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Starting a morning stretch routine is a simple, gentle way to start your day off right. Most of us know that it’s important to get some form of exercise in the morning. But actually getting out of bed and going on a run or hitting the gym can seem, well… hard.

If you aren’t a morning person, consider this: why not save the gym for later and start your day with some gentle stretches instead? You can even do many of these stretches while you’re still in bed. Ready to start? Here’s a simple 10 minute routine that will get your mind and body ready for the day.

Benefits of Stretching

If you stretch regularly, you may find that you:

  • Support your balance
  • Support good posture
  • Increase your range of motion
  • Increase your flexibility
  • Reduce your risk of muscle and joint injury
  • Ease joint and back discomfort
  • Support blood flow to your muscles1,2,3

There may be even more benefits if you stretch first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. The increased blood flow and movement you get when you stretch may help you feel more energetic, confident, and ready to start your day.4

How To Establish A Stretching Routine

To benefit from a morning stretch routine, you’ve got to actually do it. Here’s what you can do to turn this routine into a consistent habit:

  • Make a plan that includes specific actions.
  • Stay on track by keeping a record of your new habit.
  • Think about the future and why you want to do this.
  • Be patient, and forgive yourself if you “fall off the wagon.”
  • If you falter, start right back up again. The following stretching routine can help.5

A Morning Stretch Routine To Start Your Day Off Right

morning stretch routine | Unify Health1. Neck Stretch

Instructions

  1. Start in a relaxed sitting on standing position. (You can even start this one while you’re still in bed, if you’d like.)
  2. Slowly bring your right ear down to your right shoulder.
  3. Place your right hand on the left side of your head and carefully pull your head down toward your shoulder.
  4. Hold your head here and take five deep breaths.
  5. Repeat this stretch on the other side.
  6. Repeat this on both sides 2-3 times.

Benefits

When you’re doing your morning stretches, this is a great one to start with. It’s a gentle, easy stretch to ease into that targets your neck muscles. This stretch may help release tension that might have built up while you were sleeping.6

2. Standing Forward Fold

forward fold yoga | Unify Health

Instructions

  1. Stand tall, and reach your arms and hands over your head.
  2. Sweep your arms down alongside your body while you fold forward at the hips.
  3. Line your hands up in front of your feet, pressing your palms flat on the ground if you are able.
  4. Bend your knees slightly, to make sure you aren’t locking them.
  5. If you have limited flexibility, bend your knees even more, or place a stack of pillows underneath your hands to rest them on.
  6. Let your head hang down loosely, and relax into the stretch.
  7. To come up, inhale, place your hands on your hips, and slowly rise one vertebrae at a time.

Benefits

This stretch lengthens the hamstrings and calves, which may be tight if you participate in activities like running.7

3. Downward Facing Dog

Instructions

  1. downward dog | Unify HealthStart this exercise on all fours or a plank position.
  2. Push your hands into the ground as you raise your hips, straighten your arms, and shift your heels down toward the ground.
  3. Roll your shoulders down and back, making sure they are pushed away from your ears.
  4. Push into your hands, keep your head down, and look back between your feet.
  5. Pause for at least 5 deep breaths in this position.
  6. If it feels good, bring in some movement by bending one knee at a time. This will gently stretch the back of each leg.

Benefits

This popular yoga pose stretches your arms, shoulders, wrists, core, hamstrings, spine, and calves. Some even say that it can help relieve stress and energize the body. With all of these feel-good benefits, this is a great way to start your day.8

4. Three-Legged Dog

Instructions

  1. three legged dog yoga | Unify HealthStart in a downward facing dog position, making sure you are evenly pressing down into both your right and left hand.
  2. Inhale, lifting your left leg back as high you comfortably can, while keeping your hips level with the floor.
  3. Exhale and let your left leg bend, moving your heel toward your butt, and opening the left side of your body.
  4. Straighten your left leg as you square your hips.
  5. Gently return your left leg to the ground, next to your right leg.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Benefits

Another yoga pose, this stretch targets your side body, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Inverted poses (where your head is below your heart) may help increase circulation to your brain, which may help you concentrate.9,10

5. Cat-Cow Stretch

cow pose | Unify Health

Instructions

  1. To do this popular yoga sequence, start on all fours with a flat back, shoulders over your wrists, and hips directly above your knees.
  2. As you inhale, drop your belly and lift your chin upwards, letting your back arch. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and rolled back. This is Cow position.
  3. As you exhale, round your upper back, press your hands into the ground, and bring your chin to your chest. This is Cat position.
  4. Alternate between these two movements for at least one minute.11

Benefits

Done together, these poses may help increase the circulation of your spinal fluid, which lubricates the spine. These stretches target your back and torso and gently massage the organs in the abdominal area.12

6. Spine Stretch (Puppy Pose)

Instructions

  1. puppy pose | Unify HealthStart this stretch on all fours with your shoulders above your wrists and your hips above your knees.
  2. Walk your hands forward a few inches and curl your toes.
  3. Slowly move your buttocks back toward your heels, keeping your arms active.
  4. Drop your forehead to the floor and relax your neck, keeping a slight curve in your lower back.
  5. To feel a nice stretch in your spine, push your hands down and stretch through your arms while pulling your hips back toward your heels.
  6. Breathing deeply, hold this position for 30 seconds.
  7. Release your buttocks down to your heels.
  8. Reset and repeat the entire movement 2-3 times.

