As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois states, practice and all benefits, wisdom, peace, and clarity will stem from that. This is true, but it raises many questions about how and when to practice. Different yoga teachers and gurus may recommend practicing different styles of yoga, but there is a general consensus that morning practice is the most powerful.
Practice and all is coming. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
There are many reasons to practice yoga in the morning, including physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and traditional reasons. However, a morning practice can be difficult for many people who may be more tempted to press snooze than roll out their mat. Following are 21 of the most important reasons you should consider practicing yoga in the morning.
1. Start the Day with Self Care
By practicing yoga in the morning, you are starting your day with an act of self care and self love. Yoga is an investment in the self, in health, and in wellness. It is a spiritual act with no immediate or material gains. Rather, the benefits of yoga are built up gradually over a lifetime of practice. Knowing this, practicing yoga first thing in the morning is a nod to self care, and a small stepping stone on the lifelong path to enlightenment.
2. Clear Your Mind
It makes sense to start your day with a clear mind, so you can enter your work and relationships with clarity. However, so often the acts, food, and thoughts of yesterday can fester and cloud the mind as you begin your day. Practicing yoga in the morning is the ideal way to solve this problem and start your day with a clear mind. Studies show that practicing yoga can not only clear the mind, but even influence brain structure when practiced regularly over time. An important yoga sutra even deals with this:
Yogas citta vritti nirodhah. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.2
This means that “yoga is the restriction of the mind-stuff.” With a morning yoga practice, this “mind stuff” can be quelled, so the day can be started fresh and clear.
3. Tune in to What You Ate the Previous Day
As mentioned, often times the food you ate yesterday affects how you feel today. With a morning yoga practice, you can tune into what specific foods affect you, and how they affect you. Yoga brings awareness into the body: its physical being as well as its emotional being. Starting your morning with such bodily awareness will keep you conscious of how it responds to the food you ate yesterday. With such knowledge, you can then alter the food you eat throughout the rest of the day based on what serves you and what does not. Through a regular morning practice you can make a long term investment in the fuel that serves your body.
4. Build a Healthy Routine
For many people, your body and emotions thrive on routine. When routine is thrown off, everything from your digestion to your mood can be affected. Building a solid daily routine will keep you healthy and well. One study found that the vast majority of people who exercise regularly (over three times a week) do so in the morning. Make the decision to practice yoga in the morning for a week. Once you begin to feel its profound benefits, you will want to make it a habit, which is the first step to a consistent routine.
5. Sun Salutations
One of the most common and most beneficial yoga sequences is the surya namaskaras, or sun salutations. With every sun salutation, each major muscle group of the body is strengthened and stretched. This sequence is traditionally done with the rising sun (hence the name sun salutations). The sequence moves from downward dog to standing tall at the front of the mat, mirroring the sun’s rising movement and therefore keeping the body in tune with nature.
6. Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety
It is a well-known fact that yoga has the ability to reduce stress and anxiety. This phenomenon has been studied and recorded in clinical trials. There are many theories about why yoga is such a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety. One is through mindfully bringing a person’s consciousness into the present moment. Another theory revolves around yoga’s ability to modulate the physiological stress response through things like lower blood pressure, regulating pulse, and more. Other studies theorize that yoga reduces stress and anxiety by altering brain structure and function. Ultimately, these theories probably all overlap due to yoga’s unique position as a mind-body practice. Starting your day with a yoga practice is a sure, scientifically proven way to reduce stress and anxiety for the rest of your day.
7. It May Boost Your Metabolism
A morning yoga practice not only gets your body moving, but also your inner organs such as your digestive system. This, in turn, gives your metabolism a boost. Practicing yoga each morning will boost your metabolism for the day ahead. In particular, practicing twisting asanas on an empty stomach will be the most effective at boosting your metabolism. This will enable your body to use its energy the most efficiently each day.
8. Energize Yourself for the Day Ahead
Many people find themselves sluggish in the morning, relying on coffee or their snooze button, and blaming this on not being a “morning person.” With a morning yoga practice, anyone can be a morning person. This is thanks to the energizing effect that yoga can have. If you want to feel particularly energized in the morning, target your yoga poses (asanas) to be more energetic ones. For example, warrior poses are particularly revitalizing.
9. Helps You Quit Procrastinating
Start your day how you would like it to continue. If you often find yourself procrastinating your duties, chores, or work, then it may be difficult for you to exercise first thing in the morning. It is easy to close your eyes instead of exercise in the morning, but this is just another form of procrastinating that is not serving yourself. Instead, make a pact with yourself to practice yoga first thing in the morning. When you do this, you are beginning your day with a commitment. This will translate into the rest of your day and you will find yourself on the path to quitting procrastination.
10. Yoga Should be Practiced on an Empty Stomach Anyway
Ideally, yoga should be practiced on an empty stomach. Of course, the easiest time of day to have an empty stomach is first thing in the morning, which is just another reason to add a morning yoga practice to your routine. There are many reasons to practice yoga on an empty stomach. First, this will help you avoid nausea or discomfort from having a full stomach during poses such as inversions and twists. An empty stomach will also help boost your metabolism and start your digestive system’s peristalsis in the morning. Finally, this is the recommendation offered by hundreds of years of yoga gurus.
