Whether you’re a winter person or not, it’s hard to imagine your body being super-mobile and flexible the moment you get out of bed. The cold weather causes muscles and joints to get stiff and tense, making all those usual morning routines slower and harder to do. Here are 5 powerful yoga poses to warm up your body and get you ready for the day ahead!
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
This powerful yoga pose really opens up and stretches out the hips, while, at the same time, toning and warming up your legs. It requires a lot of quadricep and core activation, as it challenges your balance. It works on strengthening those important muscle groups that keep you from tipping over.
Trikonasana is best (and usually) entered from a Warrior II pose, after which you straighten your front leg and use your inhale to lean forward. Stretch your torso as far as you can go without moving your feet.
Exhale and place your right hand below your front knee. Grab your ankle, or you can even hook your big toe with your fingers if your flexibility allows it. Inhale and stretch your back hand upward, as if you’re reaching for the ceiling.
Keep lifting through your spine the entire time you’re in the pose to avoid collapsing on your lower leg and into your hip crease. Keep your legs strong and active and feel the stretch in your upper hip and side body. Try to go deeper and open your ribs toward the ceiling.
Send your tailbone toward the wall behind you and really dig your back heel into the ground so you feel your entire spine elongate. Hold the pose for three to five long breath cycles. On your last exhale, look downward toward your lower hand. Bend your front knee, and then inhale using your core to pull yourself back up to Warrior II.
Repeat on the other side.
Ashta Chandrasana (High Lunge)
Ashta Chandrasana is an amazing yoga pose for strengthening the legs and core, especially with the added front heel lift. It makes your heart rate go up and your front calf burn like crazy.
Starting from a low, runner’s lunge, with your back leg already straight, tight, and high on the ball of your foot, push your front foot into the ground (your heel is still on the floor at this point). Inhale, lifting your torso all the way up. Exhale by tucking in your pelvis and settling your hips between your legs.
With every inhale, work on an even stronger back-quadricep activation by not bending the back knee. With every exhale, try to sit lower into your front leg, until you reach a 90-degree angle. Send your shoulders away from your ears and relax your face, allowing yourself to breathe deeply.
Keep your core activated for three to five long breath cycles. For an added challenge, lift your front heel to put more pressure on your front calf. Stay there for a few breath cycles, and then drop your heel. Exit by lowering your torso and putting your hands on the floor in a runner’s lunge.
Repeat on the other side.
Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
This twisty balance pose warms up and strengthens the legs, knees, and ankles. It also stretches out the upper back and shoulders, activates the abs and hip flexors, and improves overall balance. It’s one of the best poses to start your day with, as it challenges all of your muscle groups at the same time.
Start in a standing position, with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Inhale and lift your arms over your head. Exhale and swing your arms down, bending the elbows and twisting them in front of your face, your right arm swooping under your left.
Clasp your palms together and try to align your fingers. Inhale, and then exhale and push your interlaced arms away from your body. This stretches your shoulders and the space between your shoulder blades. When you feel good and stable, bend your knees and lift your right leg to cross it over the left, with your toes pointing toward the floor.
You can stay here and breathe to work on leveling out your hips and bringing your knees in line with your elbows. If you want, you can go a bit deeper and try to wrap the top of your right foot around your lower-left calf. Sit lower, activating your core, and pull your belly button upward toward your spine.
Find a focus point on your clasped palms or somewhere in front of you and feel your body working hard to maintain balance. Stay there for three to five breaths, and then slowly untangle.
Come back to standing, and then repeat on the other side.
Ado Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
An absolute staple in yoga, downward-facing dog is a pose that stretches the spine and hips, and warms up the legs and joints. It brings your heart over your head, which improves blood flow and stimulates the lymphatic system.
Start in child’s pose and stretch your arms far out in front of you. Feel your fingers grip the mat and press firmly into the floor. Tuck your toes and lift your hips, stretching your legs. You’ll feel your weight shifting slightly to your hands. Rather than leaning onto them, push yourself away from the floor, to elongate and stretch your spine.
Keep sending your hips up and back. Activate your abs by pulling your belly button upward toward your spine. You can also bend one knee, and then the other to do what yoga teachers call “walking your dog.” It really warms up those muscles and joints.
You can also move your hips left and right to feel the sides of your body extend and stretch. Use your inhales and exhales to push you deeper into your poses. When you’re ready to remain still in the pose, bring your hips to the center and work on bringing your heels closer to the floor.
Every time you come back to your downward dog, you’ll be able to stretch a little farther, push a little stronger, and get a little deeper. Use your breath to guide you through it and develop that mind-to-muscle connection to really feel those muscles working.
You can stay in this pose as long as you want, but three to five breaths is what we recommend.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
The bridge is a noninvasive yoga pose that easily warms up the legs and glutes, while stretching the back and abdomen. You also use your arms and legs to push deeper into the pose and create that famous chest lift.
Start in a lying position. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart, as close to your sit bones as possible. Firmly press your feet into the ground. Pay attention to your knees—don’t allow them to open up or cave inward.
Stretch your arms on the mat beside you, palms facing downward. On your next inhale, lift your hips toward the ceiling while digging your feet and palms into the floor. Try to relax your glutes as much as possible to avoid compressing your lower back; let your thighs do the work instead.
You can also bring your hands below your pelvis and interlace your fingers, if you want. This will shift your shoulders under your body and help you extend through your arms to help you stay lifted. Push your hands into the mat and feel the lift in your chest, as you bring it closer to your chin (not vice versa).
Relax your neck and try to abstain from turning it to the side—we don’t need any pinched nerves! Instead, work on elongating your spine as much as possible. You can stay here and use your breath to go deeper and lift higher with every inhale. Or, you can place your hands underneath your sacrum to support it and let it rest on your palms.
After three to five breath cycles, slowly remove your hands from under your body and gently bring your pelvis back to the floor. Hug your knees into your chest for counterpose, and then sway from left to right to massage your spine muscles and release any tension.
Yoga can be a wonderful tool to wake and warm up your body. It’s both gentle and powerful, making it the perfect form of exercise for cold winter mornings. Try these poses and see for yourself!