What Time Do You Practice?
Traditionally, Ashtanga yoga is practiced in the early morning. I have never visited India, but I do follow several practitioners that have; practice there is usually before dawn or very early. In these early hours of the day, it’s quiet and calm. The mind is also quiet and calm, not yet occupied with your to-do-list. Practicing early means you can go along with your day knowing your practice is done, and you won’t have to plan for it later when you are busier and more tired.
But have you ever tried practicing before dawn?
I have. It’s not easy! The first few weeks I tried it, I was so stiff. Postures that I could easily do later in the day were almost impossible at five in the morning. But after several weeks, your body seems to get accustomed to this early hour.
Eating before practice is not recommended. This applies to asana practice, meditation, pranayama, almost any physical activity, and even sleep.
Digestion is an important function in the body. Engaging in physical activity right after having a meal is a no-no. It can cause you to feel heavy, sluggish, nauseated, or give you stomach cramps, acid reflux…the list goes on. I am sure it all depends on what you eat and how much, but you get the idea. If you want to be able to move freely and comfortably, it’s best not be in the middle of the digestion process. So, an early practice makes sense.
When I first started practicing yoga, I would go to a morning class. I wasn’t one to have a large breakfast, so not eating before practice was not a problem.
When I began practicing Ashtanga, the class was in the evening; coming to class on an empty stomach was almost impossible to do. I would get stomach cramps while bending forward and sometimes inversions were uncomfortable. Also, my mind had all day to fill with thoughts and things to do, so finding focus was more difficult. But because it was later in the day, my body was warmed up and more flexible. That is the benefit of practicing later on in the day - you have had a chance to stretch and move around, making certain postures easier.
Today, though I have a home practice and my schedule changes quite a bit, I prefer an early morning practice. Early morning practice helps me maintain a healthy routine of getting to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep. How else could you sustain a six-day a week Ashtanga yoga practice without a rested body and mind? Another great benefit of practicing so early is experiencing the peace and quiet while everyone else is still asleep, and feeling and seeing the first rays of sunlight. I seem to focus more on my breath and on the practice, while my mind is quiet and observant.
That being said, it really doesn't matter what time you practice. What’s important is to make time to practice. At first, it’s best to stick to a daily routine and practice every day at the same time. Once your practice is well established, it is possible to be a bit more flexible about your practice time.
You have 24 hours every day. Make time for your practice, whether it’s five minutes or 90 minutes.
Get on your mat!
Lots of love,