The benefits of practicing yoga in the mornings are:
– It ensures that you get your practice, especially as other distractions can come your way to prevent you from practicing during lunch/in the evenings.
– According to Ayurvedic principles, early morning exercise removes stagnation in the body and mind, allows the energy to flow, and strengthens agni (digestive fire) which promotes better digestion of food and emotions. Vata energy is present before sunrise (2am – 6am), an ideal time to rouse the body.
– Being able to handle the day’s stresses with greater ease, by cultivating calm, peaceful thoughts, loving kindness, patience and compassion during your morning practice.
– It sets the tone for your day ahead. Our mornings influence the rest of our day. If we get off on a bad start, oftentimes our bad moods persist through the day.
– It helps to builds self-discipline, when you show up at your mat instead of giving into the temptation of sleeping in.
For those of us who currently practice yoga in the evenings because we’re unable to get out of bed early enough in the mornings, and who are open to starting a morning yoga practice, here are some tips:
– Suspend your oft-chanted mantra of “I practice yoga in the evenings”, “I have more energy/flexibility in the evenings”, “I don’t have time in the mornings”, “I’m just not a morning person.”
– Commit to your morning practice the night before. In the early mornings when we’re still tired and groggy, our beds are more inviting and it’s easy to switch the alarm off. If our Plan A (starting yoga practice straight away) doesn’t work, it’s time to activate Plan B – for example, jumping in the shower, or making ourselves a cup of milo first.
– Start hydrating the night before to get your morning practice on the right track.
– Make a conscious effort to sleep earlier so that you can wake earlier. This can be challenging for most of us, as we usually stay up till late at night working, unwinding, or catching up with friends and family.
– Set up a dedicated practice area in your home, and prepare it the night before with the equipment you need – your mat, towels, blocks, belts, water bottle for example.
– Set reasonable goals and practice times. When we first start, it may be that we can only commit to morning practice once a week. With time, we can choose to increase this to twice, thrice, or more. We may only be able to manage 30 minutes at first, with time, we can aim to increase this to 45 minutes, 60 minutes, or even 1.5 hours for the entire ashtanga primary sequence. On some days, we may be sore, or inflexible, or just don’t have the time. The key thing is to start with small, attainable goals and to be adaptable, because people have the natural tendency to quit a new habit in an “all or nothing” approach when they feel they are failing.
– Start with meditation and pranayama, if you find it hard to start moving straightaway.
– Hold yourself accountable to your family and friends. That way, it makes it that bit harder to go back on your commitment to yourself.
· Enjoy the practice mindfully. When you ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” just remember that it’s because yoga makes you feel better, and that it will get easier as you ease into your practice. Let go of thoughts such as “Urgh, I feel so stiff/sore/tight”. Instead, explore how to create freedom in your joints and muscles, and really work on different stretches to open up the body before getting into certain asanas, such as backbends or twists.
– Reward yourself with a relaxing shower and healthy breakfast after your practice. Some ideas are Greek yoghurt with granola, fresh berries and drizzled with a little honey; scrambled eggs or an egg omelette, a fresh fruit or vegetable smoothie; sliced bananas and peanut butter on wholemeal bread.
Joanna Khoo, 200hr Jan-May 2014 weekend batch
Catherine Guthrie, “Wake-up Routine”, Yoga Journal
Nora Isaacs, “Sweet Slumber”, Yoga Journal