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