11. Regulate Your Circadian Rhythms
Yes, it is important to regulate circadian rhythms, even in the morning. Many people associate circadian rhythms with night time and sleep, however they are also important in the morning. Once a morning yoga practice is indoctrinated into your routine, your body adjusts to this and your circadian rhythm and hormones revolve around this. Your body will expect yoga upon waking, and your pineal gland will release hormones in time with this. One of these hormones is melatonin, which is essential in managing sleep. Over time, the sluggish, slow, and sleepy feeling of the mornings will become a thing of the past.
12. Crave Healthier Food for the Rest of the Day
Facing food cravings, such as salty or sugary food, is a common thing throughout the day. For many people, these unhealthy food cravings revolve around stressful scenarios in everyday life. Food becomes a coping mechanism. However, with regular yoga practice comes new awareness in the body, heightened sensations, clarity of mind and intentions, and self love. All of these changes can affect a person’s unhealthy food cravings. When a person is in tune with their own bodily sensations and emotional intentions, they can discriminate when they are relying on food as a crutch, and when they are actually hungry. Furthermore, more healthy and fueling foods will be craved as these support the body to feel better during yoga practice. A morning yoga practice leads to healthier food cravings throughout the rest of the day.
13. Helps You Deal With Interpersonal Challenges Throughout the Day
There are many challenges throughout a normal day, and many of these revolve around your interactions with and reactions to other people. Instead of becoming frustrated or attached to external circumstances, yoga teaches the importance of non-attachment (aparigraha) and a sense of connection with all beings. Once the unity of the universe is acknowledged, interpersonal relationships will become much easier and peaceful. If this is something you struggle with at work or in life, a morning yoga practice may help to ease your interpersonal challenges throughout the rest of the day.
14. Gives the Digestive System a Head Start
If you struggle with a slow digestive system that doesn’t seem to wake up with the rest of your body, yoga can be a wonderful way to get your digestive system going. Many aspects of yoga make it useful to a healthy digestive system. Yin poses such as child’s pose (balasana), corpse pose (savasana), and meditation can relax the mind and regulate stress hormones such as cortisol, which may be affecting your digestive system. Furthermore, twisting poses will detoxify organs such as your kidneys, liver, and intestines. These will awake your intestinal peristalsis and get your digestive system moving. By practicing yoga in the morning, you are giving your entire digestive system a head start for the rest of the day.
15. Wake up Your Heart and Lungs
Yoga is a full body practice, but most people still only think of its effects on muscle tone and flexibility. Yoga can also affect your inner organs such as your heart and lungs in a positive way. This is because these organs are part of your cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular system. In yoga, the breath is the binding piece for each movement. Without breath, there is no yoga. This emphasis on breath work means that with regular yoga practice, your heart and lungs are engaged and challenged. In particular, when yoga is practiced in the morning, the entire cardiovascular system can get a head start for the day ahead.
16. You’ve Already Had One Success
One of the benefits of yoga is that it is not a competitive endeavor. There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” yoga practice. Rather, yoga just “is.” For many people, yoga is a positive experience that brings a sense of peace, joy, and oneness with the universe. By incorporating yoga into your morning routine, you guarantee yourself at least one experience that day that is positive. When you look ahead to the rest of the day, the pressure to “succeed” or make it a good day is lessened, because you’ve already had one success: Yoga!
17. Less Back Pain at Your Desk
Sitting is very hard on the body, yet most people in Western cultures find themselves sitting for the majority of the work day. This can result in chronic back pain. However, by practicing yoga in the morning you can alleviate this back pain before your work day even begins. Over time, you will experience less back pain at your desk.
18. Early Morning Practice is a Sacred Tradition
One important reason to practice yoga in the morning that shouldn’t be forgotten is its traditional significance. Yoga is a thousands of years old practice with many sacred traditions that should be honored. One of these traditions is to practice yoga first thing upon waking, and on an empty stomach. An example of this is the Mysore tradition of practicing the Ashtanga yoga sequences as early as 3 or 4 in the morning. Many yoga gurus emphasize the traditional importance of beginning the day with a yoga practice, as a way to dedicate the upcoming day to a yogic way of life.
19. No Poses are Off Limits
A morning yoga practice can have more freedom than an evening yoga practice. One good reason to practice yoga in the morning is if you want a practice free of any restrictions, and to practice any pose, or asana, that you desire. In the evening, it is recommended to limit yourself to more calming poses, and refrain from practicing energizing poses. With a morning practice, none of these restrictions are in place.
20. Morning is a Spiritual Time of Day
According to the Vedas (ancient yogic texts), morning is a spiritual time of day. Specifically, this is in reference to early morning immediately before sun rise, as the sky starts to turn grey and warm. Spirituality is heightened at this time of the day. As such, morning is an ideal time to practice any spiritual pursuit, including yoga. Rolling out your mat before the sun rises, or even practicing sun salutations as the sun rises around you, can be an incredible clarifying and peace-giving experience.
21. You Set the Tone for the Day
A morning yoga practice can lend a sense of peace, clarity, and wellbeing in the moment. However, it will also have rippling effects across the rest of your day. Many of those effects are discussed above. All together, they combine to set the tone for the rest of your day. Begin your day how you would like it to continue, with a yoga practice.
A steady yoga practice can yield many different benefits. However, these benefits may be dependent on the time of day yoga is practiced. It is important to take this into consideration when developing a yoga routine. Above are 21 reasons to practice yoga in the morning, although there are many more reasons than just those. Ultimately, practicing yoga any time of day is better than not practicing at all. However, if you want the specific benefits outlined above, as well as to stay in line with yogic tradition, you should consider practicing yoga in the morning.