I have a lot of trouble sleeping. It’s difficult for me to quiet my mind and actually relax. Plus, I often end up going to bed later than I wanted to because I have too much to cram in during the day. My nights of tossing and turning can leave me more tired than I’d like to be in the mornings, and I often feel like I’m dragging myself around, willing my body and mind to kick into gear and get going. And, although drowning myself in numerous cups of coffee is a pick-me-up strategy I rely on from time to time, I know it’s not the healthiest option.
When a friend said I should do a little yoga in the morning to feel more energized, I was intrigued but also somewhat dubious. After all, I always thought yoga was a great way to relax and calm down. If anything, it seemed like a good pre-bed ritual to clear my mind and ease my tension before sleep. While that’s probably something I should also consider trying out, my friend explained how many yoga poses can actually be energizing, helping you feel invigorated and ready to conquer your day.
I’m far from an experienced yogi though, so I wasn’t sure where to begin, what poses to do, or even how to do them. And, to help ensure I’d actually do the energizing yoga sequence, I also wanted to make sure the invigorating poses would be beginner-friendly (I’m one of the least flexible and coordinated people I know) and not super time-consuming. My mornings are rushed as is and when I’m that tired, it can be hard to resist hitting the snooze button again. So, to help me learn a sustainable, easy, energizing yoga routine, I turned to a yoga instructor who shared 10 great poses that can be done as a sequence or individually to boost your energy.
Keep reading for 10 easy yoga poses that can give you an instant boost of energy to help you tackle your day.
Meet the Expert
Catherine Howe is a certified yoga instructor and owner of Sensory Yoga Wellness.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Howe says Mountain pose is very energizing because it grounds you and helps you feel the energy of the universe in your body. “Foundation starts where you are connected to the Earth—the four corners of our feet are our connection here,” she says. “There is something to be said about standing in stillness and feeling the energy of the Earth on your toes, climb like vines up the shins, building in strength towards the pelvis, traveling up the spine as the chest lifts and presents itself upward toward the Sun.”
To perform Mountain pose:
- Stand with the bases of your big toes together and your heels slightly apart.
- Rock onto your heels so that you can lift your toes and the balls of your feet.
- Fully spread and fan out your toes as they are elevated, and then lay them comfortably spaced back on the floor.
- Make sure your weight is well-balanced between your two feet.
- Contract your quads to lift your knee caps, and allow your inner thighs to rotate slightly inward.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles and abdominals so that your body is nice and tall.
- Take a deep breath, broadening your collarbones and drawing your shoulder blades back.
- Relax your face and imagine the crown of your head reaching high up to the sky as your elongate your spine.
Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
“When we reach overhead in this particular pose, we feel more open and stretched,” shares Howe. “Adding breathwork here can be quite exhilarating, energizing, and uplifting and takes a lot of lung capacity.” She recommends adding a dramatic, audible exhale as you rise up into Upward Salute. “You can imagine the exhilarating, invigorating feeling this pose can become with or without the [breathwork] add on,” she notes.
To perform this pose:
- Start in Mountain pose with your weight equally distributed on both feet, your quads engaged, and your pelvis tucked.
- Inhale, elongating your spine and envisioning one continuous line of energy running from your toes up to your head and beyond, pulling the crown of your head towards the sky.
- Exhale, relaxing all the muscles in your face and keeping your gaze forward.
- Inhale, raising your arms straight over your head with your palms facing one another and your fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
- Hold for a few breaths, focusing on opening your chest and heart and standing tall, and then lower your arms to relax back into Mountain pose.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This is a common pose used when transitioning from standing poses to those closer to the floor. Howe says this pose has many physical and mental benefits that energize the body, clear the mind, and reset your system. “We have time to self-reflect, look inward, leaving the backline of the body open and stretched. We’re also engaging the parasympathetic nervous system—how better to energize than letting go of all the ‘stuff’ (the chitta vritti, or mind chatter).” She explains that this pose also brings you closer and more connected with your solar plexus because the heart is higher than the head. “The solar plexus is around our ego, and when the heart is higher, we give space for the ego to empty, humbling to this pose and allowing other beneficial energies in.”
