Why I practice Yoga at sunrise
Hello & Namaste!
My name is Alysia Simeone and I'm one of the Resident Yoga teachers here at Akasha. Today I'm going to share with you why we practice yoga early in the morning as so many of you often ask us.
So here's why.
My attention becomes connected to the world around me, alert and awake, around 5am nearly every day. These early morning hours are finite resources I treasure; they are the hours I feel most connected to myself, to the mystery which pervades and inspires the entire universe. They seem to offer imense potential energy and simultaneously, an inner sense of deep calm- nothing more is needed. Though finite in the sense that they pass as the dawn arrives, the rest of nature becoming activated, they have the effect of imbuing these energizing qualities into the rest of the day.
This is my experience at least. Though many people may resonate with this, many others will experience the contrary. Waking up at 4am, 5am or even 7am can feel like pulling teeth to some, an excruciating time of day, full of mental and physical lethargy.
If you have ever spent time in a traditional yoga or meditation ashram environment, you will have tasted these early hours before dawn, like it or not. But if you are not a person who naturally enjoys this time of day, why struggle to wake up so early, let alone intend to be attentive and alert in some yoga or meditation program??
Looking at the daily rhythms of spiritual and religous disciplines cross-culturally, one will notice that nearly all traditions of this nature, independent of one another, have appointed the time around sunrise and sunset as the prime time for cultivating that which we acknowledge in ourselves as spiritual- that inner, eternal force, which is connected to all things. Over two thousand years ago, vedic culture (the culture of India, which inspired the teachings of yoga) equated the sun with the God of all creation. Surya Namaskar (the beginning sequence of practically all yoga asana series) translates to Sun Salutations, giving gratitude and honor to the sun. In order to prepare one´s self for this practice or giving of gratitude, first the body and mind must be awake.
There exists an entire section in yoga that describes various cleansing procedures to free the body and mind of physical toxicity and mental lethargy, many of which are advised to be completed first thing in the morning. These include simple practices such as netra dhauti (cleaning out the eyes with water) – to more intimidating practices like sutra neti (pulling string in through one nostril and passing it out the other). Though not everyone practicing yoga is prepared to begin sutra neti, it can be agreed that people need time to wake up and prepare the body and mind for the practice of yoga. If we are to begin saluting the sun in honor of its arrival, this means waking up sufficiently before sunrise (EARLY!)
Saluting the sun as it rises is not the only reason to begin practicing yoga early. Between 4:00 and 6:00 is when the mind is the most still, and therefore likely to be the most effective for entering into meditation. Physically, by practicing yoga early in the morning, circulation is stimulated more than at other points of the day. It is also very important to practice on an empty stomach, making morning the most convenient point within one´s daily routine.
Nature as a whole unites during sun rise and sunset through various energetic processes: plants open or close, moving their energy from root to flower or flower to root; animals become active with first light and at sunset begin to withdraw. For some humans, waking up around sunrise is also an innate process, but is generally forgone after years of habitual late nights, especially with the introduction of artificial lighting and distraction of multimedia devices. Here are some habits to begin making the shift that will make waking up early easier and finally, an enjoyable process:
Go to sleep EARLIER. You can not expect to feel fresh and awake at 5am if you have gone to bed at 12am!
Eat dinner EARLIER. The last meal of the day should be consumed ideally three-four hours before sleeping (ie: if you go to bed at 22:30, eat evening meal around 19:00).
Stop using multimedia devices (including watching movies) late at night
If you wake up in the morning still feeling tired, wake up anyhow. Without hesitating and with a positive frame of mind, get up and splash water in the eyes
Finally, remember the rewards of an early-to-rise way of life and yoga practice. It will not take long to notice a sustained increase in energy and mental calm as your rhythm aligns more with the nature, as you joyfully find yourself practicing yoga with the rising of the sun.