Why and How to Wake Up Early to Practice Yoga

Waking up early up to practice Yoga around the time the sunrises sets a wonderful tone for the rest of the day. It has been revealed to be the secret to health and happiness in both the east and the west. Many of us know of Benjamin Franklin saying, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” He is also known to have said, "The early morning has gold in its mouth.”

According to Ayurveda and Yoga theory, the one and a half hour before sunrise is known as Brahma-muhurta, which translates literally as “the creator’s hour.” Nature is quietest at this time. The wind, for instance, is less active, similarly the mind is also quieter before the sun comes up. If we make use of this special time we will see many benefits in our lives. Just as Ben Franklin said, the Shatras also inform us that waking up early leads one to be, “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” If you travel in India you will hear most of the population waking up early to perform their morning hygiene, exercises, and ritual. Since both Nature and the mind are quieter around the dawn, we are more open to harnessing the pure and fresh(sattvic) energy within and around us.

The time when we transition from sleep to waking is a sacred time. We are moving from the restful passive state of sleep to the wakeful active state of our daily duties and all the drama that entails. It can be a crazy world out there, in the heat of the day it can be easy to be swept away by emotions from everything we are called to do, from family, work, to even the stress of play. Therefore it is important to spend time gathering ourselves, collecting our life-force, before plunging head first into the day. And what better way to do that than with Yoga? I personally have come to relish the lightness I feel, when I start my day with Yoga. By choosing to wake up early to practice, I am more likely to make healthier, happier, wiser, more efficient decisions as I move throughout rest of my day.

Like many people I used to think ‘I wasn’t a morning person.’ And at that time I wasn’t. However after some time I realized that being a morning person wasn’t a ‘god given’ characteristic, but waking up early simply required a little adjusting of lifestyle. Call it discipline if you like, but know that it is a discipline well worth figuring out. The simplest method to becoming a morning person is to follow Ben Franklin’s advice, “early to bed and early to rise.” Make sure that you go to bed early enough so that you can have a full night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed. Six to eight hours of sleep is the general recommended dose. However it varies per individual. It is useful to find out how much sleep is the ideal amount each for us, at different stages in our lives.

This is where the discipline comes in. Perhaps watching TV or using the computer late at night is not the best thing for our health. I’ve found for myself, that it is the number one reason I feel more sluggish getting out of bed in the morning. It is also beneficial to eat our big meals earlier in the day when our digestive fires are most active, and eat a light dinner in the evening. Then when we go to sleep our system spends less time digesting our food, and can fall into REM and deep sleep cycles much easier, to give proper balance back to our body and mind. Another useful piece of advice, which I must admit took me awhile to learn, is to avoid alcohol on a daily basis. If you drink everyday, partake every other day, or better yet enjoy a drink only on the weekends. Consider switching to herbal teas instead.

I understand that it can be challenging to give up things we are accustomed to, but through a little experimentation on your own, you will find that the benefits of what you get far out weighs

what you give up. This advice has no morality attached to it, you are not a bad person if you stay up late eating junk food, watching TV, while scrolling through Facebook, and sipping on a bottle. We have all been there from one to all of these examples. Life is about choices, and their cause and effect. If you want to get up early to practice Yoga, this bit of discipline can make it so much easier to rise naturally. It will be less of a struggle. And you will find, overtime, that it is well worth it.

At first enacting these changes in our life can be challenging, and if we are accustomed to late nights and late meals it will take some conscious effort to redirect our rhythms to become more aligned with Nature. If you fall off don’t get sad, don’t give up, simply try again the next day. It is important to be kind to ourselves, and to know that change can take time to happen. Perhaps a little faith is useful, faith that change is possible, and faith that it is worth it. If you are willing to take this leap of faith, and commit to an early Yoga practice (just try it to see what happens), you will find that over time it becomes a natural part of your life. You may eventually start to yearn for your Yoga practice in the morning, and be all the more motivated to get out of bed to get at it.

After getting up, and going to the bathroom, it is recommended to clean our mouth (brush teeth, scrape tongue), so that we are left with fresh breath and clean the bad bacteria and toxins in our mouth. We can take a hot cup of water, tea, or coffee. While coffee is not for everyone, my teacher, Sharath, likes to make a semi-joke, “no coffee, no prana.” (Prana is our life-force and breath. Many scientific studies now point to the health benefits of a moderate amount of coffee.) The hot liquid serves to move our digestion and wake up the rest of the body. Experiment, figure out which beverage works best for you. Remember we are all different so it is important to take all of this advice and see what works best for you. A hot shower, or bath, can be also most beneficial. When we shower we clean not only our body, but also refresh the senses of our mind. The hot water also serves to open the muscles and lungs.

