One of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself upon waking is to roll out your mat and practice yoga. Whether you are coming to the studio for a 6:00 am Bikram practice, or you find 5 minutes to practice some Sun Salutations at home; practicing yoga in the morning boasts a variety of benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga in the Morning
- Calms the Mind: Noticing how the body feels and focusing on the breath can help start the day in a more calm and intentional manner. Yoga Nidra expert Tracee Stanley explains, “Yoga teaches us that the breath is a direct reflection of the quality of the mind. If we want to calm the mind, we can begin by shaping the breath through pranayama. When we bring awareness to how we breathe, we can begin to still the vrittis or waves of thought. Just 5 minutes of deep, slow, continuous, and conscious breathing is my go-to practice to calm a busy mind.” Beginning your day with this calm mindset can make a huge different in how you feel throughout the rest of the day!
- Self-Care and Connection: Tuning into how you feel on a spiritual and physical level during yoga can help you notice things you might otherwise miss if you weren’t taking time for yourself. Since yoga is all about strengthening the mind-body-spirit connection, taking time for yourself will help you get to know yourself better. In turn, you will find it easier to connect with others.
- Increases Mental Clarity: Alongside calming the mind, deeper breathing allows the body to take in more oxygen. Increasing your oxygen intake in the morning will have long-lasting effects by boosting your ability to concentrate and focus.
- Boosts “Happiness Hormones”: Yoga is known to boost a variety of hormones which we associate with feelings of happiness- including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. This allows you to start the day on a positive note, making it more likely you will have a happy day overall.
- Reduces Stress: The body naturally experiences an increase in cortisol (stress hormone) when waking up to help start the day. However, if you wake up and dive straight into your “to do” list, the body will not have a chance to recover from this cortisol spike. A morning yoga practice will help your body reduce cortisol levels so you feel less stressed after the practice and for the rest of your day.
- Boosts Metabolism: Certain yoga postures stimulate the thyroid, which research suggests helps to balance hormones and increase metabolism. Additionally, postures involving twisting and compression of abdominal organs can help cleanse them of toxins and regulate their function.
- Improves Flexibility and Mobility: Though practicing yoga at any time of day will be beneficial for your mobility, starting off the day with less stiffness and tension in the body is always a good thing! Regular practice of yoga asana will help improve mobility and flexibility in the body long-term.
Simple Yoga Asanas for the Morning
If you don’t have time to come into the studio for a morning class, know that any amount of time spent practicing yoga at home will benefit you greatly as well. If you need inspiration, try holding some of these simple yoga asanas and take note of how you feel afterwards:
Surya Namaskar/Sun Salutations: This sequence of postures was originally created to be practiced during sunrise, and they are great for stretching the whole body and aligning breath and movement.
Cat/Cow: Flowing between these two postures will help awaken the spine, resulting in less stiffness and improved circulation of energy throughout the body.
Seated Twist: Twisting the spine and core will help boost your metabolism and wring out the digestive organs.
Figure 4 Stretch: This is a great stretch for the hips, which often hold a lot of tension, especially after waking up. Loosening the hip joints early in the day will help you feel more mobile and balanced.
Child’s Pose: This yoga posture helps to open up the shoulders and back region, and is a great shape to come into to help tune into and connect with the breath.
Overall, you will find that waking up early will be easier if you know you have a fulfilling yoga practice to look forward to first thing. It is a great way to ground, awaken, and energize; setting yourself up for an amazing day. The mental benefits of morning yoga are clear. If you are participating in the #CAMHRiseUpChallenge, you may wish to practice yoga as your “sunrise moment.”
Did this post inspire you to do something good for yourself in the morning? Keep your eye on the MYKW blog for more information about self-care in the morning in the coming weeks. Every week will feature a different topic related to self-care in the morning, as we prepare for the CAMH Sunrise Challenge, which asks participants to rise with the sun and do something positive for their mental health every day for a week from May 31st-June 6th 2021. The donations raised from the challenge will go toward the CAMH's research and treatment for individuals struggling with mental health. Find out more or donate to the MYKW team at: http://give.camh.ca/site/TR/Events/2021SunriseChallenge?team_id=4631&pg=team&fr_id=1180