Let’s face it; waking up is hard to do. Most of us are prone to savor that extra time between the sheets. When eventually rolling out of bed, we ply our bodies to wake with ever increasing doses of caffeine. We’ll rush to get ready, perhaps even skipping breakfast, to take our tired and tight bodies to desks where we may sit for 6, 8, 10 hours. After work, expecting those bodies to move through a yoga flow, a run, or gym workout. We then lay wide-awake in bed at night, wondering why it’s so hard to fall asleep when we’re oh so tired in the morning.
For those of us who are not naturally morning people, it’s hard to even imagine incorporating a morning yoga practice. Here’s the thing: you can do it! I’m even going to go on a limb and say you will never regret an early morning yoga practice! Creating the routine is a huge part of battle, and likely your first step. If you can manage it, you’ll experience benefits in body, mind, and spirit.
The body is particularly honest first thing in the morning. When you begin an early morning yoga practice, you may feel slower and tighter than you might in the afternoon or evening. This is valuable feedback. As a practitioner it gives you greater insight into your natural tension and how to work through the tight corners to cultivate ease and freedom through movement and breath.
Turns out the body loves routine. Eventually over time, the committed morning yogi will notice that the body becomes acquainted with an early morning schedule and wakes up more lithe, limber, and ready for action. University of North Texas researchers discovered that people who exercise first thing in the morning essentially “teach” their bodies to be ready to wake and move, resetting their internal circadian rhythm to have the body ready for exercise first thing in the morning.
This may also be attributed to consistency. That research also showed that early morning movers are far more likely to stick with their routine. Think about all the times your attempt to make it to your mat later in the day has been derailed by a work obligation or an enticing invite from a friend.
It may feel like a big challenge at first, especially if you’re not naturally a morning person. However, the body will respond positively to early rising. You’ll wake more easily and be ready to move, overtime achieving greater consistency in your practice.
Connecting movement to a slow, smooth, steady breath calms and centers the mind. This is one of the major reasons we yogis love our asana practice. That dance of movement and breath allows us to feel clear and grounded. Beginning the day connecting to this state of being is extremely beneficial for all the tasks that will unfold throughout the day. This can lead to improved personal interactions and enhanced work productivity.
By nature, morning time is calm, quiet, and peaceful. Highway traffic is still slow, as is the traffic of the mind. Instead of waking up to coffee, which immediately spikes our brain waves, we can treat the mind to the still quality of morning time. Easing into awareness instead of jumpstarting with caffeine, we can carry a piece of the morning quiet with us throughout the day. This will likely come in handy as challenging situations arise in our lives.
Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga) refers to the hour and half before sunrise as the “Brahma muhurta,” meaning the hour of God. Regardless of your religious affiliation, the last hour of night and the first hour of morning are particularly magical and spiritually uplifting. Photographers call it the morning glow or golden hour. Birds begin chirping as the sun peaks up over the horizon to fill the Earth with light.
The philosophy of yoga teaches us that all living things are connected by divine spark, this spark resides in the heart of all living things. The hour of God, doesn’t necessarily mean that God is closer or father from Earth at any given time, but rather the beauty and stillness of morning time allows for easier access. Students of yoga can use the tools practice to notice that divine spark within themselves and others. The teachings of yoga sharing that it's easier to acheive higher states of meditation in the early morning than at any other time of day.
Krishnamacharya, one of modern yoga’s first asana teachers, encouraged the practice of Sun Salutations first thing in the morning as a means purification and reverence. Students humbly bow in reverence to the rising sun, which gives life to all things, thereby dedicating the self each morning to something greater than the individual.
How to do it?
1) Go to bed
Try getting to sleep by 10 PM. At first you may stir, try to calm yourself down lying still on your back taking counting slow breaths, rather than tossing and turning. Instituting a “no-electronics” in the bedroom rule can be quite helpful as well. In fact, try to avoid any screen 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
2) Set your alarm
Start backwards. When do you have to leave your house to make it to work on time? Go an hour and a half back from that and set a few different alarms to get yourself out of bed in time.
3) Start small
-Pick two or three early morning yoga classes to attend.
-The other days of the week, try just dedicating 20 or 30 minutes. Nothing fancy, just seated breathing, a few cat/cows, Sun Salutations, a forward fold, gentle twist, and an inversion. It’s not necessary to do a full practice every morning. However, starting the day with a simple dedication to movement and connection to breath can have a profound impact on your outlook and your health.
4) Give it 30 days
That’s what they say. It takes 30 days to build a habit. Give it a go!