First off, let me say that there is no “right” time to do yoga practice. There are pros and cons to practicing at any time of day and the “right” time is the one that you can do. Even in Mysore, India, at the main shala, Sharath teaches both morning and afternoon classes. The visiting students practice in the morning. The local Indian students have a different class with Sharath in the afternoon after they are done with work for the day.
There are many good things about yoga practice in the morning:
- Your stomach is empty, so you’re not digesting food. An empty certainly feels better for bending and twisting as well as for an overall feeling of lightness in the body.
- The brain is usually less preoccupied with the drama of the day. Yoga practice in the morning is often mentally quieter than practice later in the day.
- There are usually less conflicts and demands on your time. Most of the time the phone is not ringing and email and texts are not chirping at 6am. You might get to give this yoga thing your full attention in the morning because no one else is awake yet to distract you.
Even after almost 17 years of Ashtanga practice, I still don’t find getting up in the early morning to be easy! But, I do find that it’s worth it. Once I’m up, I enjoy the quiet of the early morning and the slower pace of things. I really enjoy yoga practice in the morning for the opportunity to do this one thing with my full attention without anything else competing for that time. It’s a great feeling to have finished the hardest thing I’m going to do all day (my Ashtanga practice) before most people are even awake!
So, if you’ve decided you want to give yoga practice in the morning a try, how do you manage it? …because, yes, it can be an uncomfortable transition if you are not used to being up in the early morning.
Adjust your schedule for yoga practice in the morning
First, accept that you will have to make some schedule adjustments to accommodate yoga practice in the morning. One of which is that you will probably have to go to bed earlier. (Just getting less sleep is not a great option if you want to be functional both in yoga practice and later in the day.) Figure out what time you want to get up to do yoga practice in the morning. Now count back 8 hours from that time and that is your new bed time. Adjust your dinner time according to your new bed time. This is important, as getting enough sleep will do wonders for helping you actually feel good when you get up early.
Morning yoga practice starts the night before
Once you’ve wrapped your head around that, prepare the night before. Each evening before bed, find your mat and towel. Put them by the door. Lay out your clothes for yoga. Organize your evening to support a great practice the next morning. Sharath said once, when I was in Mysore, that his personal yoga practice doesn’t start when he steps on the mat in the morning. It starts the night before when he’s winding down before bed.
Know that you might feel a little groggy and disoriented in the early morning. This is okay. If you’ve prepared the night before, then you don’t have to do too much thinking in the early morning.
Once you get going on the morning routine, be gentle with yourself. Every day is different. Just do what you can. And remember that there is a whole community of fellow practitioners who are there to support you in morning yoga practice.