You’ve probably heard all about the benefits of a regular yoga practice for your physical health and mental health. But, what about morning yoga benefits?
If, like me, you’re not a morning person, then the idea of waking up first thing to find yourself in a downward-facing dog not long after can be a little daunting.
The time of day when the sun is just peeking over the horizon and the birds are beginning to chirp is also the time of day my snooze button sees more action than my yoga mat.
Morning sessions aren’t for everyone. That said, it may well be the best time for many of us, despite our misgivings about waking up a little earlier. This post considers a wide range of morning yoga benefits so you can decide if this is the best time for you.
What are the benefits of practicing yoga first thing?
The plethora of benefits that yoga gives us goes beyond purely the physical. For many of us, though, this is our entry point into yoga. Disciplines of meditation, contemplation, and ethical observances tend to come later. The asana (pose) practice and the breath work tend to be where most practitioners in the West begin.
However, there is some confusion about when to practice yoga asana. A lot of information out there can be contradictory. Ancient texts specify an early morning practice, but studios and online platforms offer evening classes aplenty.
To prevent ourselves from getting stuck in the quagmire of dogma, it is important to remember a few simple points.
1. Humans and society are constantly evolving.
2. The yoga of 5000 years ago carries with it an abundance of wisdom that has stood the test of time.
3. Yoga also is organic and evolves as we evolve.
4. Therefore, it is important to apply yogic wisdom to modern contexts.
5. This means that if a morning practice is what suits you best, go for it. If an evening practice is better for your lifestyle, then practice accordingly.
Many of us, myself included, dream of being a morning person. While the demands of life certainly keep us busy, our habits can keep us up late at night. We can be the main saboteur of our morning yoga fantasy. I know I fall into this category!
So, if your dream is to practice in the morning but you just can’t seem to act on it, the following list of morning yoga benefits may help to spur you on.
Some of these stem from my personal experience, others are evidence-based.
According to science, establishing a morning routine is key to helping us wake up early. But your “early” and my “early” may be completely different things, based on our circadian rhythms. Committing to a regular early morning yoga routine can help to establish a set sleeping and waking pattern and help reset a disrupted circadian rhythm.
2. Establish a morning routine
One of the benefits of a home yoga practice is the reduced need to attend a yoga studio. For some, getting up and out of the house may be more motivating. For others like myself, it can act as a barrier. I will make any and all excuses not to wake up for the purpose of leaving home, especially in winter.
So, home yoga it is. By including a short yoga practice in the morning, I have found that I build other habits around it, solidifying a healthy routine that finally feels fulfilling AND relaxing, not the almost military-level efficiency-focused rush I have previously shackled myself to. MY routine now consists of feeding the kittens (priorities, right?), brewing my coffee while listening to the radio, then, once my blood pressure has righted itself and I’m still in my jimjams, I get on the mat for a few slow and mindful rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations).
3. Develop a positive outlook
There is something about a well-rounded yoga practice that leaves you feeling a little better than before. Not always, but most of the time. Getting on the mat to move, breathe, and focus all with awareness sets me up with a positive outlook for the rest of the day (well, the morning at least).
4. Balance your nervous system
When we wake up, our nervous system is dragging itself up from deep rest-and-digest states into a functional level of action. For many of us, we intentionally jar ourselves out of slumber into immediate fight-or-flight with a piercing alarm sound. Before we even get on the mat our nervous system is needing to sit down for a bit. By practicing a few asanas using the breath as our guide, we can bring it back into balance, setting us up for the day the right way.
5. Reduce your excuses to not practice
I’ve briefly touched on this already, but having a well-thought-out system for establishing an at-home morning yoga practice can eliminate (almost) all excuses, limiting beliefs, and misconceptions. If you can work through what’s stopping you internally, then that long-sought-after morning yoga practice is well within reach.
6. Strengthen your immune system
In order to wake us up, our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are already high in the mornings. If we add more stress to our mornings, we go about our day stressed, i.e. with higher levels of cortisol than necessary. Stress is one of the leading factors that negatively impact our immune system. By establishing a morning practice that includes physical movement, we can reduce the levels of cortisol, strengthening our immune system. Asanas work to improve body functions. Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward dog) increases blood flow to the sinuses, and backbends and their preparatory poses will increase lung capacity, and some inversions will help to drain the lymph nodes. all this serves to support the immune system.
7. Work out the kinks
As well as supporting the immune system, opting for yoga asanas that encourage mindful gentle movement helps to ease some pesky aches and pains gained from sleeping in awkward positions. Often times I wake up with a kitten purring happily on my pillow (MY pillow) and my head crooked to the side. A few sun salutations have helped relieve the stiffness. Always talk with a qualified medical professional first if you are concerned about aches and pains though, before starting yoga.
