“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep.” Rumi
A morning yoga session sets you up for the day, feeling supple, energised and clear-headed.
You may have other morning rituals that you enjoy—drinking coffee, working out, or spending time with your family—but if possible, try to steal your 15 minutes on the mat before your day starts to get either stressful or unpredictable. And if you can wait until afterwards to turn on your phone, well now, that’s some next level shizzle.
Here are some benefits to practicing yoga in the morning.
1. Align with your natural rhythms
Your energy levels should be relatively high in the morning and this is something that you can use to your advantage. Exercising first thing has numerous mental, physical and emotional benefits and research shows that more is not necessarily better.
To take advantage of these benefits, you need to raise your heart rate and get oxygen and nutrient-rich blood circulating through your body. In a yoga session, we also stretch tight muscles, loosen up the joints and wake up the spine. When you practice yoga in the morning, it’s like taking off your sleep suit and slipping into something more comfortable to move about in for the rest of the day.
2. Refine your focus and attention
Yoga is a full-focus discipline: it requires that you focus, it strengthens your ability to focus, and it creates the optimal conditions for sustaining focus.
In the morning, pre-input from the world, you typically have more control over your time and attention. As the day unfolds, unforeseen issues and invitations are likely to come up that will make it increasingly difficult for you to fit in your 15 minutes of yoga. You may also find that your mind is more prone to wandering off later in the day and you don't benefit as much from your session. And if you are able to get it in early, you'll find it easier to stay focused and present throughout the day.
3. Stay one step ahead
To borrow a concept from rock climbing, starting the day with calm and clarity gives you the best chance of “staying over your feet”.
If you find yourself on the back foot, things are likely to start spiralling out of control pretty quick. If, on the other hand, you carve out time in the morning to establish a calm and centred mental state, you get to be the architect of your day rather than a passive bystander. This is a more energised state that leads to greater productivity and effectiveness in whatever it is you need to get done. Protect your mornings and don’t leave anything to chance.
4. Win the day
Epically successful writer and productivity expert Tim Ferriss claims that making his bed in the morning is a "small win" that creates positive momentum.
Practicing 15 minutes of yoga in the morning can serve the same purpose. It’s one small achievement that you can do even before you leave the house. And each small win makes the next one easier. Success, even on small tasks, increases our sense of optimism and self-efficacy. We procrastinate less and respond to unfolding events with greater creativity. And the beauty of small wins is that they are easier to achieve than those big, hairy, audacious goals.
Feelings of stiffness in the morning can be partly due to dehydration, so make sure you drink at least one glass of water before you start your session. And if you still feel stiff, take a 5-minute walk around the block to warm up your muscles and get the blood pumping.
If you’re a morning yogi, I’d love to hear why this timing works for you and any issues you come up against. And if you like to practice later in the day, what your reasons are for choosing this time.