5-minute morning yoga to seize the day

Story highlights

  • Five minutes of morning yoga can ready the body and mind for the day
  • Breath awareness is an important part of a morning yoga routine
Editor's note: Dana Santas is the creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning, a yoga style designed to help athletes move, breathe and focus better. She's the yoga trainer for the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic and dozens of pros in the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

(CNN)Most of us don't have the luxury of starting our days with the easy-going, sunrise-watching, coffee-sipping routines depicted in commercials. It's usually more about hoping the caffeine kicks in quickly as you juggle getting yourself ready with responding to the demands of your household and buzzing phone. That said, like we're told during inflight safety demonstrations, it's important to put on your oxygen mask before helping others. That's why I recommend five minutes of yoga every morning to set your body and mind right -- before doing anything else.

Although it would be nice to devote more time to morning yoga, the stress of squeezing an hour-long class into a harried schedule might outweigh the benefits. When time is limited, why spend an hour doing something that you can effectively accomplish in five minutes?
    My morning yoga practice is designed to efficiently get the body and mind ready for optimal use the rest of the day. The sequence covers a full, functional range of motion that counters our bodies' dominant-side tendencies and inspires movement we might not otherwise experience over the course of a routine day. This not only makes us feel great but can also prevent injury the same way I train my pro athletes for injury prevention, by taking them out of their muscular compensation patterns.
      The sequence below should be done with breath awareness, which is why all of my instructions link breathing with movement. Before even getting out of bed, take five long, deep breaths in and out of your nose to establish a consistent rhythm and awareness of your respiration. Pay special attention to your exhales, ensuring that you release all of the air from your lungs and feel your lower ribs move in and down. By bringing your attention to your breath and body first thing, you avoid the pitfall of immediately focusing on your to-do list before you're mentally prepared.
      Mountain pose with prayer hands
      When you first get out of bed, stand with feet hip distance and palms together at the center of your chest. Feel that all of your major joints -- shoulders, hips, knees and ankles -- are aligned vertically and your weight is centered. Tune into the expansion and contraction of your ribcage as you lengthen and deepen your breath. Check in with your jaw, collarbones and low back, releasing any tension you find in these areas. Hold this pose for at least five breaths as you make a conscious connection with your body and set a positive intention for your day or repeat a mental mantra that is important to you.
      Mountain pose with arms up
      Inhale to raise your arms up, aligning your hands above your shoulders, if possible. Take three long, deep breaths. On inhales, focus on keeping your arms straight as you reach upward. On exhales, keep reaching up, but drop your ribcage and shoulder blades down to create more length through your neck muscles while you gaze stra