your physical and emotional states. Sounds like a good way to start the day!

1. Single Knee to Chest

Start by gently stretching your low back and hips. With legs extended along the floor, inhale slowly and pull your right knee in to your chest. Exhale and release. Inhale and pull the left knee in. Repeat this sequence for 3-5 full breaths.

single knee to chest yoga pose

2. Dynamic Bridge

Gentle back-bending helps to relieve compression and stiffness in the spine caused by lying in bed for many hours. Bend your knees with both feet flat on the floor, and extend your arms down by your sides. As you inhale, lift your hips, being careful not to clench your gluteal muscles. Instead, imagine two strings attached to the tips of your hipbones, gently pulling them upward. Exhale and lower back down to the floor. Repeat 3-5 times.

yoga bridge pose

3. Cat/Cow

Roll over and onto all fours for gentle spinal flexion and extension. Place hands beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips, neck, and head in a neutral position. As you inhale, drop your belly toward the floor, lift your chest, and look forward (not up), arching your spine. As you exhale look down and under toward your navel while doming your spine. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.

illustration of cat pose in yoga
cow pose in yoga

4. Dynamic Mountain

Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and your arms hanging loose down by your sides. Inhale, extending your arms forward and up toward the ceiling. Exhale, reaching them out to the sides and then down. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.

dynamic mountain pose

5. Side Sways

Moving your spine side-to-side invigorates your entire body. On an inhalation, again reach your arms forward and up. This time, as you exhale, tilt gently to the right as you stretch your right arm down by your side, your left arm continuing to reach overhead. Inhale and come back to center with both arms overhead. Exhale and tilt to the left, reaching your left arm down by your side and your right arm overhead. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.

person doing side stretch

6. Mindful Mountain

Come back to stillness in your standing Mountain Pose. Tune in to your body. Notice any physical sensations, such as your heart beating, coolness or heat, or tingling or prickling in your feet or hands.

mountain pose illustration

7. Seated Meditation

Take a seat, either on a chair or on the side of your bed. Place your attention on the sensation of breathing. Now, inhale for a count of five, and exhale for a count of five. Continue like this, counting inhales and exhales, then after a few minutes, relax from counting and just rest in your awareness of your breath and your body.

woman seated in chair

Before You Begin

As soon as you open your eyes, tune in to your body and breath. Allow yourself to pause in the delightful transition between dreaming and waking. Gently roll to one side and slowly rise, pausing in each transition to notice how it feels in your body.

After your morning ablutions, come back to your bedroom and find a comfortable spot to lie down.


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About the author

Cara Bradley

Cara Bradley is a seasoned mind-body expert dedicated to advancing mind-body education through movement, mindfulness and the science of human performance. She provides evidence-based mind-body approaches to global wellness brands, Fortune 100 companies and top-ranked sports teams, is the author of "On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine" and the Founder of Verge Yoga and Meditation Center. Cara was voted a "Top 12 Most Powerful Women in the Mindfulness Movement" by