Some days, you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps it's the fact that we're on day number totally-lost-count of working from home or maybe you didn't hit the hay early enough. Whatever the reason, leaning into movement can be a great fix for when you're feeling down.
A September 2018 study published in The Lancet observed a link between physical activity and mood for 1.2 million Americans, finding that exercise can even help ease symptoms of depression. Those who exercised reported having 1.5 fewer poor mental health days in the last month compared to those who didn't exercise. And people who spent 30 to 60 minutes exercising saw the best results, with an average of 2.1 fewer poor mental health days.
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What's more, exercise can increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, which both feed into the brain's pleasure centers, contributing to that post-workout high, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
"Especially early in the morning, moving your body can be the greatest gift," Dionne Monsanto, a yoga teacher at Lyons Den in New York, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Just like our days, our lives, our bodies, we can get stuck. So that sadness, that emotion, that memory that gets stuck in your body — it's up to us to do things to release it and shake things up."
Here, Monsanto offers up a simple morning movement practice you can do in under 10 minutes to get your blood flowing and start your day off on the right foot. Go through the below movements once without rest, then repeat once more.
Move 1: Easy Pose
- Start sitting in your bed or on the floor in a comfortable cross-legged position with your eyes closed and hands placed gently on your knees.
- Wake up your internal organs by slowly moving your torso in clockwise circles for 10 reps.
- Then, repeat in the opposite direction for 10 reps.
"This should feel meditative," Monsanto says. "It's your time to come into your body, wake up and be present with the effort that's about to happen."
Move 2: Side Bend
- From your original seated position, reach your right arm up and over your head, bringing your left hand beside you for added support.
- Reach as far to the left as possible, feeling a stretch through the right side body. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
Move 3: Extended Child’s Pose
- Sit back on your heels and stretch your arms forward, relaxing your forehead to the ground.
- Feel your lower back, hips and waist lengthening as you tap into your deep breathing.
- Slowly crawl your hands toward the right, keeping your hips in place. Feel a stretch up the left side body. Hold this for 4 breaths.
- Repeat on opposite side.
Move 4: Down Dog
- Get on your hands and knees and set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Spread your palms and keep your index fingers parallel or slightly turned out. Tuck your toes under.
- Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor as you push your hips up toward the ceiling and press your shoulders away from your ears.
- As you exhale, push your thighs back and press your heels down on the floor.
This movement is the first time in this series that you're really starting to engage muscles throughout the body, Monsanto says.
"Really focus on pulling that lower belly in and pressing into your fingers. To make sure that you're putting pressure throughout the whole hand, slowly lift up the fingers one by one and then press them back down."
Move 5: Rag Doll
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend forward, allowing your head to hang between your legs.
- For added stretch, hold each elbow with the opposite hand.
- Hold this for 4 to 6 breaths.
Move 6: Extended Mountain
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Lift all 10 toes off the ground, spread them wide, then set them back down.
- Engage your quads and draw your navel in.
- Reach your hands up toward the sky.
- Hold this for 4 to 6 breaths.
Move 7: Wide-Legged Forward Fold With Twist
- Stand with your feet about 3 or 4 feet apart. Place your hands on your hips, take a breath in and hinge forward at the hips until your torso is parallel to the floor.
- Place the palms of your hands on the ground with fingers spread apart. Your hands should be in line with your feet. At this point, you may feel a nice stretch on the inside of your thighs, hamstrings and calves. Your head and neck should remain relaxed and shoulder blades pressed slightly down and back toward each other.
- If this feels like a good stretch, you can stop here and hold for 30 to 60 seconds, taking slow, deep breaths.
- To progress further, turn one of your hands toward the sky while twisting your torso to that side.
- Turn your head toward the raised hand as long as you do not have any neck problems. Stop when you feel a stretch and hold for 30 to 60 seconds, taking slow inhales and exhales.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
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