One New Year’s resolution I’m personally making is to get the most out of my mornings. Nothing too hardcore (no 5am runs for me)–I’ve learned from experience to set doable goals I know I can keep. This year, I simply want to commit to one simple thing: a series of gentle morning stretches to start my day off right.
Instead of rolling out of bed and straight to the Nespresso machine, I want to do something kind for my body (which I hope, in turn, will help my body be kind to me). Plus, research has shown that a morning stretching routine can help promote circulation, wake up the muscles, counteract the effects of working at a computer, and even lead to higher confidence.
All of that sounds pretty lovely to me, so I researched some invigorating morning stretches I can do the moment I wake up. I culled the following expert-recommended moves for both their simplicity (no equipment needed) and their focus on releasing neck and back tension—if you also spend your day at a computer, I’m sure you can relate—to craft a routine I can commit to.
Your personal lineup might look a little different depending on your concerns, but any amount of morning stretching is a mindful, restorative way to ease into a new day.
*image above by Riley Blanks Reed
Targets: Stretching the back while relieving lower back pain.
You could certainly take to the floor for this one, but one of the most comforting stretches can also be done lying in bed. “Some consider this to be one of the most therapeutic stretches around because of its gentle way to stabilize the pelvis and low back,” certified yoga therapist Jasmine Rausch tells Byrdie. “Drawing the knees into the chest encourages blood flow to the vital organs, reduces bloating, and stimulates digestion.”
- While on your back, gentle pull your knees into your chest for at least 15 seconds.
- Repeat two or three times.
Targets: Hips and stretches hip flexors.
For a stretching routine designed to counteract working at a computer all day, the glute bridge is a must. Once again, you could totally do this one from bed.
- Lay on your back with your hands at your side, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
- Squeezing your glutes and abs, push through your heels to lift your hips to form a straight line with your shoulders and knees.
- After a quick pause, lower and lift—repeating for 30 seconds.
Targets: The spine, hips, neck, and core.
Arguably the most feel-good stretch of all, this animal-inspired movement beautifully stretches your back, neck, chest, and core in one fell swoop, all while strengthening your spine and relieving neck tension.
- Assume an all-fours position with your shoulders over wrists and hips over knees.
- With a neutral spine, inhale slowly.
- As you exhale, draw your chin to your chest and your navel to your spine as you round your back
- As you inhale, arch your back as you look skyward.
- Repeat this pattern for 30 seconds.
Gentle Neck Stretch
Targets: Muscles on the back and side of your neck.
Despite my best efforts to sleep in a supine position (reportedly the best for avoiding wrinkles), I always wake up slightly askew and on my side. Instead of fighting a losing battle in bed, I make a point to realign my neck each morning with this gentle but powerful movement. “This stretch helps alleviate pain in a very common area,” Jeff Brannigan, program director at New York City’s Stretch*d, tells Well+Good. “It also resets and realigns the neck, as the sternocleidomastoid will help to pull the head forward when it is very tight.”
- Bring your right ear down to your right shoulder, using your hand to gentle pull the left side of your head.
- Hold for 15 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Standing Forward Bend / Mountain Pose
Targets: Hip muscles, hamstrings, and lower back.
As the name suggests, this one you do actually have to stand up for, but it’s such a gorgeous, calming release for your back. End the movement with Mountain Pose for a confidence-boosting start to your day.
- From a standing position with feet slightly apart, inhale deeply.
- As you exhale, hinge your body slowly at your hips, keeping your torso straight all the way down.
- Stay folded for five deep breaths, gently swaying back and forth and nodding your head.
- Slowly roll up one vertebra at a time and assume the Mountain Pose position: roll your shoulder blades down, open your palms forward, and extend your neck.
- Take five deep breaths then take on your day.