8. Boost your metabolism
Moving on an empty stomach encourages your body to tap into its fat stores for energy supply, giving the body’s metabolism a bit of a boost. This can be done with any movement, really, like an early morning walk. Gentle asana is one movement practice you could incorporate into your morning routine to give the body a bit of a boost without needing to change out of your pajamas.
9. Boost your concentration
Yoga asana, breathwork, and meditation all require mindful awareness and develop our focus on the present moment. This doesn’t stop once we step off the mat. The whole purpose of these practices is to apply them in our daily life. That is true yoga. You will find that morning yoga benefits stay with you throughout the day and night. Improved concentration is one of them.
10. Tune into your needs
The types of yoga we practice directly affect our physiology. If you’re feeling agitated, you’ll likely need a slower, breath work-centered practice with a focus on calming and grounding to, well, calm and ground you. A morning yoga practice will require that you tune into your energy levels first before getting on the mat.
If, like me, you’re someone who vividly remembers your dreams, and, like me, you have particularly disturbing dreams, then a refreshing yoga practice may be just what you need to start the day with a clear mind.
12. Reduce excuses to practice later
Many a time wriggled further down into my snuggly duvet with my cuddly kittens telling myself “I’ll practice tonight before dinner”. However, often, a long day with an increasing to-do list will serve to de-prioritize a yoga practice and increase the chances of tuning into Netflix. Morning yoga benefits seep into the rest of your day – you have a freer evening and more clarity on what takes priority on that to-do list.
13. Say goodbye to the snooze alarm
Now, in my experience, this might take a while if you’re not much of a morning person. But, once your brain and body get used to the idea, and begin to absorb all these morning yoga benefits, then you’ll notice a slow letting go of the dreaded snooze alarm. When you adjust to this new routine, and you feel like you’re starting the day on the right foot (pun intended), over time, you’ll be waking up with a little more vitality.
14. Guarantee yourself some “me time”
This might depend on your situation, but as the earliest riser in my home, one morning yoga benefit is I guarantee myself some time alone. It is the perfect way to tune into your needs before others need you, bringing us to the next point.
15. Set intentions for the day
If you can develop the skill of tuning into your needs through a yoga practice, then you can shape the rest of your day by using that information to set intentions around how the day will go. There are no guarantees in life, but giving yourself a data-driven purpose gives you a head start at having a productive and fulfilling day.
16. Prepare yourself for the day ahead
Once you have your intentions set, then you can mentally prepare yourself for the rest of your day. An asana and breathwork practice may well give you a much-needed boost of energy to get through the day if you have a busy one coming up.
17. Support the attempt to quit coffee
Whether you want to quit or reduce your caffeine intake, a morning yoga practice will support that. Oftentimes, I skip the cup of coffee in favor of just boiled water. This habit came about because I actually had no time to brew a nice cup, but needed something to warm me up. After a few days, I realized I wasn’t really missing the coffee at all. It is nice to have one now and then, but it is not necessary anymore.
18. Improve your sleep
You might be wondering how on Earth a morning yoga benefit is connected to better sleep. When you know you have to be up early for something that is replenishing you, there is something, I have found, that happens the night before. I naturally began to reduce screen time before bed. My brain began to wind down a little easier, and I chose to get into bed a little earlier.
If you really want to get a good night’s sleep, then an evening practice for a few minutes will help with that, but that is for another post.
19. Start the day productive
We all intend to get everything crossed off our to-do list each day, but the to-do list grows when we’re not looking. Usually, it’s the harder stuff that drops to the bottom. A yoga practice and all it entails might easily get classified as “harder stuff”. Getting out of bed, putting on your yoga gear, moving and breathing and meditating, showering, and then changing into your day clothes can all seem a bit overwhelming. More so when you have other priorities that pop up throughout the day. Getting a yoga practice done first thing ensures a productive day.
20. Boost your self-esteem
Combining all the previous benefits into one, and over time you will notice small increases in your self-esteem. You have more energy, you operate from the rest-and-digest state more often than not, you have a clear outlook and direction for the day, and you’re more well-rested. All these contribute to higher self-esteem, falling just short of smug (well, most of the time).
Morning yoga benefits are plentiful. Morning yoga sessions are one of the best ways to boost energy, productivity, immune function, sleep quality, self-esteem, and more. It also allows you to develop the skill of tuning into how you really feel and what you really need. This helps you to plan the direction of the day ahead, so you can tackle with greater ease all that it will bring.
The health benefits of yoga are not restricted to the mornings, and you can easily complement a morning yoga practice with short evening practices to amplify these benefits. More on that in another post.
If you want to learn more about yoga’s vast array of benefits, you can join my Facebook group, follow me on Instagram, or sign up for my weekly newsletter about all things beginner yoga.
Hi, I'm Ellie Smith. I'm passionate about sharing how the practices and principles of yoga can enhance our public speaking presence. Whether you're a university student, new or returning professional, or simply want to boost your confidence behind the mic, I'm here to help guide you on your yoga journey so you can go from the pose to the podium with ease.