My name is Ryan Rhodes, M.D. If you know me, or even look at me, I’m probably the last person you would expect to perform a morning yoga workout. I talk about football a lot, I eat red meat (in moderation of course), and I’m typically wearing something camouflage.  The fact of the matter is that until a few short years ago I was part of the crowd that thought yoga was silly, weird, and just a great way to waste time humming or whatever that stuff was. But the fact of the matter is it’s much more than just sitting in uncomfortable positions and humming. A morning yoga workout has been proven through several clinical studies to improve cardiovascular endurance, increase flexibility, strengthen the core muscles, and prevent injury. In fact, it’s been so effective at preventing injury that many NFL teams are now incorporating it into their training regimes.

Yoga is ancient form of stretching and exercise developed in ancient India. It involves holding various positions that safely stretch and twist the muscles, ligament, and joints with the goal of making them stronger and more durable. It also incorporates balance and core training as well as sequences that promote harmony of movement with all the parts of the body working together.  Because everything is done at a slower pace with emphasis put on breath control, it doubles as a form of meditation. The original practice had religious intent and was meant to be a spiritual experience as well as a physical one. Modern practice has put less of a focus on the spiritual side now that the physical benefits have become mainstream.

One of the most commonly recognized and effective morning yoga workouts is called the Sun Salutation. The Sun Salutation is a good sequence to do early in the morning since it gets the heart rate up steadily and warms up the muscles. It also targets the core and lower back muscles.

Your Morning Yoga Workout Routine – The Sun Salutation

To perform the Sun Salutation:

Courtesy of the Brooklyn Yoga School

  1. Stand straight with good posture with your hands either at your side or in a prayer position.
  2. Inhale deeply and swing your arms slowly to the side and gradually above your head like the arms on a clock.
  3. Exhale while performing sort of a swan dive forward bending at the waste putting your hands either on your ankles, feet, or floor whatever your flexibility allows.
  4. Take a deep inhale and let your fingers dangle while you flatten your back. Then exhale while putting your hand flat on the floor, bending your knees if you have to, and jump or step back into a plank position.
  5. Find your balance then take a deep breath in and lower yourself slowly to the floor like a push up with your elbows tucked into your sides. This form of push up is called Chaturanga.
  6. Hold the position down for just a few beats without touching the floor, and then lift your upper body up so that you are facing forward with your arms fully extended holding you up. Preferably, your knees should stay off the floor, but if you have to you can have them down. This position is called the Upward Facing Dog or just Upward Dog. (It is a great position for stretching the core and lower back as well as working the arms and shoulders since all of your weight should be on them).
  7. Hold the upward dog for a few breaths, return to a plank position then perform another Chaturanga push up (this part is optional) and turn your body into an upside down V shape with your head and feet towards the ground and your tail bone in the air. Try to keep our upper body and lower body as straight as possible. This position is called the Downward Facing Dog or just Downward Dog. (It stretches the lower back, legs, and arms very well).
  8. Hold this position for a few breaths, then inhale and bend the knee, pause, exhale and jump or step your feet back up to your hands.
  9. Inhale up to the flat back position again, exhale with hands to the ground, then reverse the swan dive move from earlier and return to your original starting position standing straight. This completes the sequence of a Sun Salutation.

The morning yoga workout Sun Salutation sequence should repeated between 3-5 times. Since it requires no equipment (other than a soft surface or an optional yoga mat) its a prefect exercise to do on the road with minimal time and can be done first thing in the morning to both wake you up and start the day with a little mini workout.

I can say through personal experience that a morning yoga workout works wonders for those suffering from lower back pain. It’s also good way for those with bad joints to get some cardiovascular exercise in. In fact if you’re an exercise newbie or an athlete in pique condition the health benefits of yoga are vast especially when coupled with other regular exercise programs.

Have you ever tried a morning yoga workout routine? Share your experiences below!