I did 15 minutes of yoga every morning for a week and it transformed my day

You don’t have to spend hours exercising — I found just 15 minutes of mindful movement every morning gave my body and mind a huge boost

Woman practises yoga in her living room
(Image credit: Srdjan Pav / Getty Images)

I’ve long enjoyed yoga, but until taking on this challenge I rarely set aside time for it. There was always something else to be done: whether that was work or life admin, household chores or an intense form of exercise that I felt would be a better use of time. 

But there are plenty of benefits of yoga, and studies have shown it can improve your strength, balance and flexibility, help calm your nervous system and boost your mood. That’s why I was keen to try and incorporate it into my morning routine. 

Crucially, I wanted to do it in a way that felt achievable. In reality, an hour-long session first thing in the day was never going to work for me. Fifteen minutes, though? That I thought I could do. 

Although a quarter of an hour may not sound like a lot, scientific research has shown that even a small amount of exercise can have a huge impact on your health. One study in The Lancet concluded that working out for 15 minutes a day could increase your life expectancy.

Yoga teacher Sarah Highfield, the founder of Yogagise Yoga, believes that stretching and moving your body first thing in the morning is a brilliant idea. 

“Yoga is a peaceful and energizing way to start your day,” she says. “It helps to wake you up in the morning by bringing you into the present moment so you feel calm, grounded and balanced, while also stretching your muscles, moving your body, and gently building strength and stability.” 

How do you get started?

“If you are short on time and only have 15 minutes, I’d recommend doing yoga sun salutations, known as surya namaskar in Sanskrit,” says Highfield.

“Sun salutations are done without yoga props and are easy to master. They stretch your body, strengthen your core and back, boost circulation, increase energy levels and keep your mind focused on the present.” 

Through the week I used YouTube as a source for short, guided sessions and found many great morning classes, including those by Adriene Mishler (of Yoga with Adriene fame).

I tried sun salutation-focused sessions and a mixture of mindful meditation-based movement and more strenuous stretching exercises. 

Here’s what I discovered.

1. Starting the morning with moments of calm is empowering

A key thing I took from the challenge was the realization I usually spend my mornings on high alert. It’s not necessarily that I’m stressed, but my brain is swimming with thoughts of what needs to be done.

Trying to brush aside those feelings proved tricky initially, and during the first couple of morning sessions I found myself mentally going through that day’s to-do list when I should have been easing into some yoga stretches and enjoying quiet moments.

On the third morning, however, I decided to take a few minutes before my practice to write down the things swirling around in my brain: emails that needed to be sent, chores that required doing and work that I couldn’t forget. This act meant that I could then switch off from the chatter in my mind and focus on yoga. And, boy, did that help.

From then, I enjoyed the mindful meditation aspects of my practice—inhaling deeply, feeling a connection with my body and embracing a clear mind. At the end of my sessions, I felt calm, positive and ready to take on whatever was waiting for me. Those moments of peace set the tone for the day and I felt empowered and mentally strong. 

2. Making time for daily movement can make your body stronger

My usual morning routine goes like this: roll out of bed, get in the shower, sort breakfast for my two daughters and get them changed, usher them out the door with my husband and then sit down to work.

Although running after a two year old trying to get their trainers on can involve a certain amount of exercise, in reality I don’t move much in the mornings. This was part of what I loved about the challenge.

Every morning, by the time I sat down for work, I knew I had already dedicated 15 minutes of self-care time to my body—giving it the opportunity to move, stretch and focus on balance and strength.

I could tell the difference too: my body felt more supple and my muscles less tense and tight, and on the days that I also ran or did other exercise I felt stronger. I experienced less of the aches from delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day. 

3. 15 minutes of exercise each day is achievable

I use a lack of time as an excuse for not moving more, but the truth is there is always time, however brief. This is something I learned from my week-long challenge. It isn’t hard to carve out 15 or 20 minutes for some sort of movement on a daily basis.

At the beginning, setting my alarm 25 minutes earlier than usual made me groan, but my new wake-up time soon became the norm and I didn’t notice the reduced time I spent in bed.

In fact, I started looking forward to those 15 minutes of me-time while the rest of my family were still dozing. If you like the sound of this, you might enjoy this 10-move morning yoga routine to start your day off, as well. 

4. It’s about building healthy habits

Before trying this challenge, I wasn’t convinced I’d continue past the week, but after seven days I can see the habit sticking. The mental and physical benefits resonated with me and, since the challenge ended, yoga has remained a part of most of my days. 

There’s just been one small change: I’ve become less regimented about how I incorporate it into my routine, and more open to making things work in a flexible way. 

Some mornings it’s a case of a quick sun salutation-type stretch before I get into the shower, while at the weekends it might be a dose of Cosmic Yoga with my daughters.

Other days I’m hoping I’ll be able to find time for a longer session. For me, it’s about making yoga and movement a daily part of my life in a way that suits me—and that might look different each day.

So, will I be trying to keep up with a regular morning practice of sorts? The answer is yes. 

If you're new to the practice, it can help to use a yoga mat for underfoot support and comfort while you're moving on the ground. Need help choosing? Use our guide to the best yoga mats to make an informed decision.

Claire Munnings

Claire is a freelance journalist with more than 15 years experience. Specializing in health, wellbeing and women’s lifestyle topics, Claire was previously the editor of Natural Health magazine and Health&Wellbeing magazine, and has written for titles including Stylist, Platinum, MadeForMums, Happiful, and In The Moment.