Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Yoga Has Recently Changed My Life

Waking up early and doing yoga. So simple, but the sustained effort required is complicated.

Most of my yogic life I have practiced in the afternoon or evening, or whenever I can squeeze it in. Before I had my daughter, I had a regularly scheduled job, in which I wasn't willing to wake up at 6am for yoga before going to work, I'd do it later (common excuse that runs through the mind with anything that requires effort). Plus, doing it in the afternoon felt better. Muscles are awake, blood is flowing and was a great antidote to the workday life. Than I became mom. Yoga found its way in at nap times, in the afternoon. My daughter turns three this June and she has been sleeping soundly through the night for about two months now. Needless to say, I am too. Which means I can spend less time sleeping because the time I do sleep is really good restful sleep. In the mist of night after night of multiple wakings... I dreamt of a time when I would be able to wake up (well rested) before my daughter, about 6 or 6:30, do some yoga and wake up quietly so that my day would begin with ritual, with clarity and a feeling of being connected to myself and something greater.

A yogini's dream came true!

Benefits of my newly established daily morning practice:
  • Calm and grounded. So much so, that it feels a little foreign. I sometimes find myself wanting more coffee because my nervous system has been so familiar with being on edge from inadequate sleep. 
  • Radiant and more alive! Increased flow of life force energy or prana has been sent through my whole body and has ignited every cell. This happens during practice at anytime of day. But now I am able to enjoy the yoga glow for the entire day, rather than half the day.
  • Mental clarity. Asana practice helps to dissipate excess, scattered mental energy throughout body. Having done this first thing, my mind is clear of what to-do's.
  • Satisfaction or santosa. I no longer have to "think" or stress about how I will squeeze my practice into my day. I am able to be more present with people and circumstances. There is satisfaction in achieving a difficult task (like, getting out of bed and getting a sleepy body moving) that has really good health benefits. I feel happy and proud with my choice, which percolates into other areas of life too, resulting in better choices overall.
  • Established effort, tapas. The more I do it, the more I cant live without it! Doing yoga at the same time everyday creates the habit. It requires the ability to see beyond the difficulty, and look into the benefits that come later. Once tapas is established it is like a steady burning fire that never goes out. Awareness is always present to add fuel to the fire to keep it going. 

Initiating a morning yoga practice

Some might be able to plan it and get the habit right away. Others, like myself, need to take steps to get it going. First, I made the decision to do it. I started to naturally wake up (I don't use an alarm) between the hours of 5-7am. Not that I would always wake up at that time. Many days I would lay there and think about doing yoga, and I'd fall back asleep, than wake up again about an hour later and would still have time to get up and do at least 20 minutes. It progressed into getting up when I first woke up. Yes, sometimes (but rarely now) it is 5am! It is best to wake up when you first wake in the morning, if you fall back asleep your body goes into another sleeping cycle which sometimes requires 2 hours, and typically we are obligated to wake up before than. So, we interrupt the cycle, waking up more tired and groggy.

Some of us depend on the alarm. I would suggest setting it earlier and earlier each day; 10 minutes each day until reached ideal wake up time. That means, maybe you only do 10-20 minutes of yoga to start. Maintaining that rhythm as long as your ready for more. Quality over quantity.

Secondly, I gave myself permission to do other morning rituals first before yoga. Brush teeth, scrape tongue, drink lemon juice water, neti pot, and yes, a cup of coffee. Than come to the mat.

Additional tips:

  • find a video to help initiate and inspire; eventually moving into own practice
  • get everything ready the night before; get tea/coffee and lemon water ready, clothes, set out yoga mat, prepare music if you practice with music.
Be gentle with yourself. Any amount of yoga practice is better than none; whether its 10 minutes in the morning or 10 minutes in afternoon...

Happy practice!