Last week the Durga studio was packed with yogis, their mats rolled out at sunrise, for the the annual morning yoga urban retreat.
The retreat took place from Monday to Friday, 7am – 9am. Each morning started with a 20 minute meditation before Paula put us through our yoga paces over five days with specialised vinyasa flow workshops on balance and strength, core, hip opening, heart opening and inversions – that was a popular one!
There’s something magical about practicing yoga first thing in the morning. I don’t know whether it’s that added bit of commitment it takes to get up extra early or the fact that your body and mind are rested and refreshed.
When I get to do it, I enjoy it more than any other practice.
Here are my top seven reasons to love early morning yoga
1. It gives you great energy for the day.
While you might start a morning yoga practice feeling sleepy or tired, by the end you feel incredibly energized. Your muscles have been awoken, your body aligned and your system filled with breath and prana energy. This zest and balance lasts throughout the entire day.
2. It focuses your breath for the day
Sitting still at the start of a practice and turning your awareness inwards, while listening quietly to your breathing, allows you to connect mindfully with your breath and sets that awareness for the day. The instant calm that comes from sitting with your breath first thing carries on as you float peacefully through your day, and if anything knocks you out of your Zen state, you know what you need to get it back…just breath.
3. You mind is calm for the day
‘Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.’ Patañjali
Starting your day with meditation and yoga brings immense mental peace and clarity. The chattering inner voice is a lot more chilled out, measured and rational. You are more likely to be able to control any negative or stressful thought patterns, as you started the day training yourself how to calm the mind.
4. Your sleep is AMAZING
There's no sleep like a yoga sleep! At the end of a long day of yoga and work, it must be said, you're ready for bed. After starting your day with an early morning practice, you sleep like a baby.
5. It allows you to set an intention for the day
Sitting in quiet for meditation at the start of practice or in savasana at the end gives you time to set an intention or mantra for the day – how would you like to feel? what way would you like your day to go? Reminding yourself of this mantra can gently reset you every time you stray from your goal.
6. Your evening is free
This is very practical, but one of the biggest plus points of early morning yoga. You have nothing to do in the evening – your asana practice is done. It’s like you’ve found extra hours in the day. And because you have yoga energy, you've the motivation to something with it.
7. You can salute the sun as it rises
Early morning yoga gives you the chance to ‘salute the sun’ as it comes up. Sun salutations or Surya Namaskar, traditionally are a way to thank the new sun for bringing us light and energy and a real way to connect with and become aware of the surrounding universe at the start of the day. They're also pretty much a full body workout in themselves. Your mind, body and spirit get a special boost from practicing sun salutations first thing.
… let me repeat that no asana practice is complete without sun worship. Without its focusing of mental energies, yoga practice amounts to little more than gymnastics and, as such, loses meaning and proves fruitless….Therefore, it is necessary, before beginning the sun salutations, to pray to Surya […] to bestow upon us the good fortune of having only good thoughts, of hearing and speaking only good words, and of attaining a sound and strong body, so that we may have a long life and, one day, achieve oneness with God.”
-Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, “Suryanamskara”