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We tend to overlook the importance of breathing because it’s something we do instinctually. We don’t have to do it consciously. But when you bring consciousness to breathing, it will improve your fitness tenfold, which is beneficial for any athlete. And we just might learn something about ourselves from Laird Hamilton.

Laird Hamilton’s Ten-Minute Morning Yoga

You don’t need an hourlong class or superhuman flexibility (like what Laird Hamilton shows off here) to start the day off right. Credit: Photograph by Peter Bohler

Over the past 30 years, I’ve tried almost every kind of workout. But one remains consistent: a series of yoga poses I do first thing most mornings. The routine doesn’t require chanting or opening your chakras. It’s four basic stretches that activate the muscles, open the joints after hours in bed, and clear the cobwebs. Best, the whole thing requires only 10 minutes. Before each pose, take a deep breath and exhale as you move into position. Once you reach your limit, breathe in and exhale again; this helps muscle fibers relax and allows you to go deeper into the stretch.

One-Leg Forward Bend
Sit on the floor with your right leg extended, the heel of your left foot against your inner right thigh, left knee turned out. Breathe in deeply and exhale as you lean forward to reach hands toward right foot. You should feel your lower back and hamstrings release with every breath. Repeat for 10 breaths. Switch sides.

Here you’ll strengthen your back muscles as you stretch your abs. Lie facedown with legs extended and tops of feet on the floor, palms flat near shoulders. Breathe in deeply and exhale as you press through hands to straighten arms. Return to start and repeat for five breaths.

Seated Twist
After spending hours in bed, your spine is naturally stiffer. This pose gently stretches it and, in the process, helps open the hips. Sit upright with left foot tucked under right butt cheek and right foot on floor beside left thigh (so right leg crosses left leg). Inhale and twist to your right, placing right hand on floor behind you and left elbow on right knee; exhale. Repeat for 10 breaths. Switch sides.

Chest Stretch
This opens the upper body like no other. Lie facedown, arms extended out to sides, palms on floor. Inhale deeply and exhale as you reach a straight right arm behind back to open chest while crossing right foot over left leg (your entire right side should lift off floor). Repeat for 10 breaths, then switch sides.