You may wonder why in the world you would get up early in the morning to do yoga when getting out of bed alone is difficult enough. However, once you’ve managed to escape the coziness of your bed and step onto your yoga mat, you will immediately notice the great benefits of an early-bird yoga practice that will even carry you through the rest of the day.
Traditional yogic texts state that the early morning hours before sunrise are most beneficial to meditation and yoga practice because the mind is at its most still. The rest of the world hasn’t awakened yet and there’s a very special sense of stillness in the air.
However, why would you get up early to practice yoga if you could as well continue snoozing for a while? And once you’ve managed to get up, what could your early-bird yoga practice look like? If you’re struggling to find answers to these questions, this article will give you what you’ve been looking for.
"The sunrise of supreme bliss shimmers in every particle of the universe, so why not drink a fresh cup of joy every day and become inspired with new perception? Remember, love and respect must be renewed with each dawn!"
– Swami Chidvilasananda
5 Reasons For An Early-Yoga Practice
1. Get Rid of Stiffness and Adapt a Healthy Posture
In his ‘Fuzz Speech’, Dr Gil Hedley vividly explains that you need to move and stretch in the morning to remove any stiffness from your body accumulated during the night. Just picture a cat stretching out contently every morning. While your muscles rest overnight, the connective tissues get clogged up with body fluids, building a layer of ‘fuzz’ as Dr Gil Hedley calls it. Stretching in the morning is an act of releasing this fuzz. Failure to move and stretch will result in this layer thickening and building up and may eventually lead to stiffness, tight muscles and chronic pain.
Also, if you spend most of the day sitting and hunching at your desk, in your car, or in front of your computer, a morning yoga practice is just the right remedy for your body to restore its agility and flexibility.
Backbends like Cobra, Camel or Wild Thing are effective poses to compensate for all the hunching and slouching. These poses can help to open the muscles surrounding the hips – a common area of tension due to the many hours spent seated.
If you practice yoga in the morning, you also remind yourself what it’s like to adopt a healthy posture. This may eventually enable you to notice when you’re unconsciously slouching your back and can, thus, prevent back pain even before it occurs.
2. Start the Day Without Stress
You may know the feeling when you have to jump out of bed after having hit the snooze button too often and, as a result, have to rush around in the morning. Giving yourself and your nervous system some extra time in the morning to wake up during your morning yoga practice will allow you to start your day in a more relaxed state.
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In order to wake up after a night of sleep, the level of the stress hormone cortisol increases in the morning. If additional stress is added to this increased cortisol level, you’ll set the foundations for a stressful day.
This is why making early-bird yoga an every-morning habit enables the body to switch off the stressful fight-or-flight response of your sympathetic nervous system and instead enjoy the restorative effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. This can significantly increase the health of your body and mind.
Yoga is a fantastic means to serve two purposes we need in the morning: It can be calming and relaxing, and at the same time also be invigorating and refreshing. So, even if you feel tired when your alarm clock rings, a well-rounded early-bird yoga routine will wake you up and leave you feel invigorated – a feeling that you will carry throughout the day.
3. Boost Your Inner Powers
Gentle movements help your body to warm up and stimulate the blood circulation and wake up the body’s systems. In addition, the white blood cells in your body – your disease-fighting army – will be able to perform at their best when your blood circulation and lymphatic system can work as efficiently as possible. So, make sure to incorporate an early-bird yoga morning practice into your everyday life to stimulate the immune system, especially in the cold winter months.
Apart from that, overall health is determined by the health of the digestive system. You can eat as healthily as you want, but if your body is unable to properly absorb, digest and use the nutrients provided by your diet, it’s almost as if you were throwing your food straight into the rubbish bin. Establishing an early-bird yoga routine can boost your body’s metabolism and the digestive system.
Since there are many yoga postures that gently massage the internal organs, your digestive system can more efficiently release toxins and metabolize nutrients. To experience this yourself, try, for example, Matt Giordano’s Detox Flow on TINT.
An early-bird yoga practice can also be beneficial for focus and concentration. You may not be used to having to focus early in the morning. However, it can be highly beneficial for improving your productivity and awareness throughout the rest of the day. So, spending some time practicing yoga in the morning will wake up your mind and enable you to realize your full potential during the day.
