Balance. Focus. Energy.
These are just three of the reasons why I both teach and practice yoga in the morning, but believe me I haven’t always been such a smug early riser. In fact, I used to be pretty much intolerable B.C. (Before Caffeine), unable to form a coherent sentence until I had drained at least three mugs of coffee, whilst staring at my kitchen wall long enough to start seeing Osho’s face staring back.
It took an intensive Yoga Teacher Training Course in India to re-calibrate my body clock.
An intensive month of rising at dawn (sans caffeine—yes, the struggle was real) and practising whilst the birds sang to life to realize that actually perhaps I was a morning practitioner after all, maybe I was even a morning person.
Naturally, the transformation didn’t happen overnight. In the first week during our dawn meditations I often caught myself doing the micro-nap-head-bop much to my teacher’s chagrin. And whilst laying in Savasana, I was at pains to point out to my fellow teachers that any faint snoring sounds coming from my direction was of course just me practicing my Ujjayi breathing.
Okay, so it wasn’t always easy (read: it was really frikkin’ hard), but slowly I started to realize that getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning had its benefits. I found that not only did I have more energy throughout the day, (despite having way less sleep), but I also had more time to meditate which helped to sharpen my focus.
Of course we all know there isn’t a right or wrong time to downward dog. The best time to hit the mat is when modern life dictates you are able, we all know that any time on the mat is time well spent. And whilst the jury may still be out on how long it actually takes to form a new habit, they do agree on one thing—the repetition of the thing you are trying to achieve, until the thing becomes a second nature is the key. Or to give it its scientific white-coat: the act of automaticity—that is, the notion of acting without thinking. Basically, your mum was right, practice does make perfect.
So here are a few tips to help transform your morning routine and maybe make getting out of bed and onto the mat that little bit easier:
Commit: Never underestimate the power of booking and actually paying for your yoga classes in advance. Sign up for your morning classes online at the start of each week and put them in your iCal/diary. I find scheduling my classes this way gives them the same weight as a work meeting or a doctors appointment or anything else you might have going on in during your week. It’s also a nice subtle way for you to tell your subconscious just how important your morning yoga is and that you take it seriously.
Buddy-up: Research shows that having a workout buddy increases your chance of success. Rope in a friend and use each other to get motivated, you’ll find it way harder to flake out. Even if you’re only able to grunt a good morning at each other, hell, you’ve still made it to you mat. A workout date is a great way to spend time with that friend you’ve been neglecting and also squeeze in a yoga class, and all before work has even begun. Bonus!
Plan: Get your stuff together the night before. Okay, so this ones sounds pretty obvious but it works. Literally spend five minutes packing your bag or, if you’re practising at home, rolling out your mat and cueing up your yoga routine the night before. This makes all the difference when the alarm goes off and your hopping about trying to find your favorite yoga pants whilst speed-eating a protein ball.
Alarm clock: Set two and put them out of arms reach. Better still, set two and put them out of your entire body’s reach. I would often do this during my training, which would invariably involve me crashing about in my hut in the dark tangled up in my mosquito net and trying to find the off-switch (yeah, sorry neighbours). The trick is making sure you have to physically get out of bed to turn that little bleeper off. If you’re vertical, you’re halfway there.
Cold shower: Nothing wakes you up better than jumping into a cold shower. Whilst I was training in India, I didn’t actually have a choice, the water had two temperatures—cold and really freakin’ cold. I’ve adapted this slightly since coming back to the city, with short bursts of warm and cold water and to be honest this is one I still find the hardest but, as my teacher would say, it’s good for stoking up the fire of your Manipura chakra. Bonus points here for being able to do this without dropping any f-bombs. Warning, not for the faint-hearted.
Positive mantras: Whether it’s a post-it note by the bedside table or the screensaver on your iPhone, write yourself a motivating note and make sure it’s the very first thing you see when you wake-up. This is a great way to usurp a whiney subconscious, and helps to hush any negative jibber-jabber. Don’t listen to that inner lazy critic. The bed is not that cozy! You’re going to yoga and it’s going to make you feel great.
Follow these tips and you may just find that you start bounding out of bed as sprightly as Mary Poppins who has just ingested a spoonful of Stevia. And if it doesn’t, well, maybe you’re just not a morning person after all.
Author: Nicki Le Masurier
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: jason saul/Flickr