Wake up with A.M. Yoga

As part of my June Goals and the June Yoga Challenge, I've been successfully incorporating yoga into my MORNINGS.  

This was a change for me. Typically, before, this crazy month, I went to yoga regularly at my gym, once on Monday late afternoons and once on Friday mornings.  Being too busy to go to these, and also enjoying the wake-up stretching, I've begun using yoga DVDs at home.  Last week's check-in explains a bit of what I've been up to, but I'll elaborate on the morning routine here.  This week, Sunday and Thursday were the only days where I got a different type of workout in (running and weights), so yoga really carried me this week!  And it's been nice. My body feels good :)

So what yoga have I been doing?  Morning yoga.  Sometimes post-gym. Often in the morning, in my PJs.  It is nice.

In my swag bag from the Fitness Magazine Blogger Meet & Tweet, I received a DVD from element: mind & body, the AM & PM YOGA for beginners.  I didn't know what to expect, but I immediately fell in love.

"Yoga is a wonderful way to help you keep fit, relieve stress, and ease your everyday experiences. Filmed on a beautifully serene location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, these two 30-minute programs will help you realize all the benefits of yoga by unveiling a new connection between your body and mind.  
The AM sequence enhances basic poses with gentle repetitions to invigorate, tone, and streamline your body while reconnecting to your breathing in a new way every time you practice.
The PM sequence is designed to dissolve stress as it lengthens and opens your muscles.  You'll learn to use your alignment to expand your breathing capacity, nourishing oyur body, and balancing your entire being."
[back of dvd]

The first time I tried the DVD was the day after the Meet & Tweet, and I was about to become incredibly sore from the kick-butt Tabura workout run by Reign and KiwiSweat. A reminder:

So that Thursday morning, although exhausted from the previous day's events and without time to hit the gym, I knew that I needed to stretch before I became the Tin Man.  SO, I looked at my new pile of goodies and picked out this DVD.

It was morning, so I made the obvious selection to do the "AM" workout.  Both the AM and PM workout are 30 minutes long, which is long enough to really get into the yoga mindset and to do a range of poses, but isn't quite so long that it means taking an hour + out of your day to do.

Short enough to fit in,
Long enough to be effective.

The instructor is Elena Brower, Certified Anusara Yoga teacher.  She does the entire routine herself on film, with her voiceover giving instructions.  I like this a lot, because she's doing it with you, rather than looking at you and giving you orders.  She also speaks just the right amount for my taste.  Especially with something like yoga, where my mind is supposed to be at peace and concentrating on my body, it's important that the teacher speaks clearly, calmly, and concisely, while still providing enough instruction.

Ms. Brower does an excellent job explaining the positions--it is a 'beginner' DVD, after all--without overdoing it.  Although I've been practicing yoga for almost a year now, I feel my form in some poses (such as downward dog, cat/cow, and warrior) has dramatically improved since using this DVD.  My breathing, too, has benefited from her instructions for breathing in, breathing out, and moving deeper into positions.  The breathing aspect isn't stressed enough in the class I regularly attend, but the synching of breath with flow really makes all the difference.

Caveat: I like the AM program more than the PM progam.  To be fair, I only tried the PM one... twice.  I found it too slow and couldn't quite get into it.  Maybe that's MY issue; even though I always briefly stretch before bed, maybe at night, I get too antsy to do 30 minutes of stretching when I could, instead, simply get into bed for 30 minutes more of sleep.  (...or 30 more minutes to shut down before sleep.)  I'll give it another try when I have plenty of time before needing to sleep, but for now, I'll stick to the one get the most out of...

The A.M. PROGRAM: Although last week, it only got used twice or thrice, this week, I've been doing it daily!  Whether or not I work out in a different way, this yoga DVD has become an integral part of my morning routine.  If I work out (run, elliptical, spin, weights), then this is a fantastic 30-minute stretch afterward.  If I do not work out or work out later in the day, then this is certainly enough to get my blood moving, my body warm, and my limbs lengthened, all before breakfast. :)

The moves include Downard-facing dog, plank, basic sun salutations, Warrior I, II, and III, several great twists, Cobras, etc.  Most of the basics, but a lot of variation even within this short video.  I always look forward to the Warrior poses, because those are not usually done in the class at my gym, but I really like the challenge to my balance and leg strength. Her instructions for how to direct my knee forward really helped my form, too.

Level: If you're a beginner, you'll benefit from the step-by-step instructions.  If you're a seasoned pro, it could be help to hear the basics again, but she does also include a more challenging version of each pose (which I do), and reminds you to refocus your breathing.

Even better than a workout, though, the 30 minutes have become my wake-up time, my energizing time, my time to stretch and transition from sleep to awareness.  It challenges your muscles just enough to become alert, without being too strenuous or difficult a yoga workout to strain my half-asleep brain or make me sweat.  If I'm Goldilocks, this is my "just right."  

It's also been a fantastic way to incorporate more yoga into my life, without having to get out to an organized class.  This week, I did yoga every. single. morning.  Just 30 minutes, and I'm ready for my day.  

Highly recommended.

So that's what I've been up to!  I'm definitely meeting my goal of 30 minutes, 3x/week.  It's kept me grounded in otherwise busy times, so I'm hoping to keep it up next week!

I dare YOU to sneak some yoga, or even just a bit of stretching, into your morning routine. Give your mind and body a chance to ease from slumber to sunshine.  Get the benefits of yoga at the start of your day, and increase awareness and function all day long.  The benefits of your yoga practice go beyond the mat, extending into your day-to-day tasks and behaviors.  Those benefits and the practicing mindset are what make yoga such a great way to start the day.

Also, keep in mind the wise words Ms. Brower concludes with:

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Do you stretch in the morning?  
Have any other yoga DVDs I should try out? I'm already pining after Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown, but what else?  Variety is what will sustain this morning habit beyond just this month. 

Dislaimer: I received this product for free while attending a FITNESS Magazine event, but was not asked to review the product, nor was I compensated for this post. While I do thank FITNESS and Element for the gift, the beliefs and experiences shared above are purely my own. 

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