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I recently traveled with my husband and daughter to be with my family in Vermont for the holidays. I knew my days would be filled with tons of visiting (and eating!), and I needed a short daily workout routine I'd be able to—and, more importantly, want to—sneak in to supplement my daily walks, no matter how hairy the day might get. Here’s what I came up with: first-thing-in-the-morning sun salutations.

If you’ve taken a yoga class, you’ve probably done a sun salutation or two. (If not, click here for a great how-to video.) It is, in my opinion, a nearly perfect series of moves. There are forward bends and back bends, strong poses and more gentle ones, stretching and strengthening. You can move through the series rapidly, or linger as long as you'd like. As you flow from pose to pose, you build up a bit of a sweat, your muscles loosen, your energy builds up, and you’re filled with the calm happiness of seeing and feeling your body move in so many ways (no matter what your level of particular grace).

I'm not alone in my appreciation. I mentioned sun salutations to yoga expert and Health magazine columnist Kristin McGee, and she added a few benefits I hadn't thought of:
•Sun salutations are a moving meditation, helping you concentrate better as you go through your day.
•They encourage you to breathe more deeply and fully, infusing your body with vital oxygen.
•Connecting with your body in this way helps you be more in tune to what it needs—and this could even help you eat more healthfully.
•They help you develop stamina.
•Greeting the sun and making time for yourself at the beginning of each new day is a great recipe for optimism!

Sounds like a pretty good return for a few minutes' investment, doesn't it?

I'm back home now, with the vacation behind me. But I've made room in my morning workout routine for a few sun salutations. I've found that they help prepare me to better handle whatever—good, bad, stressful, surprising, you name it—gets thrown at me during the day. It’s like having my own personal life coach, helping me rediscover my best “me” every morning. Why would I give that up?