Benefits

This movement stretches your spine and shoulders.13

7. Cobra Pose

Instructions

  1. cobra pose | Unify HealthStart this exercise by lying with your belly on the floor with your hands on the ground slightly in front of your pelvis.
  2. Tuck your elbows in alongside your body.
  3. Gently push up into your hands, lifting into a slight backbend.
  4. Draw your shoulders down away from your face.
  5. Turn your gaze upwards and relax any tension in your face or jaw.
  6. Take five deep breaths in this position and then release.
  7. Repeat this movement 2-3 times.

Benefits

This position lengthens your spine and opens your chest. It may also support your posture – if you find yourself hunching over at your desk, you may want to spend a little extra time on this one.14

8. Butterfly Stretch

butterfly stretch | Unify Health

Instructions

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you.
  2. Reach forward and grab your right foot, bending your knee while you pull your foot toward your groin.
  3. Bend your left knee to bring your left foot toward your groin, so the soles of your feet are touching.
  4. Hold your feet with your hands and rest your elbows on your knees.
  5. Keeping your back straight, allow your knees to fall toward the ground. For a deeper stretch, gently press down on your inner knees with your elbows.
  6. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, release, and repeat three times.

Benefits

This stretch targets the inner thighs, groin, hips, and lower back. It’s also useful for opening the hips, which can become tight after sitting for long periods at a time. If you sit at a desk for work, this is a great one to work into your morning routine.15

9. Knees To Chest Stretch

knee stretch | Unify HealthInstructions

  1. Start by lying on your back.
  2. Bend one knee and use both hands to pull that leg in toward your chest.
  3. Hold that knee against your chest for five seconds, keeping your abs activated and your spine pressed to the floor.
  4. Slowly release your leg and lay it next to the other one.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Repeat this movement on both sides 2-3 times.16

Benefits

This gentle stretch stabilizes your pelvis and lower back and may help to ease lower back pain.17

10. Mountain Pose

mountain pose | Unify HealthInstructions

  1. Start in a standing position with your feet just a few inches apart.
  2. Roll your shoulders back and relax your right and left arm at your sides with your palms facing forward.
  3. Elongate your neck and lift your gaze up.
  4. Practice shifting your weight ever so slightly back and forth, front to back, to strengthen your balance.
  5. Take at least five deep breaths here.

Benefits

This stretch targets muscles in your torso, legs, core, and arms. It’s a simple pose, but it’s a great way to end your morning routine. Here’s why: it’s a power pose. Power poses like this may help boost your confidence and make you feel powerful. And, hey, that’s a great mindset to have as you move into your day.18,19

Make It Your Own

If you’re interested in starting your own morning stretch habit, this may be the perfect routine for you. First, consult your doctor, and then try this one out for a few days and see how you do. If you know that your body holds tension in specific areas, you can always cater this stretching routine to fit your needs. Your body will thank you.

Learn More:
What Happens To Your Body When You Sit All Day? Health Risks Associated With Sitting Too Much
De-Stress And Relax Your Mind: How To De-Stress After Work
Different Types Of Yoga And Their Benefits

Sources
1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/stretching-the-new-mobility-protection
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23676363
4. https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/04/stretching-first-thing-in-the-morning-can-increase-your-energy-l_a_23014841/
5. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/03/creating-healthy-habits
6. https://www.byrdie.com/morning-stretch-routine
7. https://www.verywellfit.com/standing-forward-bend-uttanasana-3567133
8. https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/downward-facing-dog
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
10. https://www.openfit.com/how-to-do-the-three-legged-downward-dog
11. https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Relieve-Back-Pain-Cat-Cow-Stretch-8320711
12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339138/
13. https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/extended-puppy-pose
14. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/yoga-desk-job_n_3707818
15. https://www.verywellfit.com/seated-groin-and-inner-thigh-stretch-3120294
16. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323204#lower-back-rotational-stretches
17. https://www.byrdie.com/morning-stretch-routine
18. https://www.verywellfit.com/mountain-pose-tadasana-3567127
19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6366763/