Want to whittle down your waist, tone up and be more flexible? Yoga expert Caroline Sandry shows you how one simple set of morning yoga poses can do it all!
The traditional morning series of yoga moves known as the ‘sun salutation’ is a brilliant way to do this. ‘They’re calming because of the repetitive movements,’ says Caroline. ‘They also help stop you hunching your shoulders and rounding your spine. And they use your body weight as resistance, so they help boost muscle strength and flexibility too.’ The flowing set of sun salutation movements will also increase your heart rate and help your cardiovascular training as a result.
Your 15-minute morning routine
Follow our step-by-step guide to take yourself through the moves, starting off at a slow and steady pace while you get the hang of it. ‘Aim for a couple of sun salutations the first few times you practise it,’ advises Caroline. ‘You can gradually build up to 6 to 10 rounds.’
She also suggests varying your practice by performing slow movements, holding each position for a couple of breaths – this will really tone and strengthen muscles, and boost overall fitness. As you become more confident, you could try closing your eyes to focus on your breath for a meditative experience.
For more of a cardio workout try to move faster, without losing your focus. We all have different flexibility levels, so don’t force a move if you’re not comfortable. ‘For example, in downward dog the focus should be more on keeping your spine straight, rather than straightening your knees and getting your heels flat to the floor,’ explains Caroline.
The ultimate goal is to perform 15 minutes of sun salutations daily, ideally first thing to wake up and stretch your body after sleep, but if that will be tricky for you, simply fit it in whenever you can, even as a warm-up before a workout. The result? You should immediately feel more limber, perhaps relaxed, and even invigorated. Over time and with practice, you should notice an improvement in flexibility and body strength, as well as fitness levels.
Read more: 8 ways yoga can help you lose weight
Master your sun salutation with these morning yoga poses
Step 1: Stand tall on your mat, with feet together and arms by your sides. Inhale and reach both arms up high, while fully extending your spine and lifting your ribs to open your chest.
Step 2: Exhale and stretch forwards and down, folding at your waist, keeping your back straight and also bending your knees so your hands lie flat on the floor beside your feet.
Step 3: This lunge extends your spine and stretches out your hip joint. Inhale and take a step back with your right leg, lowering your right knee to the floor, keeping your front knee at a right angle and hands on the floor. Look up and extend your spine forwards, opening up your chest.
Step 4: Hold your breath as you step your left leg back to join the right, bringing you into a plank position. Exhale and bend your arms to lower down with control until your toes, knees, chest and forehead touch the floor.
Step 5: Start off with the cobra position. Inhale; lying on your stomach, extend legs together straight out behind you, hands directly under your shoulders with elbows in tight by your sides. Lift head and shoulders off the floor looking up and extending back. Build up to lifting your waist and hips off the floor.
Step 6: Exhale and press your hands into the floor, lifting your hips up in the air. Press back into a downward dog position (or inverted ‘V’). Bend your knees slightly to keep your spine long and straight. Draw your shoulders away from your ears and let your neck relax.
Step 7: Inhale, look up and step your right foot forward between your hands in a lunge position. Exhale and bring your left foot to meet your right (keep hands on the floor and knees bent, unless you’re very flexible). Breathe slowly and evenly with each move.
Step 8: Inhale, stand up, sweep your arms up and back, lifting your ribs. Exhale, bring arms back by your side and return to start position. Repeat the positions, alternating legs.