Before heading off to Yoga class, some people prefer to meditate silently on their own; some people like to read; while others fire up a one person dance party. Again it is up to you to experiment to find out which method works best for you, to get the juices flowing. Whatever gets your tapas (internal heat) going is what you need to do. If we get up before other members of our household we have some time just for ourselves, without being bothered by any external interactions and distractions. Know that this is a magical time. It is the time to set intentions of how we want to manifest our dreams, and create the life that we want for ourselves. From these experiences we may come to understand why this time has been called by the seers and sages as “the creator’s hour.”

So don’t lie around in bed, tossing and turning the morning away, throw off the covers and get up and create this new day of your life.

(P.S.) By the way, this spring I am now offering morning ‘Mysore’ on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I am there 7:00am to 8:30am. Know that you are not expected to stay for this whole time period. You may come and leave as you like, as it works best for your schedule. Expect your first time to take around 45 minutes to an hour. Mysore is the best way to learn Ashtanga Yoga, because you are taught one on one, student to teacher, within the energy of a group. You work at your own pace, leading therefore to a more meditative experience. Come and see what it is all about. Incidentally it is a great way to start your day, and 7:00am is now much after the sunrise, so you have plenty of time to get up before you go. To learn more about this practice go to: www.loboyoga.com

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The Perspective of Ego within the Sankhya Philosophy by Kristi Murrin

I often wonder about the “ego” and how it resonates in my life.  I try to understand the ego with an open heart and accept that we have an ego that can control our behaviors if we are unaware.  I find myself reflecting on moments that might be ego driven or be judgmental of other people’s ego and I think to myself, why is it that the ego in ourselves is always being analyzed and can be such a trouble maker? 

In Sanskrit the ego is called Ahamkara literally translated as the “I maker” or “I am.”  It is understood as the moment at which we see ourselves and identify ourselves as a being.  In Sankhya philosophy, the foundation of Ayurveda, is a philosophy explaining the truth within ourselves and understanding of the energetic forces that create our existence.  When I study Sankhya my heart starts to open and there is a sense of truth in what it portrays.  We come from a conscious source combined with an active will: quite literally the male aspect of consciousness and the female way of creation comes together and an “I” is formed.  In other words, the moment there is an awareness of self is the moment of creation and formation of who we are.  So it is the ego that is involved in this formation and where would we be without it? 

So then I say to myself: we must have ego to be and to move forward.  There is a purpose for the ego and if we actively begin to understand the function of the ego we may have some understanding of how it can benefit our lives in a positive way.  I am writing on the ego because just recently I was on a one-month trip in Ecuador kayaking on class IV rivers and my ego was squashed for a moment. 

Class IV in kayaking is an subjective difficulty level: not super extreme but still demands attention to skill and focus.  Over the last 20 years of my life the sport of kayaking has been part of my identity.  It was part of my job travelling the world with teenagers and kayaking on some of the most famous whitewater rivers in the world.  My ego got me to all the places I paddled and the ego has also challenged me to know and identify my limitations when they came up. 

In any extreme sport, I believe the ego must be at play.  It must help us entertain the idea that the “I” can do it.  Not only do it well but “NAIL IT” and make the line look smooth and easy.   Working with the ego is about understanding the center point of focus on something: it is the truth of what we see before us.  When I actively paddle down a challenging rapid I want to believe my ego is in line with my skill and at the end of the day I can feel good about it.

Just to explain a little further in Sankyha.  Before Ahakara there is Mahad: pure intelligence.   Ego comes from what Dr. Lad describes as a center of focus.  When we focus in on something and recognize it, we identify it as something. 

       

“Ahamkara is a process of identification based upon previous accumulated experience.  The moment “I” is formed, which is the center created in the consciousness, then that creative intelligence (Mahad) becomes Budhi which is reasoning, capacity, intellect, and individual awareness.” – Dr. Lad, Volume 1

 

AWARENESS

I believe is the key word to working with the ego.

I think we choose different ways in life to question our ego and challenge it.  I believe the moment we start to identify with our ego is when we begin to understand it. Understanding allows us to stay truthful with ourselves.  As I continue practicing yoga, I try to keep my ego open and remember that I am just a blip in the universe and my action is a part of all others actions.  I work on being aware of my limitations and being a representative of my limitations: being truthful with what I have to offer and what I am not capable of offering.  Understanding that my imperfections are a part of me and there are always things to work on.  It is with yoga that my awareness of each moment becomes more consistent. 

My trip to Ecuador was intense.  Halfway into the trip, we lost a dear friend to the river.  I was not on the river that day but I had spent time with the folks who were and felt the loss rip through me like a tidal wave when it happened.  The young man who lost his life was an expert kayaker.  Having gotten to know him, I believe that he understood his limitations and knew how to communicate with his ego well.  It was an accident and when tragedy happens, our lives change.

