When you first wake up in the morning, do you ever catch yourself stretching your arms into the air followed by a good, long yawn? News flash! This is your body’s way of reminding you that stretching is important for your health. 

There’s even a word for this natural phenomenon: pandiculation. This involuntary action occurs in most animal species and is especially seen between the sleep-wake transitions. Pandiculation is one way our nervous system helps prevent the buildup of chronic muscular tension. Pretty cool, right? 

Since you’re already beginning your day with an instinctual stretch, why not consider adding on to this ritual? Dedicating some time to stretching first thing in the mornings lowers stress levels, decreases body aches and increases your energy levels. 

Give these seven stretches a shot and see if they make a difference in your day!

DownDogBegin on all fours, with your knees slightly behind your hips. With hands shoulder-width apart, press into the mat and gently tuck your toes under. On your exhale, lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs as much as you can. If it feels good, pedal your feet and then hold the pose for 5-10 slow breaths. 

ForwardFoldStanding with your feet together, bend your knees slightly and fold your upper body over your legs (bend from the hips, not the lower back). Place your hands on or towards your feet and as you inhale, think of lengthening your spine. On your exhale, gently try to straighten your legs. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths. 

GluteLie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. With your arms at your side and palms facing down, engage your glutes and lift your hips up off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders create a straight line. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths. 

ShoulderStart by relaxing both shoulders. Raise one arm to shoulder height and reach it across your chest. Using your opposite hand, try to gently pull the arm in towards you. Hold this position for up to one minute while breathing deeply. Repeat on the other side. 

ButterflySit up straight with your knees bent into your chest. Drop your legs to the sides and bring the soles of your feet together. Keeping your spine straight, gently lean forward. If comfortable, gently apply pressure to the tops of your thighs for a deeper stretch. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths. 

QuadWhile standing on one leg, bend one knee and bring your heel toward your glutes. With your opposite hand, reach for your ankle. Stand up straight, engage your abdominal muscles and try to keep your knees aligned. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then repeat on the opposite side. 

CobraWhile lying on your belly, place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders. Engage your glutes and on your inhale, lift your chest up off the ground by straightening your arms. Gaze upwards and try to keep your shoulders down while lifting your body, rather than just pushing. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths. 

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