To perform this pose:
- Start in Mountain pose with your knees slightly bent and your feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge at your hips so that your upper body hangs down over your legs and your arms and hands fall to where they comfortably land (floor, legs, ankles).
- Hang in this position while taking deep breaths, gently swaying back and forth from one side to the other, and nodding your head “yes” and shaking your head “no.”
- To return to standing, draw your navel toward your spine, and slowly roll up one vertebra at a time.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
“Any opportunity to present the heart center and be vulnerable is an open opportunity to invite energy,” notes Howe, who says that Camel pose can help release pent up energy. “We often live our lives on a hamster wheel, spinning and spinning. Sometimes, that wheel is so fast we don't know how to step off,” she says. “I see camel pose as permission to step off, unfold, roll back the shoulders, feel the support of our spine as we raise our hearts, releasing any negative energy we've been holding onto and dive into the new energy that's being presented in this pose.”
To feel that boost of energy yourself:
- Kneel down with your toes tucked under your feet, your core and quads engaged, and your shoulders rolled back.
- Inhale, lifting your chest up and lengthening your spine.
- Exhale, coming into a gentle backbend, opening your chest to the sky, and reaching back to your heels (or yoga blocks).
- Hold the position for a few breaths, ensuring your inner thighs, core, and back muscles are engaged.
- Inhale, coming back to a resting position.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
“I love this pose not only for its ability to flow from pose to pose within the Sun Salutation, but also as a flow of energy from head to toe,” shares Howe. “It builds strength and endurance, and any inversion where the heart is higher than the head increases blood flow.” Howe says this helps you feel energized. “There’s also the side benefit on those days when your head’s feeling foggy or heavy, the sinuses open up and may even drain, clearing the passageways for a clear, full breath,” she adds.
Here’s how to perform the pose:
- Kneel down on all fours so that your hands and elbows are slightly in front of your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Your back should be flat like a table top.
- Spread your fingers and place your palms firmly into the floor or mat.
- Curl your toes under so they are planted on the floor.
- Exhale, lifting your knees off the floor and raising your hips towards the ceiling.
- Without fully locking your knees, straighten your legs and press your heels down into the ground, and straighten your arms without fully locking your elbows. Your body should be hinged at the hips in a “V” shape so that your chest is facing your thighs.
- Inhale as you draw your navel towards your spine. Keep your neck and spine neutral, and your gaze looking under your body towards your feet.
- Hold for as many breaths as you would like and then relax back down to a table top position.
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
“The feeling of energy and empowerment from this pose is in feeling the pillars of strength coming from [your] legs and the support they give, and reaching our arms overhead, we’re opening the heart center,” says Howe. “There is such a rush when the arm reach is accompanied by a deep inhale.” Howe says this pose also offers a much-needed stretch and release for the psoas muscle, which runs through the lower back, through the pelvis, to the femur. “The psoas—the ‘seat of the soul’ as they say—can become like a highly-squeezed spring with so much pent up energy. For most people, this muscle is in constant fight-or-flight [mode], ready to protect all the time, and in some cases, [it] has forgotten how to let go and rest,” she explains. “Anjaneyasana releases the true power of the psoas—what a boost to the soul, the mind, and the body.”
Low lunge is completed as follows:
- Begin in Downward-Facing Dog.
- Exhale, stepping your right foot forward so that it falls between your hands, and lower your left knee to the ground.
- Lower your hips as you slide your left foot back until you feel a comfortable stretch in your left thigh and hip.
- Inhale, drawing your navel towards your spine and lifting your chest up so it faces forward.
- Raise your arms up towards the ceiling, reaching your fingertips as high as you can.
- Keep your gaze forward, or allow a natural and gentle backbend so that your gaze looks upward.
