The feet in the photo belong to the lovely Janet Griffiths. Janet has been with us since almost the day we opened our doors. We love you Miss J!
You wake up, brush your teeth, wash your face and do your practice.” – Tim Miller
Traditional Yogis believe Yoga should be practiced very early in the day for a variety of energetic, physical and mental benefits. Surya Namaskar means to bow down to the sun. The sun is the life source for the planet. In everything that you eat, drink and breathe, there is a little bit of the sun. When you understand how to better “digest” the sun, internalize it, and make it a part of your system, you begin to benefit from the practice (remember the story of Hanuman eating the sun like a ripe mango).
I am not a morning person myself, so I understand how getting your butt to your mat to your mat any time in the pre-dawn hours can sound like a special kind of torture, but there is really something to be said for the Astanga art of practicing first thing when you wake up in the morning. I spent two seasons in India at an Ashtanga YTT shala, practicing six days a week before dawn, I had to come to practice as part of my job, but also to set an example for each months students. The experience taught me to appreciate the benefits of setting a harmonious energy for the day ahead.
It is the unfortunate truth that many people don’t even try because they are overwhelmed just by the idea of starting a morning practice at home. “Not enough time.” This is the reasoning we use for many things that require some effort; it is not a fault, but human nature.
The benefits of a regular yoga practice are so immense that it’s really worthwhile to make the time, take the effort.
Where do you begin?
• Make sure you have enough space to comfortably practice in. Remove obstacles and distractions from your “space”, the night before.
• When you make it a habit to get up and practice first thing in the morning, you are going to be so much more likely to make your bedtime a priority. It encourages better sleep habits. Make sure you go to bed early enough to get at least 8 hours of rest. Certain yoga poses stimulate the pineal gland that excretes the melatonin hormone that regulates sleep patterns. If in the beginning you sleep through your alarm one morning, don’t give up – get right back on your mat the next morning.
• Many people cannot function in the morning without a cup of tea, coffee or warm water and lemon. Pattabhi Jois famously said, “No coffee, no Prana”. This is so true for me; I even have a tattoo of a cup of coffee on my arm. Whatever your poison, just make sure you schedule it in, and only drink a little, if your stomach is too full, your practice will not be comfortable.
• Decide the length of time you’d like to dedicate to your practice every morning, but start by doing a bit less. It isn’t as important that you have a long practice, as it is for you to get onto your mat every morning in the beginning. If a shorter practice is what it takes to get you on the mat, then that’s OK, so long as you practice regularly. If all else fails you can do the “daily minimum.” The daily minimum is: Three Sun Salutation A’s, Three Sun Salutation B’s and Three Closing Postures. This only takes between 10-15 minutes to complete. The daily minimum is also a good way to keep you coming to your mat on those days you would rather stay in bed. Do not pressure yourself to finish the entire series. Aim for the minimum and more often than not, you will feel good. Then, you may choose to do more postures.
• Break tradition (I can’t believe that I just said that!). If your practice comes from a yoga tradition that always starts with sun salutations give yourself permission to break away from those traditions and experiment with other warm-ups and postures. See if this creates a difference in your practice. It is also important to be flexible within your discipline, if Saturday is a good day to practice and Tuesday is not, take off Tuesday and practice Saturday instead. Yoga should be adaptable and able accommodate our individual needs. If it doesn’t work for you, it won’t work.
• One of the best ways to tap into your body’s “food wisdom” is with a morning Yoga practice. While you are sleeping, your body is sorting out and digesting everything you ate the previous day. By the time you wake up in the morning, most nutrients have been assimilated and the bulk of what you ate yesterday has moved through your digestive track. You will know if what you ate yesterday served you. This means if you are feeling energized and stable in your morning practice, you know what you ate yesterday served your body. If you wake up gassy, bloated, lacking energy or lacking stamina, you know for certain that what you ate yesterday did not work for your body.
• Reward yourself. All day you can think, “Wow, I already practiced Yoga today…I’m awesome” (for the record, you are awesome). Our days are so busy, and time is valuable. It’s tough to fit in a yoga class during the middle of the day, and by the evening you may have unexpected plans or you may feel too tired, this is Bangkok, there is always something to do. Practicing first thing in the morning can be a relief. Imagine being completely done with the day’s exercise before 8:30 am. After work, you can focus on your family, friends, and other aspects of your life. The feeling of self-empowerment that comes from being disciplined in your routine will bring mental strength into other areas of your life. I am in favor of treating yourself as reward; it can be a good motivational tool to keep you coming to your mat. Maybe a piece of dark chocolate as a post-yoga treat or in my case a big cup of Java in a local coffee spot. Make the reward some small indulgence that isn’t linked to consumerism or a large purchase, make it something small that is meaningful to you.
A Yoga studio should be a community refuge and the embodiment of the living tradition of Yoga. We invite you to bring your practice to our space Tuesday’s and Thursday’s between 7:30 and 8:30.
Habits can only be formed when you are persistent, with time your whole life can change. Start where you are and let your practice grow.
See you on your mat Yogi bears
Sherri (Minh) Lowe is a 200 Hour RYT and co-founder of Yogatique Bangkok. She is a fifty-one year old Canadian transplant living in Bangkok. When she is not on her yoga mat, she enjoys cycling, trying new vegan recipes, a cold beer, lingering in coffee shops and exploring Bangkok. When not pursing these activities, she is writing about them in various on line publications.