Yoga challenge 28 ams!
I challenge you to practice yoga for 28 days consecutively, every morning!
Are you up for it? How was January for you guys? Did you crack on with new habits and let the old destructive ones disappear or by giving up something have you found a gapping whole?
To let go of unhelpful habits, new ones must be put in their place which provide similar benefits to the mind and body, which is where yoga comes in. As well as boosting mental clarity and relaxation, yoga also has the added benefits of increasing the release of endorphins (happy hormones) and making the body a more physically comfortable place to live in.
If you get into the habit of practicing yoga each morning for 28 days, there’s a chance you’ll continue and you'll thank yourself for it by the time the next New Year comes around.
Traditionally, the practice of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) was performed at sunrise, to greet the sun and the arrival of a new day. By being aware of the rhythms of the natural world and practicing as the sun rises, we tap into our own natural rhythms too.
Many of us are so caught up in the world of technology and work that we forget we too are a part of nature and this morning routine is a reminder of our more natural state.
Here are my top 10 reasons for starting an AM practice:
1. Loose the fuzzy morning feeling.
Overnight, our muscles rest and while they’re not moving, layers of connective tissue and bodily fluid builds up between them. That urge to stretch we get is essentially an act of releasing the fuzzy build up found between muscles. If we don’t move and stretch however, this layer continues to thicken and build up, causing stiffness, chronically ‘tight’ muscles and common aches and pains.
2. Gain an hour in the morning and be more chilled for the rest of the day…
Don’t start your practice stressing over time. Wake up a little earlier and practice will allow your nervous system to begin the day in a far more relaxed state. Our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are already high in the mornings to give us the boost we need to wake up. If this level of cortisol is quickly increased with added stress however, we’ve set ourselves up for an equally stressful day.
3. Kick the caffeine craving
Even if you’re tired when you get up, a morning yoga practice will make you feel more awake and alive. Specific postures and practices to build energy include sun salutations, backbends and twists.
4. Get your immune system active.
The disease-fighting white blood cells in the body can do their best when our blood flow and lymphatic system has efficient circulation. By moving we essentially ‘wake up’ all the body’s systems, which enhances the flow of circulation and gives the immune system an immediate boost. Gentle inversions like Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) are especially effective for stimulating the immune system, good for winter mornings.
5. Be happy,
The mood boost received through a yoga practice is one of the most beneficial reasons to practice in the mornings. In a study conducted by the Yoga Biomedical Trust in London, 94% of participants with anxiety were significantly helped by practicing yoga regularly each morning, and 82% of those with insomnia reported valuable benefits too.
6. Time out
If you’re a parent, or your job entails managing or looking after others. To give our energy out in the world, it’s essential we have enough within us in the first place. A morning yoga practice is a way to know you’ve done something for yourself that day – whether it was for five minutes or an hour.
7. Breathe Here Now to Be Here Now
Breath awareness – i.e. focussing intently on each inhale and exhale and noticing the quality of the breath – is an instant way to bring us into the present moment. Leslie Kaminoff nailed it when he said “The body tries to hold onto the past, the mind tries to take us into the future. It is the breath that keeps us present”. When the mind is busy and over flowing with thoughts or chitta vrittis, paying attention to the breath brings us out of the trap of the mind and into reality. While thoughts and ruminations are often nothing to do with the situation right in front of us, the breath is a reminder of something that is real, something that it here and now. Movements within a yoga practice are almost always initiated by an inhale or exhale, so by moving with the breath, we move into the present moment. A shallow breath, held high up in the chest indicates stress and activates the body’s stress response, whereas deeper ‘belly breathing’ where the abdomen can expand and relax with the breath, calms the nervous system and brings the body and mind into the present resulting in a far more relaxed state of being. If breath awareness can become a habit, we’ll eventually be able to use it instantly through the day to become more aware and alive.
8 Boost digestive fire
Yoga’s sister science Ayurveda states that our overall health is determined by the health of our digestive system. We can drink all the green smoothies we like and eat organic meals, but if the body can’t properly absorb, assimilate and use those nutrients – it’s a little like putting your food straight in the rubbish bin…. By practicing yoga in the morning, the body’s metabolism is boosted, and so is the digestive system or Agni, known as ‘digestive fire’. When circulation of the systems is boosted and the internal organs have been gently massaged by yoga postures, the digestive system is far more efficient at releasing toxins and properly metabolising the vitamins and minerals from our foods.
9. Boost brainpower
Focussing early in the morning may not be something we’re all accustomed to, but it’s significantly beneficial for heightening our productivity and alertness throughout the rest of the day. If you find it difficult to concentrate at work or school, spend some time practicing breath awareness and a few mildly challenging yoga postures, and your mind will have woken up in no time!
10. The early hours….
The traditional yogic texts state that the hours between 4am and 6am are most conductive for meditation and yoga practice because the mind is at its most still and the rest of the world hasn’t yet sprung into action, so there’s a sense of stillness in the air. If these hours are a little too early for you, then….
Become a ‘morning person’ If you’re not the type to jump out of bed to greet the new day, then this new habit could make you one…! A dedicated morning practice allows those of us who could quite easily sleep the day away to make the most of this time when it otherwise may have gone to waste. Just as it’s the yoga postures we enjoy the least that we need to practice, it’s the disciplines we wouldn’t usually choose that could serve us the most. Life is short and it’s a pretty precious thing, so rather than sleeping in and wasting the day, make a habit of getting up a little earlier to re-introduce yourself to the morning time.
Let’s do this yogis
You do not have to be flexible, strong, skinny, vegan or any other stereotype attached to ‘yoga people’. All you must do is be you and let the practice do the rest. Finding out who you are beneath the bad habits that have built up over time, the chattering mind and the aching body. It’s about being your authentic self. As the saying goes “Start from where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”.