4. Make Yourself Happy
There are several studies showing that regular yoga practice may decrease symptoms of depression by influencing stress hormone production in the body. This makes an early-bird yoga routine a wonderful habit to not only boost your circulation and immune system, but to also give you an immediate mood boost, making it even more beneficial in the mornings and even more so in cold and dark winter days.
You may have also noticed already how the world seems to miraculously change as soon as you come out of a yoga class. Suddenly, the people on the street seem friendlier, your environment is easier to get along with and your choices are more in line with a healthy lifestyle. However, it’s not the world that has changed. It’s rather your mind that allows you to take a different (more positive) perspective since your experience of the world around you is entirely created by your mind. So, if you start your day by creating a positive environment within you, the external world will be a lot more friendly, too.
Apart from that, the extra amount of time you take for your early-bird yoga practice in the morning is a great way to enjoy some time for yourself. Throughout the day, you may constantly be confronted with having to cater for the needs of others so that it can seem difficult to have any time to cater for yourself and your own needs.
That’s why, for many people, taking time to care for themselves feels like a luxury and they may even feel uncomfortable when spending time for themselves or feel they are not worth it. However, in order to be a source of strength and energy to others, the most important prerequisite is that we have enough energy within us in the first place.
Taking some time in the morning to practice yoga is a perfect way to give yourself that essential me time – be it ten minutes or an hour – and to show yourself that you do not just care about yourself, but also about others.
5. Connect With Yourself
Early-bird yoga is a great way to tune in and examine the effect your actions of the previous days have on your physical, mental and emotional well-being. If your body feels tired and sore, for example, this is a message that you may have been pushing yourself too hard. So, maybe it’s a good idea to take some time to restore. Or if you notice your mind wandering around one particular thought during your morning yoga practice, this is a sign that you should take some time to listen and take action.
Apart from that, by making your early-bird yoga routine the first thing on your daily to-do list, you’ll avoid that feeling of guilt because you haven’t practiced that day. Instead, you get it done first and this feeling of having achieved something early will give you a boost of confidence and self-care.
Another benefit of practicing yoga postures early in the morning every day is that you’ll notice your own progress and how the strength and flexibility of your body improves.
Make it a priority in the morning to spend a moment tuning into yourself and noticing how you feel physically and mentally before doing anything else. Scan your body for any pain or tension. Ask yourself whether you feel any particular emotions or whether you feel rested or tired. Let this check-in lay the foundations for your actions throughout the rest of your day.
To be prepared for your early-bird yoga, you don't want to spend hours coming up with a morning yoga sequence. That's why we've created a free Yoga Class Plans collection, which you can download for free and use as a quick reference for your morning practice.
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5 Ideas For Your Early-Bird Yoga
1. Set an Intention for the Day
The beginning of your yoga practice is a great opportunity to set an intention for the practice, e.g. to practice with kindness towards your own body or to practice focusing onto stillness. It may even be the intention to get out of your comfort zone in order to trust in yourself and build self-confidence.
And it’s exactly this intention can shape the rest of your day and give you focus throughout the tasks the emerging day holds for you. Consider it a New Year’s resolution that you set every morning, but instead of sticking to it for 365 days, you only have to think of the next 24 hours ahead.
A great tool to set your intention at the beginning of your morning yoga practice is to choose a mantra or affirmation that is intended to guide you not only through your practice, but also through the rest of the day.
Reciting affirmations – both silently or out loud – can be a very powerful and healing tool. According to the dictionary, to ‘affirm’ means to state something that is true. Remez Sasson describes affirmations as “positive statements that describe a desired situation, habit or goal.
They are usually short sentences, and are repeated often, for the purpose of impressing them on the subconscious mind and trigger it into action, to bring the desired situation, habit or goal into fruition.” Reciting phrases such as ‘I am calm’, ‘I am strong, ‘I am peaceful’, or ‘I am powerful’ right at the start of your day has an instant effect on your body and mind and will therefore give you a sense of stability.
Expert reports have shown that our thoughts and words create chemical reactions in the body. In other words: Positive thoughts will produce ‘positive chemicals in the body, and negative thoughts will make the body produce ‘negative’ chemicals. This means that, if you develop the habit of reciting positive affirmations, you can reprogram your brain to produce happy thoughts.
