Finding a morning stretch routine that fits into a busy schedule isn’t easy. If you’re like me, you tend to ignore those aches and pains when you first get up and dive right into a cup of coffee. But what if your routine took only three minutes? Even just a quick stretch is so much more beneficial than you may realize.
Certified yoga instructor Melanie-Salvatore August created a three-minute morning stretch routine for exactly that purpose. When I first tried her daily sequence, it was a breath of fresh air. It made me feel alert, present, and refreshed, without any coffee jitters.
“Once out of bed, no matter which position you have slept in, I recommend practicing the Daily Essential Three-Minute Sequence,” Melanie says. “It can be done pretty much anywhere at any time, practiced both standing and seated. I do it right in my bathroom as well as my kitchen right after I get up from the bed. As titled, this is a movement sequence that focuses on complete movement of the spine to be done every day and multiple times a day as helpful.”
That’s right, you can even do this routine at your desk to quickly release tension and get back on track! Ready to feel refreshed? Try out these beginner-friendly movements.
This daily routine will decrease stiffness, increase circulation, boost oxygen levels, and lower inflammation and pain. For the seated version, skip to two minutes into the video. Check out the visuals below for extra guidance!
Following Melanie’s Morning Stretch Routine: The Side Stretch
To get started on this energizing sequence, all you need is a little bit of space. Melanie begins by grounding her feet in a parallel position, hip-width apart, and stretching her arms high to the sky. She takes a few deep breaths here to stretch out her abdomen, then gently tilts into a banana shape to stretch out her side. After more deep breaths, she repeats the movement on the other side. Side-bends like this help stretch and strengthen the intercostal muscles, or the muscles between the ribs that help move the chest wall.
From there, Melanie returns to a neutral standing position and bends her elbows while drawing her shoulder blades back. The movement transitions into a chest stretch, as she brings her arms behind her back and clasps her hands together. Melanie notes that if you can’t clasp your hands, you can hook your thumbs together or keep your hands separate with your arms still parallel. You could also hold onto a small towel between both hands to increase the stretch.
This type of stretch not only improves movement in your chest, but can also give you better posture over time. It can even alleviate aches and pains you may feel from sleeping on your side. “Drawing the upper back in towards your chest not only helps with aches but also is a mood lifter,” Melanie adds. “Breathe deep, open the chest and take your inner and outer gaze to the sky.”
Standing Bent-Knee Spinal Twist
After completing the chest stretch, Melanie releases her hands and bends forward, letting her chest rest on her thighs. She gently lets her arms and head hang down for a few breaths, then lifts her back halfway. In this position, she rotates her chest to the left side. She places the outside of her right elbow on the outside of her left knee to deepen the stretch. Then, she folds down and hangs again before repeating the stretch on the other side.
The spinal twist is particularly important to Melanie because it helps release a lot of tension in the back. “Stretching the spine in all directions increases circulation, decreases stiffness and inflammation and opens the lungs for deeper breaths,” she says. “It helps open the shoulders, release spinal and low back pain as well as helps with mental clarity.”
Finishing Movements: Forward Fold and Seated Cross-Legged Pose
From here, Melanie suggests moving into a full forward fold to stretch out your spine and hamstrings. Generously bend your knees so you don’t overstretch the backs of your legs, and let your head hang loose to release tension. Once you feel calm, relaxed, and less tense, you can move to the ground and sit in a cross-legged position. Take slow, deep breaths here to bring your focus inward. When you’re ready, stand up on your own. You can either repeat this sequence again or get ready for your day!
To learn more about these stretches and other sequences that alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and boost your immunity, check out Melanie’s guide, Yoga to Support Immunity (Buy on Amazon, $15.99). By incorporating her quick, gentle three-minute routine into your mornings, you can significantly brighten your mood and keep your body pain-free as you move through your day.
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