For most of us, waking up consists of opening our eyes and stumbling into the shower. But the morning presents an opportunity to do much more than that. "Launching full-speed into your day isn't the best way to go," says mind/body fitness expert Jennifer Kries, creator of the Hot Body, Cool Mind: Waking Energy DVD. "You need to help your body make the gradual shift from sleep, a yin state, to a waking, or yang, energy state." By taking a more conscious approach to this daily transition, you set yourself up to better handle the demands of your day.
The secret, says Kries, lies in stimulating the body's internal energy while harnessing the universal chi, or energy, that surrounds you. Her approach combines the slow, fluid movements of qigong with Pilates's spine-centered exercises to awaken the senses. The result is an integrated set of movements linked with breath to send freshly oxygenated blood to your brain, preparing the body for what's to come, says Kries. The best part? You can do it in your pj's.
1 Morning Stretch
What it does: Expands the muscles of the upper back and chest, facilitating deep, rejuvenating breaths; stretches the deep connective tissues of the hands and wrists.
How to do it: Stand with feet a little wider than hip-width apart; inhale deeply as you reach the arms straight up, clasping the fingers, palms turned out. Feel the oxygen filling your lungs and gently exhale as you stretch to one side, and then the other. Drop the arms, then repeat.
2 Spinal Elixir
What it does: Wakes up the spine, stimulates the central nervous system, and gently massages the internal organs.
How to do it: Stand with feet parallel. Taking a deep breath, draw your palms up your thighs to your hip bone and arch your back; then exhale, reversing the movement, and curl the tailbone under while curving the spine into a "C" shape. Repeat 4 to 6 times.
3 Auric Sweep
You'll need: A chair
What it does: Combines a spinal twist that mobilizes the spine with a flowing movement to open the upper arms, torso, and back muscles; releases tension; generates positive energy for the day.
How to do it: Seated on the edge of a chair, plant your feet wide apart, toes pointed outward so that you feel grounded and centered in your space. Gently twist to the right, sweeping your left arm over your head and extending your right arm out to the side; then twist to the left, reversing the arms, creating a flowing rhythm. Repeat 10 times or more.