You know what’s fun? Starting the day with loads of energy. And for me, it used to never, ever happen. If you follow this blog you might remember that I said I used to never be a morning person but that it changed. Part of what helped me transition to enjoying the early sunlight was morning yoga. Because you know what? Morning yoga is divine.
Morning yoga is something special. I could say it one hundred times and still not have said it enough. It’s so special! At first, I was a little resistant to the idea of waking up and immediately getting on my mat. Let’s be honest, work first thing in the morning is not most people’s idea of a great morning.
So I kept it short. That way I could say yes, I did it. Even if it was just one or two sun salutations. Soon enough, five minutes every morning turned into fifteen, fifteen into twenty. One minute of sun salutations and four minutes of meditation turned into 15 minutes of asana practice and 5 minutes of meditation.
Point being, I started off being gentle. I didn’t force anything. I let my body do what it wanted. Even now, sometimes all it wants is a five-minute practice. That’s okay. The point still is that I’m doing it.
But why…dear God WHY did I start a morning practice? And why do I keep doing it?
There’s a bunch of reasons and I am way too excited about sharing them with you. Before I start though, let me encourage you to try a morning practice for two weeks. Get up, maybe get the coffee brewing, and try a simple, 10-minute morning yoga routine. If you follow your own idea, my video or written suggestion, or someone else’s I truly hope you are able to experience the subtle and not so subtle benefits of a morning practice.
Now let’s get into it.
This is no particular order BUT let’s say you felt like this yesterday. Odds are you won’t be moving too well today. Or maybe you just tend to wake up stiff and creaky. Age-related or otherwise. Well, yoga really helps that. Especially first thing in the morning. I won’t lie to you and say that when you get on your mat you’ll get as limber as you’ve ever been. Not how it works. When I’m sore and stiff and I get on my mat first thing in the morning, my body does not want to cooperate. Uh-uh. Not one bit. It can be very frustrating but (and it’s a big but), I always feel more limber after my practice and later in the day. Even if you don’t spend long enough on your mat to really stretch out your muscles, you’ll be able to loosen out the preliminary stiffness.
This is a huge one for me. As a writer and a college student, I use my brain. A lot. Too much. When I get up early it doesn’t always wake up with me. Some mornings I am stuck in a fuzz. A fog settles on me and I am stuck. No creativity. No ability. No intelligence. Just a fuzzy existence and a cranky attitude.
Morning yoga helps bring clarity to my mind. It’s like I’m cleaning off the windows after winter. Light gets in better, I can see out better, and I just feel good about it. Waking up and then giving myself that clarity is special. I’m giving myself the gift of a good day. Most of the time. It sounds dramatic but within a week of starting my morning practice, I felt calmer as if I could see and understand things better. My grades improved, not that they were bad. My writing and creativity skyrocketed. Now that is worth taking time out of my morning.
No matter what, I have the tendency to wake up and stress. I open my eyes and start panicking within the first five minutes. It doesn’t matter if I have somewhere to go or not. A ton on my schedule, or have it completely empty. I’ll still panic. For me, practicing mindfulness in the morning through my yoga practice means bringing calm breath to my body. Again, even if the practice is brief it’s long enough to prevent any panic from forming and replace what would have been panic with a sense of calm. By starting off my day relaxed like this, I am promising myself to take care of myself and be good to myself.
Along the lines of promising something to myself, morning practice is a phenomenal time to start implementing an intention. Not every single one of my practices has some deep intention meant to bring me to some higher level of living but my morning practices do have intentions. It can be as simple as “be calm” or more specific if you would like. The beauty of setting an intention is that it can be exactly what you want for that practice or for that day. Morning yoga intentions can carry through the rest of the day. And each day it can change!
One way or another, getting your muscles moving in the morning helps digestion. It starts moving things around, keeps you regular, blah blah. Add that to coffee and you’ll forget what being irregular is like. Also, you get blood down to your intestines which helps loads of things!
That’s five reasons but of course there about a million more. Happiness, energy, better moods throughout the day, circulations improving, getting a head start on the day, improving your health, blah, blah, blah. It’s a great thing, you get it.
I will say this though, don’t cut out your coffee. If you are a coffee or tea drinker in the morning, don’t abandon it thinking a morning practice will fix this. Also, don’t cut out your breakfast. You need food. After practice…if you can wait that long.
What do I do for my morning practice? Lots of things! But one thing stays the same. I grab my coffee (or get it ready), burn some incense or a candle, and set my coffee down near my mat. At the end of my practice, when I’m meditating, I’ll sip on my coffee and focus on the taste and feelings I get from it. I invite you to try this too!
Now that you’ve read the article, here’s a little goodie basket for you. A morning practice all ready to go! It has the three components of what I think make up a good morning practice: sun salutations, twists, and a light balancing posture. Enjoy!
10 minute morning yoga (or longer depending on your breath)
Start off with a great big smile and try the whole practice with your eyes closed, opening them periodically to appreciate the beauty of the morning.
5 breaths in cat cow
Pick up the hands one at a time, three wrist circles each before placing them a little ahead of you. Lift up to plank.
Transition into downdog. Several breaths.
Bend the knees. Hop into forward fold.
Hang for a full breath cycle. Inhale, bringing the arms up. Exhale into forward fold.
Repeat Sun Salutation A three more times
Adding energy to your movements, from forward fold jump back to plank.
Chaturanga to updog.
Meet in downdog.
Drop the knees to the earth. Hands come to the ground. Lift the knees up into tiptoe pose.
Reach the arms above the head with a deep inhale. Exhale arms into a twist to the side. Inhale to center, arms up high. Exhale, twist to the other side. Repeat two more times on each side.
Settle back onto the rear. Extend the legs.
Point and flex the toes. Move the ankles. Send the feet as wide as the yoga mat, seated forward fold.
Cross right foot over left. Bring the legs up into cross-legged position.
Hands come behind the back, chest opener.
Back to center. Side body stretch, one breath to each side.
Straighten the legs, repeat on other side.
Diving forward, come into our final donward facing dog.
Hop to the top of your mat. Inhale arms come up, exhale fold.
Inhale up to flatback. Exhale fold.
Plant the palms, hop it back to plank. Chaturanga to updog.
Move into downdog briefly, setting the knees down, crossing the ankles and coming to lie on our backs with the knees hugged into the chest.
Then get off your mat and take your good energy with you!