Quantcast

Cultivate Inner Peace With These Simple Yoga Poses

The way you start your day can often dictate how the rest of it unfolds.

Wellness

I used to struggle to get out of bed every morning, and would often hit the snooze button to get a bit more sleep. I was trapped in that cycle for years, until someone recommended yoga to me. Since practicing it every morning, my life hasn't been the same.

The way you start your day can often dictate how the rest of it unfolds. Being a woman entrepreneur that manages a beauty company and being a professional dancer can be both mentally and physically challenging. Looking for a way to find balance, especially living in New York City, yoga seemed liked a perfect fit to complement my lifestyle.

The benefits of practicing yoga every morning over the last two years has helped me begin my day with a smile. It gives me a calmness of mind and, most importantly, it gives me a heart filled with gratitude as I face myself on the mat every morning before I start work. My yoga practice includes movements in static poses, as I love to infuse dance and yoga together, which benefits my practice in more ways than I can explain.

With that in mind, here are my top five yoga poses that get me going every morning.

1. Reach for the Sun (Standing Arm Reach)

One of the first things I do to get ready for yoga is to bask myself in the morning sunlight for my daily dose of Vitamin D. This helps set my mood for the day and keeps me alert. I also begin my practice by using some Radha Beauty Essential oils to set the atmosphere.

Standing up nice and tall, the Standing Arm Reach encourages you to stretch your hands all the way up. You're beginning your day with a power pose, keeping in mind your goals for the day. As you gradually soften your arms back, down, remember to exhale. Repeat this for 5-10 breaths. This is a great first move to open up the body and loosen you up to help you begin the day.

2. Working your way down to your toes (Forward Bend)

As a dancer and entrepreneur, I'm constantly on my feet. Especially living in New York City where walking is the norm, ensuring that my legs are fully stretched out is priority before I start my day.

The Standing Forward Bend is a great way to stretch out your hamstrings and lower back. Remember to exhale while folding up and over your legs. Bending your knees in this move can help ease up on the hamstrings and lower back. The dancer in me recommends swaying from side to side to soothing beats when your chest is towards your thighs. This eases up your body to create that space which will provide you with more energy for the day.

3. Plank while listening to your favorite song (Plank)

I used to have constant aches in my lower back after dance rehearsals until I started planking. Not only did planking help reduce my lower backaches, it also helped toned up my tummy. Try listening to your favorite song while planking as it helps make the process more enjoyable.

Planting your palms down and stepping back to a nice plank pose is a great way to energize the entire body. Maintaining a correct form while engaging your core muscles helps you to keep focus and get things going for the day. Repeat this for 5-10 breaths

4. Summoning the energy for the day (Upward Dog)

If coffee is your energy booster for the day, then Upward Dog is my equivalent of coffee. This is one of my favorite poses to get into as it stretches my upper torso while improving the strength and flexibility of my spine, arm and wrists at the same time. As they say in yoga, “You're only as young as your spine is flexible."

From plank position, as you start to ease your knees down and draw your shoulders down your back, you will get into an Upward Dog pose. Once again, swaying from side to side adds more fluidity to your routine. The whole idea is to keep everything moving and flowing freely so that you wont have to be stuck in a pose. This is another great way to open up the body especially after a good nights sleep.

5. The Downward Dog

The Downward Dog pose is one that I have to do before starting my day as it wakes you up by boosting blood circulation throughout the body. As with all yoga poses, being in control of your breathing is key as this teaches you to be in control of your emotions and feelings.

As you try to tuck your toes and raise your tailbone to the sky, you will transition into a Downward Dog pose. Drop the head down and push into the hands to create length in the spine, while at the same time pressing your heals to the ground. This is a great resting pose which helps open the back of your legs as well stretch out your calves. Swaying from side to side helps gives this stretch more emphasis on both legs. Repeat this for 5 – 10 breaths.

Bonus: Keeping it simple – Breathe

When things get too overwhelming unexpectedly, I always remind myself in those moments to breathe. This helps me refocus and reduce anxiety levels, and allow oxygen to flow through my body.

Practicing yoga in the mornings has helped me feel more energized and focused, thus allowing me to accomplish more during the day. I'll encourage those that want to get through the day caffeine free to start practicing yoga in the morning, as it gives you a new sense of a clarity and purpose as you start each day.

If you feel unmotivated at times, I highly encourage you to give these five poses a go even when you don't feel like it. I am certain you will walk away from your mat feeling rejuvenated and energized and ready to conquer your day. Try it out once or twice a week, and you will start to see some of the benefits that I have mentioned above.

I have no doubt that if you show up for your yoga practice as your messy, imperfect and beautiful self, you will find more reasons to add yoga to a part of your morning routine.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here to receive our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.

Featured image by Shutterstock; all other images courtesy of Rebekah Letch

Originally published December 13, 2017

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Featured image by Getty Images

The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

TW: This article may contain mentions of suicide and self-harm.

In early 2022, the world felt like it slowed down a bit as people digested the shocking news of beauty pageant queen Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide. When you scroll through her Instagram, the photos she had posted only weeks before her death were images of her smiling, looking happy, and being carefree. You can see photos of her working, being in front of the camera, and doing what I imagine was her norm. These pictures and videos, however, began to spark a conversation among Black women who knew too well that feeling like you're carrying the world on your shoulders and forcing yourself to smile through it all to hide the pain.

Keep reading...Show less

Ironically enough—considering the way the word begins—the love-hate relationship that we have with menstruation is comparable to the way in which we navigate the world of men. It’s very much “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” vibes when it comes to women and their cycles. But the older I get, the more I learn to hate that time of the month a little less. A lot of my learning to embrace my period has come with learning the fun, interesting, and “witchy” stuff while discovering more natural, in-tune ways of minimizing the pain in my ass (those cramps know no bounds) amongst other places.

Keep reading...Show less

SZA is no stranger to discussing her mental health struggles and her experiences with anxiety. In 2021, the “Good Days” singer tweeted about having “debilitating anxiety” that causes her to shield away from the public. Unfortunately, she still has those same struggles today and opened up about it during Community Voices 100th episode for Mental Health Awareness Month. While SZA enjoys making music, she’s not a fan of the spotlight, which may be surprising to many.

Keep reading...Show less

It's great to check a few of the tried-and-true popular U.S. and global locales off your travel wish list, but it's even better to add a few other spots that are not quite as overpopulated with tourists. You can create a few unique memories and get those IG moments that don't seem so overdone or cliche while exploring a different part of a country.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts