The Benefits of Starting the Day with Yoga
By Jessica Proulx
It is not always easy to rise with the sun, and just like changing any other habit, there are a million reasons that your brain will give you to keep doing what you’re doing. If you have been waking up the same way and doing the same thing each morning, and you don’t feel great doing it, perhaps that means it is time for something to change.
Change- Ahhhhhh! Not the “C” word.
Now, I didn’t say that change was easy, nor do I believe that it can, or even should, happen overnight. The steps to changing must coincide with your readiness for them to happen as well as you arranging, or rather rearranging your priorities. If you place a high importance on getting a full 8 hours of sleep a night but are unwilling to go to bed an hour early because you like to watch your favorite programs- then you have placed your priority on a tv show. Likewise, if you go to bed an hour early and get up and hour early to get to yoga, you have placed the priority on your health. Did that one sting a little? Ya? It stung for me too!
One of the great ways to get yourself going and finding a shift in your morning routine is heading to an early morning yoga class. To get up and out the door at 5:30am for yoga so you could “be more flexible” would certainly not be something to get me out the door, I don’t know about you? But, what if I told you there were some other, far better reasons to crawl out of bed for an early morning class, and some great reasons to get to yoga in general that you may not have even thought about.
- Positive start to the day: We have all been there: The alarm goes off like a freight train storming trough your slumber, you jolt out of bed, perhaps snooze a couple of times, run around getting yourself (and/or your brood) organized and ready, wash your face, brush your teeth, slurp down some coffee and pray that you get to work on time. And that, that right there, is your tone for the rest of the day. But what if you rose in the morning to a soft alarm (or dare I say on your own because you are so well rested), you grab your yoga gear, brush your teeth and head out to class. You spend an hour in moving & seated meditation, get a good sweat in, and in a relaxed way get home to the rest of your morning routine. And that, that is the tone you set for the day.
- Starting in “Rest and Digest Mode”: Yoga is known to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system or what we call “rest and digest”. If you read the above and your morning starts off in a blurred, hurried, franticness- you have now activated your sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight”. Starting the day off with yoga can prepare the body for digestion, calm the nervous system, relax the body and the mind, lower blood pressure and help the immune system do its job- so starting the day off with yoga, seems like a pretty healthy option. When you start the day already in stress, the breath moves high up into the chest, you beg for coffee, your morning elimination might be more difficult than you’d like, and you have stressed yourself before you have even left the house. A relaxed state makes for a productive (and might I add, happy) day, while stress often just leads to more stress through faulty decision making and heightened anxiety.
- Get Moving: One of the great benefits of yoga is to burn calories & to get stronger and why not get that done before anything else. At the end of a long day, it is often hard to find the motivation to get moving because of general fatigue, but in the morning, you can fire all cylinders and get yourself going.
- What you think is what you become: This logic is often thought of as teachings of The Buddha. In yoga we use a phrase “prana follows citta”, which means: where the mind goes, the energy flows. So, if you were to begin your day with a physical practice rooted in a positive intention, to practice long deep breathing, to center the mind in the here and now, the present moment, if the intention was on a healthy start to the day, to the productiveness ahead then, WOW, that could really have an impact on your day. Setting the intention in your morning practice can lead to a relaxed, productive, mindful day that feels good at the end, not because of ALL the stuff you did, but the quality behind it.
*The Buddha also taught that you can’t just “think” you have to “act”, so laying in your bed thinking about going to yoga, won’t actually get you the benefits of going.
- Be with a healthy community: One of the things I hear so often from students I council through their practice is how negative their work environments are and how much that is a drain on their daily lives. Starting your day with likeminded people who, like you, want to get a healthy jumpstart to the day, only adds to the positivity that you seek and you might even make some new friends doing it. And hey, maybe you will be the trendsetter. You can be the one to show others that there are other options than the mundane that you are so tired of.
I could have made a list that was pages and pages long, as any yoga practitioner has endless reasons why their practice is so important to their lives –but above are just a few, really good reasons to rise a little earlier and start your day a little bit healthier.
One of the great things about the fire of change in that it spreads, and if you can start with these little changes, they can have not only a domino effect across your daily life, but a lasting one as well. Try it just one time, see what happens, if it feels good, maybe you try it again.
Here’s to this crazy practice called Life,
You can catch an early morning 6am Heated Vinyasa class with Jimmy Serra on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. 8am Gentle with Michele on Saturday Mornings and 8am Heated Vinyasa with Tina on Sundays.