In any case the aftermath of death is a moment of truth.  I have experienced tragedy on the river before and both times there has been a surreal experience of truth amongst all the survivors.  It is this moment where the ego is squashed and all of our daily concerns seem petty.  It is the moment that we realize life is precious and every moment is an opportunity to become aware of the truth around you. 

Tragedy like this comes with a lot of reflection on life and our choices we make.  It helps us become aware of how precious life is but also question why it takes tragedy for us to shed some of the delusion and be in the moment.  It makes us look at one another for a time with clarity that we are vulnerable and our ego may not always be available to help make sense of it all.  Bad days will happen no matter what level of awareness we have attained.  Bad days can reset our minds and change our ego’s perception of who we are and how quickly we can disappear. 

A day will not go by in my life when I take time to honor the friends and loved ones we have lost.  In Crested Butte, there are many.  We live in a community that likes to live on the edge.  It is important to remember that we all face this question of ego and how to deal with it.  As I continue practicing yoga and teaching, I will always remain grateful to the students that come into class with their own work on the ego; and remember we are all in this together. 

We are all doing this to better ourselves and be a participant in a greater community.  Are greatest gift we can all give to one another is an unconditional understanding that we are doing the work no matter how it appears.  The second we walk onto a mat and practice our awareness with the breath and body we align ourselves with our ego and that to me is how we begin and continue a loving relationship with ourselves, our community and all sentient beings.

Thank you for your time.

I love you all, no matter what.

Kristi

Green Pineapple, Coconut Protein Smoothie

Smoothies have been my go-to breakfast for the past few years. They are easy, fast and jam packed with nutrients to get your day started right! 

1 Cup Pineapple

1 Cup Green Grapes

5-6 Dates

1/2 Avocado

1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

1 Cup of Water

1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut 

2 Tablespoon Hemp Protein Powder (or protein powder of your choice)

Pinch of Cinnamon 

Lime Wedge

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to your desired consistency. 

Katie Heinle 




Hydrotherapy - The Glands are the Guardians of Health.- by Jessica Hartigan

Take a brief, cold shower in the morning to open up the capillaries throughout the body.  The cold water allows all toxic deposits to be cleansed out and then all the blood returns to the organs.  When organs are flushed the glands change their secretion.  The glands are the guardians of health.

Stay under the cold shower until it feels warm for maximum effect.

Taken from “Kundalini Yoga;  Unlock Your Inner Potential Through Life Changing Exercises”

Learn more about the powerful affects of Kundalini at the Town Hall on Friday Mornings at 10:00 with Jessica Hartigan  

Finding Balance in the Summer Heat - by Kristi Murrin

STAY COOL… How to maintain balance in the summer using Ayurvedic knowledge.

When you think of the qualities of summer you might think of words like hot, sharp, intense, fast, and energetic.  These are all qualities that develop over the summer season because the sun is highest in the sky during the day.  The energy of the summer will give us lots of energy throughout the day but it can also cause certain people to become aggravated with too much heat and exposure to the sun. 

In Ayurveda, the summer presents the element of Fire and Water.  The season of summer is called the Pitta season in Ayurveda.  Pitta is one of the three-doshic qualities in Ayurveda.  They are based on the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space.  

Aggravation of Pitta qualities can be identified with mental, emotional and physical imbalances.  Feelings of “burn out” and fatigue, partnered with anger and aggression can be seen as a result of not providing the opposite qualities in order to balance the hot, sharp qualities of Pitta.

In order to balance Pitta, we need to introduce more cooling activities and foods into our daily life during the summers.  Our vigorous activities should be done early in the day or later in the evening when the sun is not so high in the sky.  Avoid being in the sun in the middle of the day.  Wearing clothes that have light colors and are lightweight will keep the body cool.   A mid day swim in a cool lake or a short siesta in the shade are good activities to calm pitta.  Moonlight walks and open bowl meditation are good to help calm the mind.

As for good food choices, avoiding hot spicy foods and acidic foods will aid in calming the hot, sharp and pungent quality of Pitta.  Cooling foods such as cucumber, cilantro, melons, and lime juice are all cooling foods in the Ayurvedic system.  Coconut oil and cooling spices such as fresh basil, cardamom, Cumin, Dill, Fennel and Mint are all good for the summer season.  Limiting salt, sour foods and oil will help keep the hot and sharp Pitta qualities at bay.

In our yoga practice, poses that help to release heat are any type of back bending poses such as Fish, Camel, Boat, Cobra and Cow pose are all heat releasing poses.  Avoiding poses that are inverted or compressing such as standing forward bend can aggravate Pitta by bringing heat back into the body.

In general, think cooling and calming activities to help stay balanced in the summer months. 

Stay Cool!

Kristi Murrin CHom, 500RYT

Ayurvedic Lifestyles Consultant                                                                                              (970)596-7337