There are some days when we all seem to “pop” out of bed and are ready for our morning yoga; that moment when we have a little time to ourselves, flowing and breathing, ready for the day. And then there those days when we’d rather toss the alarm and go back to sleep or sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix all day. We all deserve a break; but the benefits of stepping onto your yoga mat may be more beneficial than you think.
There’s something to be said about having a daily yoga routine. The more we take the time for ourselves, the more likely we are to continue doing what make us feel good. These are good habits to have and keep. If you like the early morning yoga class at your local studio, then make it a habit to get there a few times a week, or if your preference is getting on your mat at home before everyone wakes up, set your alarm and rise early. Set a goal for yourself; once you get a rhythm going, you’ll find it harder and harder to skip class or your home practice, even if you really want to sleep for an extra few minutes or indulge in your morning coffee first.
Improved Physical Health
The physical practice of yoga, or asana as it’s known in Sanskrit, has a lot of physical benefits. Asana practice helps to build strength, flexibility, agility and cardiovascular strength. The mindfulness gained from a regular yoga practice can also help to maintain weight loss and improve the way we view our bodies. Yoga is also a great way to recover from injuries. In addition to repairing injuries, the strengthening and stretching components to a physical practice help us work out the muscles we don’t often use, get into deep tissue, and counteract poor posture, like slumping and hunching. If you’re going to class or if you practice at home, and have an injury, make sure to inform your doctor first to make sure you’re clear to practice yoga. It’s also a good idea to inform your yoga instructor before class so that they can offer any modifications if you need them.
The practice of yoga first began as a form of meditation to help clear the mind and find inner peace. Yogis would sit for long periods of time but all that sitting brought about physical ailments. Over time, poses were added to the practice to improve the health of the seated yogis – poses that would act as a moving meditation, so their mindfulness practice wasn’t disturbed. The focus on the breath during modern practice helps to bring us into the present moment and take us out of our heads. This is why we hear so many teachers speak about stillness, meditation and breathwork, or pranayama, during practice. A lot of poses, especially those in restorative classes, are designed to relax the body and the mind.
Taking Yoga Off the Mat
The more we practice yoga on the mat, the easier it becomes to what we learn out into the world. The principles of yoga, including non-harming, non-stealing, and proper use of energies become ways to live our “regular” lives whether we’re at home, work or school. These practices teach us how to be more patient, kind, and compassionate to others as well as, ourselves. They help us to see the world from a different perspective. With a regular yoga practice the easier it will be to take these lessons and that sense of calm you feel while on your mat into the rest of your life.
Dealing and Coping
A regular yoga practice also helps us to deal with our past problems or issues, things that we have pushed deep down inside of us and have been unwilling to let go of. This is arguably one of the toughest (yet beneficial) parts of a yoga practice. Styles like Yin yoga that offer a deep stretch, helping to release the issues in our tissues; just being in a safe space and loving community, can help some people open up. For others, yoga is a form of recovery, self-exploration and healing. While some people come to their mat for the physical benefits, others arrive to discover their true selves through movement and meditation.
You don’t have to practice yoga every day to reap the amazing benefits of the practice. Start slow, adding another practice during your week or practice a 5 minute meditation while you wait for your tea to cool. Over time, you will develop a routine, a healthy habit, and you’ll notice an overall calm and more peaceful you!
Yoga can be a spiritual as well as a physical practice and therefore is beneficial at any time of the day. However, there times that are better for our own practice depending upon schedule, body and personality type. A morning person may need the stimulating effects of certain asanas to start the day, while someone who is slow to wake may be warmed up and ready to practice by sunset.
Early morning before sunrise is considered a spiritually charged time of the day in the Vedic tradition and is therefore ideal for yoga. Morning yoga will ease you into gentle movements shortly after you awaken in the morning. Sun Salutations are great for waking up the body, and after lots of movement and balancing, you can ease into some gentle inversions and heart openers. If your hips and spine are feeling open at this point – dive into the heart openers, like camel, bridge and wheel. These postures will leave you feeling awake and rejuvenated – maybe even more than your morning cup of coffee! Also, indulge in an extra-long headstand or shoulder stand to send fresh oxygen into your head. This will also allow you to feel ready to face your day.
Yoga before bed can be relaxing and contribute to a restful sleep. The perfect evening yoga practice should soothe and relax you after a long day. If you’re practicing later in the evening however (within a few hours of going to bed), you’ll want to resist moving into big heart openers and energizing inversions. You may want to practice soothing surrender postures like half pigeon and seated forward fold. Twists are also incredibly relaxing in the evening as well. Focus on breathing in positions such as Child’s pose, which stretches the back muscles and aids digestion. Just be aware how you feel and what you need.
There is no time of day that is “perfect” for everyone when it comes to yoga practice. The best rule to follow is the one of no distraction. Choose to practice at a time when you are least likely to be interrupted, whether it be early morning or late at night. The most benefits are yielded when fully conscious of each movement.
Consistency is also key in yoga practice perhaps even more than when you choose to practice. The more you do the same poses regularly, the more you will notice how your practice is producing change within your body and your life. The time of day we practice yoga should determine what postures we practice, and being aware of which postures are energizing and which ones are soothing.
Pay attention to which postures affect your energy levels at which time of day, and this will empower you to practice exactly when your body needs it. Remember – you are your best teacher!
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