If you get a room full of experts together and ask them the best time of day to do yoga, you’re going to get a lot of interesting answers.
Some will take into account the individual’s biological rhythms and daily schedule.
Others will insist on optimum times of day that they believe are universal to everyone.
The verdict certainly isn’t in yet—and may never be. However, a large percentage of the experts in the room will recommend either sunrise or about two hours before any daily responsibilities arise. Sunrise is a serene time for many people, and it’s when the circadian rhythms start kicking in in preparation for a new day of activity. The time that the sun rises changes throughout each year, however. If you work at 8 a.m., sunrise may happen at 7 a.m. during some parts of the year, and you’ll be more focused on showering, brushing teeth and grabbing some breakfast. If that’s an issue, then many experts say to do it as early as possible.
Ashtanga Yoga teacher Gina Hodge is one advocate of a morning practice.
“Traditional wisdom suggests that the best time for meditation and to practice Yoga is during the Amrit Vela-time of ambrosia, just before dawn,” says Hodge. “This time of day has a certain power and serenity and it is said your senses awaken and rise with the rising sun. It is also a time with the least distractions from routines and no rush to get things done. Also our morning rituals and habits tend to be more regular than any other time of day.”
Hodge also says that people are likely to have consistently empty stomachs during these hours, and this is ideal for yoga and meditation. Meal times during other times of the day can be less predictable.
Hodge is not a purist, though. She knows that not everyone’s a morning person. Hodge tells us that 10 minutes in the morning will help you establish some consistency in your yoga practice. Then, you can follow it with a longer session later in the day.
Hodge does have one caveat about night sessions. “Practicing at night limits the kinds of asanas you can do, as most stimulate your senses making it difficult to sleep.”
The Kripalu Center’s Angela Wilson tends to stick with an Ayurvedic teaching rhr recommends 2:00-6:00, a.m and p.m., as the optimum times for yoga or any meditative practice. These are the times leading into both sunrise and sunset.
Wilson is also a realist who knows that people have differing schedules. Whenever you practice, she recommends keeping a consistent daily routine. She says,
“One benefit of meditating at the same time every day is that the body starts to acclimate to that time, and a kind of behavior conditioning happens. Students often find that when they practice at the same time every day, they can go deeper more quickly.”
Alex Hutchinson, Ph.D., author of Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights, informs her readers that first thing in the morning is not the best time for yoga. This is because we are most prone to spinal injuries at that time.
Swami Vidyadhishananda Giri, Kriya Yoga instructor and Self Enquiry Life Fellowship Founder, recommends both sunrise and sunset as the ideal times to practice meditation and yoga. This is because they are both times of “equilibrium,” which enhance the meditative aspects of any practice. “Swami V” also said, during a class I attended in 2000, that no matter when you practice, it’s important to do it every day and ideally at a specific time.
Cyndi Lee, Founder of the OM Yoga Center in New York City, says that there is no perfect time to do yoga. Everyone is different. Some wake up early and ready to rock while others can’t even talk or think straight. Some are more sensitive to heat and cold and the changing of the seasons.
Lee recommends adapting your practice with the changing seasons. For example, spring time is great for emphasizing sun salutations in honor of the lengthening daylight hours of the season. However, she suggests that there be some constants in your routine that don’t change. This helps you build a routine that allows you to go deeper into your practice. It is more grounding that way.
You now have insights from a few experts. The best way to when know the best time of day for you to do yoga is to experiment. Maybe a sunrise practice will pump you with the oxygen and body awareness you need for your activities the rest of the day. If this is not for you, you’ll likely know soon enough. If that’s the case, then try a lunch time or evening practice. You’ll know when you’ve settled into a good routine because it will feel just right.
Whatever you do, make sure you practice at least three hours after your latest meal. Digestion uses a lot of your energy, and you’re going to need while practicing.
Author: Meera Watts
Image: Andreas Ivarsson/Flickr
Editors: Emily Bartran; Caitlin Oriel