Manda invites us to take a deeper look at our motivation for practising yoga and why we might want to practise in the mornings.
Raising your intention
I could start this by telling you all the benefits of a morning practice but deep down I believe we all know what's good for us. In addition I try avoiding dichotomies (i.e. a morning practice is better than an afternoon or evening practice), after all is yoga not a practice of integration and union?!?
Instead we might want to look at our explicit motivation for why we practise yoga and why we might want to practise in the morning.
- Why do you practise?
- What motivates you to practise?
- What inspires you about the practice?
- How does it move you?
- Into what state of yoga do you cultivate?
- How do others benefit from your practice?
- Can you see any ways that your state of yoga might be elevated by practising in the morning?
- What qualities are inherent to the morning versus the afternoon or evening?
- How could it enhance your relationships with self, others, world throughout the day?
For me these are fundamental questions. Reflections we keep returning to throughout the course of our yoga-practising lives. However, they are also of particular help to us when trying to cultivate and create new habits and patterns. The answers to these questions are the new seeds of a beautiful flowering plant you are already watering.
Imagine you could go about your everyday life with more clarity, steadiness, and equanimity - embodying a deeper sense of ease, spaciousness, balance and strength. A morning yoga practice helps give rise to, and potentiate, these qualities and effects.
A caveat. Our natural bio-rhythms - owl or lark?
(Dualism for the sake of poetic license)
Like the changing cycles and seasons of the natural world we also experience mental, emotional, spiritual and physical ebbs and flows. We can use our practice to tune in more deeply to our current and natural flow of energy. Reflecting on when we are most energetic versus most lethargic. Note that this might change over the yearly cycle as the hours of daylight transition in length. A morning practice is beneficial insofar as it helps to set your day up really sweetly. However, forcing yourself and your body through something is a form of aggression toward yourself. If you do find yourself struggling to wake up early enough to practise yoga yet are still motivated to do so, be really proud of yourself firstly for going against the grain and secondly be super gentle with your expectations of yourself. Despite our best efforts the body’s intelligence often supersedes our own.
Yoga: morning, noon or night.....
Ideas for your practice
- If feeling over stimulated and aroused in the morning in anticipation of your day ahead, start with Nadi Shodhana equalizing breath and bring your body to a state of calm by balancing your nervous system.
- Conversely, if mornings are slow and effortful, perhaps begin with a heating breath - for example, Kapalabhati - followed by a warming Sun Salutation sequence to raise and uplift your energy.
- You can also slow down your practice to tune in to natural rhythms of the seasons. Endeavouring to be flexible with our practice and the type of practice we engage in will reinforce and sustain our commitment to practise in the morning.
Inhale: I want to, Exhale: I ought to
One of the aspects of the practice that I find immensely nurturing is the permission to take a non-dogmatic stance. The encouragement to start where you are and listen to your body has always kept me coming back, has enabled me to feel like my yoga practice is always a safe place, has essentially helped me to get more comfortable with me. We know one size doesn't fit all and our yoga practice invites us to let go of our attempts to squeeze into boxes; instead we work toward awakening to our authentic truth. Create a morning yoga practice infused with inspiration and motivation rather than peppering it with obligation and pressure. This is Yoga.
Create a morning yoga practice infused with inspiration and motivation rather than peppering it with obligation and pressure. This is Yoga.
If you come to your mat out of guilt or fear your intention might be focused on outcome (getting it done, ticking a box) rather than being, absorbed in the present moment. You may not want to wake up earlier to do yoga in the morning, and that’s okay. I don’t always want to, yet when I dig deeper - if practising in the morning enables me to do it regularly and invest in my psychospiritual growth I'm committed to that more than I am attached to my sleep.
Yoga is a practice of willpower. The Niyama Tapas is an invitation to wilfully exert effort and discipline in our yoga practice. Sometimes this means doing what optimally serves us versus doing what is comfortable.
With clarity derived from our existing yoga practice, hopefully we are more equipped at differentiating between the two.
Who said it had to be Asana?
Your morning yoga practice could equally be meditation, restorative yoga, listening to a talk or a Pranayama practice. Whatever facilitates your state of yoga is the perfect place to be. For me, if I don't get on my mat before I teach (and half the week I teach early morning classes!) something as simple and effective as reading a few lines from spiritual literature or ancient text, equally taking five conscious Ujjayi breaths before rising from bed helps to ground me in a space which I define as 'yoga'. Your mind and body have a wonderful memory. Just tapping into your yoga practice with a few moments of reflection, intention and/or action will prime and cue the mind and body.
The investment pays dividends
There are no real down sides. Remember you can stop at anytime...You might just learn to love it...If it doesn’t work for you at least you know you’ve tried it . A fun and uplifting practice (please don't judge me!) when starting your day and leaving home is smiling at each person that crosses your path and silently saying Namaste (the inherent goodness in me honours the inherent goodness in you). Maybe a bit ‘out there’ but nobody knows you’re doing it and leaves you feeling super awesome and connected. Full of love - isn't that what a yoga practice is about?
"The sunrise of supreme bliss shimmers in every particle of the universe, so why not drink a fresh cup of joy every day and become inspired with new perception? Remember, love and respect must be renewed with each dawn!" ~ Swami Chidvilasananda (The Yoga of Discipline)
Our mats are our playground. Go out and play, see what you find.