- Hold until you’re ready to relax, and then do so by exhaling and returning to Downward-Facing Dog.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
This pose can help you feel strong, powerful, and energized because you’re using some of the biggest muscle groups in your body—primarily your quads and glutes. Also, with your arms outstretched overhead, you’ll stretch out your back, shoulders, and chest, opening up your heart and lungs and encouraging blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body.
Here are the steps:
- Start in Mountain pose, and then exhale as you lower your body down into a squat, being sure to sit your hips back as if sitting in a chair.
- Inhale as you lift your arms up over your head.
- Sink lower into the squat, ensuring your butt is reaching back behind you, as you reach up higher with your arms.
- Hold for 4-5 breaths and then press through your heels to stand back up into Mountain pose as you return your arms to neutral.
Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
Many people are familiar with planks and may have a love-hate relationship with them. And, while plank pose in yoga is challenging, it’s not without a plethora of benefits, including a boost of energy to the body to wake up your systems. “The belly is fired up, and there’s the long lines of strength down the spine, igniting the metabolism,” says Howe. “For energy, this one's worth lingering in for a while and can wake up the body from head to toe.”
Here are the steps:
- Kneel down on all fours so that your knees are under your hips, your wrists are under your shoulders, and your fingers are spread with the middle fingers facing forward. Your back should be flat like a table top.
- Inhale, engaging your core and extending one leg back at a time, tucking your toes so they are gripping the floor. Your body should be in push-up position, with a nice straight line from your heels to your head.
- Bring your shoulder blades down and in towards one another, elongate your spine, and engage your thighs.
- Imagine pushing the floor away from your hands. Keep your gaze gently falling down between your hands.
- Hold for as long as you desire and then exhale, relaxing down to the floor.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Howe says that in this pose, energy is around the third chakra (Manipura), which deals with self-worth and identity. This pose will tap into that energy when you let go of your ego and stop judging yourself if you lack the physical strength to perform it perfectly. “There’s a lot of upper body strength [needed] here, which is where some people can allow their feeling of self-worth to deplete because they make it all about the biggest appreciation of the pose and they don’t want to bend at the knees,” explains Howe. But she says that using modifications while you build your strength helps unlock that tied up self-worth energy. “And, if you knees never come off the mat, so what—it's yoga ‘practice,’ not yoga ‘perfect.’”
- Begin in plank pose with your core engaged, your tailbone pointing towards your feet, and your shoulder blades drawn towards one another.
- Rock your body forward slightly over the toes, looking forward, and elongating your neck.
- Exhale, lowering your whole body into a lower plank until your elbows are bent 90 degrees. Your elbows should be tucked next to your ribs and pointing straight back towards your heels, and your chest, shoulders, and torso should not drop below your elbows.
- Inhale, lifting the front of your shoulders so that they face forward and not at the ground.
- Hold until you are ready to relax, and then exhale, lowering back to the ground.
Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
This pose can help open your heart. “When the heart chakra is in balance, we can accept and feel the love and energies around us. We’re more willing to receive and be open to the energy and love,” says Howe. “The frontline of the body is wonderfully stretched and open, while the back of the body is strengthening and supporting.” She believes that physically stretching and opening the chest allows us to open our hearts, which helps us feel unstoppable. “When the heart center is lifted, we can’t help but feel energized and ready to take on the world,” she says.
Here are the steps:
- Lie on your stomach, with your elbows tucked by your sides and your hands next to your ribs with your fingers pointing forwards.
- Engage your quads to pull your knee caps up as you press the tops of your feet into the ground.
- Inhale, pressing into your hands and feet to straighten your arms and lift your chest and legs off the ground. Be sure to engage your core by drawing in your belly button and open your chest by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Keep your gaze forward or allow it to drift upward with a gentle and natural backbend.
- Hold for five breaths and then exhale, lowering back down to relax on your mat.
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Lee J, et al. Comparison of three different surface plank exercises on core muscle activity. Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science. 2016;5:29-33. doi:10.14474/ptrs.2016.5.1.29