My two-year-old daughter is usually my alarm clock. She wakes up early and almost never takes long naps (quite often she doesn’t take any daytime naps at all). I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed sleeping. So what’s a constantly exhausted yogi to do?
First of all, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting sleep. If you frequently don’t sleep well or long, you should definitely reassess the underlying causes. Do you drink caffeine throughout the day and too close to bedtime? Did you have too many glasses of wine? Are you anxious? If the reasons behind your lack of sleep are reoccurring, you should seek professional help. Still, many of us are just like me—healthy yogis who have early-rising jobs or kids and just couldn’t, in this moment in time or on that particular day, get enough sleep. If this sounds like you, here are yoga poses for quick energy.
1. Sun salutations. While sun salutations are a series of poses, this series is specifically designed to promote both strength and flexibility in your body. The traditional time for sun salutes is, not shockingly, while the sun’s coming up. It’s also traditional to practice these asanas on an empty stomach, making it ideal to start your day. I recommend learning sun salutes from a teacher as many of these postures require slightly complex micro-adjustments to get the full benefit. Once you’re comfortable with your series, try unrolling your mat when you’re forced awake a little too early for six to eight rounds of your sun salutation of choice and you’ll feel much more awake almost instantly. (Tip: start out in child’s pose. Most of us aren’t ready immediately after waking to pop right into these poses, and child’s pose will allow you to come into yourself and your breath.)
2. Backbends. Backbends are the caffeine of yoga. They stimulate the nervous and lymphatic systems—revving metabolism and releasing adrenaline. This is actually the same reason why some practitioners get nauseous or dizzy if they go too deeply into a backbend. So take it easy in the morning, even if you’ve done your sun salutes already. I suggest a pose like bridge or cobra. Really focus on feeling even sensation throughout the length of your spine. Repeat your backbend of choice three times, moving slowly in and out of the posture.
3. Warrior III. This is such a great strength pose. It works both of your legs, your shoulders and back, as well as your abdominals. Warrior III also improves balance and posture—making it a great anti-slump pose before work. Additionally, this pose gets your cardio on because you’re working all of your large muscle groups. Hold this pose for a minute on each side, using props such as a wall or blocks if necessary.
4. Chair pose. I’d like to thank my fellow yogis at my new studio Yoga Bliss in Akron for letting me fall in love with chair pose again. It’s a posture that these yogis work, and work hard. Here’s the key to getting the most out of your chair pose—stay in the posture much longer than you want to. You’ll be forced to stay in the present moment and focus on your breath because this asana is simply too challenging if you allow your mind to beat you. This is a prime example of yoga practice as moving meditation—and learning this in chair pose will help you stay present and calm in other situations throughout your day no matter how much sleep you’ve had. Make sure your hips are not lower than your knees, but sit low, and dig into your heels to activate your hamstrings. Remember to feel the sensations in other areas besides your quads—like your glutes—as this allows you to increase your duration in chair pose. Remember also that this pose more accurately translates to fierce or powerful pose from Sanskrit. So start your morning out with power—and feel it resonate throughout your day.
5. Restore. This might sound counter-intuitive, but if you’ve had a long day on not enough sleep and still have to feed your kids dinner or finish paperwork, restorative postures might be just the ticket. Try taking a soothing forward fold and visualize your backbody as your past. Let all tension and stress from before this moment drop away as you get deeper into your stretch. You can also take reclined bound angle pose—propping as necessary. This pose will relieve tension from your hips, which is another area yogis believe we store tension from our past—and a place all of us store tension from too much sitting throughout the day. Child’s pose and side-bending postures are great ideas as well. Sometimes taking just ten minutes to nurture yourself with restorative postures is enough to get you through the last part of your busy day—and help you sleep soundly when the time finally comes.
Getting a good night’s sleep is so important, yet it’s not always possible. So when your little one wakes you up too early with her gorgeous good-morning smile or your boss asks you to come in for an early-morning meeting, try using these yoga postures for a fast-energy fix.