Instead of making a beeline for the coffeemaker when your alarm goes off, why not pause for some gentle morning stretches?
Morning stretches are “the perfect way to jump-start your day and leave you feeling more energized,” says Leada Malek, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a board-certified sports specialist based in San Francisco, CA.
Plus, after lying in bed for hours, your muscles and tendons get stuck in a shortened position, and your joints don’t get any lubrication, says Lauren Loberg, D.P.T., a physical therapist at TRIA Orthopedic Center in Bloomington, MN.
This is why you may feel stiff when you wake up.
And depending on your sleeping position, certain spots may feel especially tight first thing in the morning.
“Stretching — and particularly dynamic stretching — first thing in the morning is a great way to introduce some movement and blood flow to your joints and muscles,” Malek says.
This helps to ease that stiffness and improve the quality of your movement for the day ahead.
Here are five of the best morning stretches to do when you wake up.
1. Supine Lumbar Rotations
This is a great, gentle move for your morning stretch routine. It warms and opens up the hips and spine, and you can do it right in bed, Loberg says.
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, arms in a “T.”
- Keeping your upper body and hips in contact with the floor (or bed), start by rocking your knees gently back and forth.
- When you’re ready, slowly drop both knees to one side and hold there for 20 to 30 seconds.
- With control, raise your knees back to the starting position. Then, drop your knees to the other side. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Introduce some active mobility throughout the entire neck and spine with this morning yoga stretch.
“Motion really is lotion, especially for the spine,” Malek says.
- Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Make sure your back is flat and keep your gaze toward the floor. Take a deep inhale.
- As you exhale, move into cat pose: Round your back, tuck your tailbone, and bring your chin toward your chest.
- Take a deep inhale and move into cow pose: Lift your tailbone and chest toward the ceiling. Allow your belly to drop toward the floor. Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
- Alternate between cat and cow for 10 breaths.
3. Downward Dog
This classic yoga pose is one of the best morning stretches because it helps loosen tight hamstrings and ankles, Loberg says. It’s also a great way to get your blood moving first thing in the morning.
- Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Spread your fingers wide and curl your toes under.
- Take a deep breath. On the exhale, push your hips toward the ceiling.
- Straighten your arms, but keep your elbows soft and rotate them inward.
- Press your heels towards the floor, keeping a soft bend in your knees. Hold for 30 seconds.
4. Floor Angels
This mobility move activates and opens up the postural muscles in the shoulders, Malek says.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms out to your sides, backs of your hands resting on the ground, and elbows bent at 90 degrees (in a “goal post” position).
- Keeping your elbows, wrists, and shoulder blades in contact with the ground, slide your arms up over your head.
- Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 reps.
5. Sumo Squat
This is a great stretching exercise for the hip adductors in your inner thighs, Loberg says. It also strengthens the glutes and quads.
- Stand with your feet wider than your shoulder-width apart and turn your toes out roughly 45 degrees.
- Squat down while keeping the chest up until your ankles, knees, and hips create 90-degree angles.
- Return to standing. Do 3 to 5 reps to warm up your joints before holding the bottom position for 30 seconds.
- Keep your spine tall and heels on the floor. Press your elbows against the insides of your knees to push your legs wider apart, deepening the stretch.