low lunge

Photo: Lisa Mae Osborn

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Favorite of: Lisa Mae Osborn, owner and instructor at the Bhaktishop Yoga Center in Portland, Oregon

Why it's great in the morning: It's a pre-emptive a.m. hip stretch, which is great if you're deskbound all day. "I sit a lot, believe it or not, doing administrative work for the yoga center and for my acupuncture practice," says Osborn. "This pose helps me feel stronger in my core, shoulders and hips, as well as helping with mobility and stability throughout my day."

Expert instructions on how to do it: "Step into a low-lunge position, with your front knee directly over your front ankle and your weight placed evenly on the pad of your back foot's big toe. Place a blanket under your back knee before you lower it to the ground. Once your knee is lowered comfortably, bring your hands off the floor and onto your front knee. Press your spine and chest to an upright position. Allow yourself a few moments to feel your breath soften any tension in the front of your body before raising your arms up alongside your head and reaching upward. Try to keep the weight of your pelvis even from front to back. Take 3 to 5 full breaths there before switching sides."
Variation for a slightly deeper stretch: "Place the front foot on a yoga block or a stack of books that won't slide. Repeat the previous steps, but this time, place your hands on your front knee, rather than reaching upright. This changes the load in the front leg, allowing the connective tissues there to soften, strengthen and release a bit more. Again, take care to keep the weight of the pelvis centered and even front to back in the hip joints."