A great way to arrive in the present moment and let go of any thoughts of the night or even of the day ahead is brining your awareness to your breath. Focus consciously on every inhale and exhale and notice the quality of your breath, without any intention to change it at first.
When the mind is busy with thoughts, paying attention to the breath can be a tool to bring you out of this thought loop and into reality. In yoga, movements are usually initiated by an inhale or exhale. Moving with the breath allows you to stay and move in the present moment.
In addition, your breath is a good indicator of your present state of being and, at the same time, a great tool to change it. This is how shallow chest breathing is not only a sign of stress, but also activates the body’s stress response – a vicious circle.
Deep belly breathing, on the other hand, allows the abdomen to expand and enables you to relax with the breath. This has a calming effect and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing body and mind into the present moment and resulting in a more relaxed state of being.
"The body tries to hold onto the past, the mind tries to take us into the future. It is the breath that keeps us present."
– Leslie Kaminoff
This is why making breath awareness a habit by regularly practicing breathing exercises (Pranayama), you can make your breath a tool that you can use throughout the day to become more aware and alive.
If you need some inspiration for a refreshing and restorative sunrise yoga practice, check out Mathieu Boldron’s Master Your Morning Routine on TINT. In this half-hour program, Mathieu – after guiding you through some Yin stretches – introduces a series of revitalizing breathing exercises to you to start the day grounded.
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Your morning yoga routine doesn’t have to be all about asanas. You can also start your day with a few minutes of meditation. This part of the yoga practice has numerous benefits and even a short amount of time spent in meditation can have great effects.
This is because meditation allows you to become aware of your thoughts and gives you the possibility to observe them rather than getting stuck in them. This habit is one of the most beneficial habits you can get into and will immediately affect our decisions: As a calm and grounded person, you will take different daily actions than a stressed and nervous person.
Including a morning meditation into your early-bird yoga routine can help you let go of mental turmoil and focus on your intention for the practice and your day ahead. If you’re now eager to develop a regular meditation practice, a great way to pave your way for regular meditation is Matt Giordano’s 30-Day Meditation Challenge or Chris Su's The Power of Deep and Mindful Relaxation on TINT.
4. Salute the Sun
Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) were traditionally practiced at sunrise to welcome the sun and the new day. They can be a perfect early-bird yoga routine, since they move the body in all directions and move a variety of limbs through their full range of motion. This creates heat in your body and gets your blood circulation going, making it a cardiovascular training accessible to everyone.
The repetitive nature of this sequence also gives you the opportunity to focus your mind on your inner state since you don’t need to think too much about the movements. Plus, you don’t have to spend too much time thinking about which poses to include into your practice and worrying how to get a full-body workout since Sun Salutations provide exactly this. They also are a great way to connect movement and breath.
Why not roll out your mat to flow through a few rounds of (un)classical Sun Salutations in David Lurey and Mirjam Wagner’s Yin & Yang for Lower Hips and Spine?
5. Develop Your Own Routine
The most important thing about your early-bird yoga practice is that you really make it YOUR practice. You know yourself best and only you can judge what helps you best in the morning to make the most of your yoga practice and unleash your full potential.
Maybe you just want to meditate, or not meditate at all. Pranayama is not (yet) for you? No problem. It's all about you. Whether you want a dynamic and reviving morning flow, such as Kat Fowler's Wake-Up Flow on TINT, or prefer a calm and relaxing morning flow – you decide what you need after getting out of bed. However, if you need some inspiration for your early-bird yoga practice, we have an amazing morning yoga sequence for you that will transform your day. Make sure you check it out!
If you’re not the kind of person who jumps out of bed to welcome the new day, the new habit of establishing an early-bird yoga routine could make you one. A dedicated morning practice allows you to make the most of the early hours around sunrise that otherwise may have gone to waste. Life is short and precious. So, instead of sleeping in and wasting the day, make it a habit to get up a bit earlier to embrace the morning time.
If you're looking for great tools to make the most of your morning practice, check out our free Yoga Class Plans collection, so you can hop on the mat instead of spending hours preparing your morning yoga practice.
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