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The 10 Best Benefits of Practicing Yoga in the Morning

By Timothy Burgin for Yoga Basics.

Many new yogis wonder, “what is the best time to do yoga? Is yoga better to do in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the evening before bed?” The answer depends on your personality, needs, and goals. No matter what time you get on your mat, you will still receive all of the amazing benefits yoga brings. Yet there are a number of important and unique reasons to practice yoga in the morning. Perhaps one or more of these ten benefits will provide the motivation to begin a morning yoga routine. Once you make it a daily habit, you’ll certainly notice powerful changes to your body, heart, and mind.

Set Your Intention for the Day

Practicing yoga in the morning is a powerful way to take charge of your day with a clear, thoughtful, and activated intention. Alexandra DeSiato, coauthor of Teaching Yoga Beyond the Poses, believes using an intention in your morning practice is “the difference between leading the day rather than letting it lead you. Not only is moving and breathing in the morning beneficial for your physical body and your anxiety-prone mind, getting to your mat in the morning gives you the opportunity to actively choose the theme of your day. In daily life, so much is out of your control: but the hour or so you spend in the morning being intentional, focused, present, and in the moment allows you to bring that intentionality and presence into the rest of the day—whatever the day throws at you!”

“Having that space and time in the morning to set an intention is key,” DeSiato explains. “and bringing in a theme or intention for your home practice is just as important as hearing a theme or intention in a class setting. Actually, crafting that intention at home at the start of a morning practice might be more important, for a few reasons. First, setting an intention for the day allows you to own your mood and make a choice about how you’re going to be despite whatever external stimuli gets thrown at you as the day goes on. When you’re the first person to talk to yourself, you create a boundary between you and whatever happens next. You know all that stuff you hear from your yoga teachers about getting rooted? This is how you do it. You give yourself the space and time, you find a phrase, intention, theme, or flavor, and you meditate on it or chant it or hear it in your mind: you build those roots by setting your intention in the morning. This, in turn, gives you a better outlook, a subtle, energetic shield against whatever the day holds. Creating a positive outlook for the day is probably the most important reason to start your day with a yoga practice.”

Jumpstart Your Day

What happens as you wake up and get ready for your day can have a huge impact on the quality of your thoughts and emotions for the next several hours. Yoga Nidra expert Tracee Stanley is convinced that “how you start your day can define how your whole day will roll out. Beginning your day with intention and gratitude is a great way to create a foundation of presence that can weave throughout your day. Understand your personal energy rhythm. Pay attention to what time of day feels the best for your workout, creativity, or bookkeeping. Honor those rhythms by scheduling your day accordingly. Start your day with the activity that capitalizes on how your energy feels first thing in the morning.”

Feel Fit and Strong for Whatever the Day Holds

Our days are often filled with stress, worry, and challenges. Approaching your day with the utmost sense of inner strength will give you the maximum amount of grit and determination to succeed. Yoga and meditation teacher Emma Sothern, notes how “morning yoga helps your digestion, keeps you grounded, and conserves your energy. Because deep breathing, detoxifying twists, and calming forward folds activate the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system—our “rest and digest” state. Unlike the cortisol and adrenaline-fuelled, “fight or flight” sympathetic state, the PNS is calming and nourishing. Why switch that part on in the morning, when you need to “get up and go”? Well, so all your organs can function correctly. You slow down your heart rate. You stimulate intestinal activity. More blood travels freely to your vital systems—digestive, reproductive, and immune—to keep you fit and strong for whatever the day holds. Plus, if you feel sluggish in the mornings, with symptoms like brain fog or IBS, a short yoga sequence gets things moving again.”

Acknowledge Your Needs

Yoga in the MorningFitness Instructor and Life Coach Jenna Hillier notes the importance of turning inwards in the morning to acknowledge your needs to best plan and prepare for the day. “When parent, partner, employee, employer, caretaker, activist and/or friend are just a few examples of the many hats we wear, there’s no denying that we’re pulled in a multitude of directions a day. As an attempt to get the day started or be as productive as possible, it’s easy to wake up and immediately think about who or what needs your attention first. Doing yoga in the morning presents us with an opportunity to tune inwards to acknowledge our own needs before we rush off to address everyone else’s. It’s in those quiet moments when we’re connected with our self that we can clearly see what it is we need the most. This is especially important for planning a day that will support your mental health and emotional stability. When we start our day with movement and breath, we connect with ourselves in a way that enables us to acknowledge what it is we need the most. And as the saying goes… we can only give to those what we have, first, for ourselves.”

Clear the Mind

If you often wake up in a dull and hazy mental state, a few minutes of yogic breathing can quickly clear out any cobwebs in your mind. Stanley describes how “Yoga gives us the tools to calm and clear the mind to experience more balance and peace in daily life. 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 engaging in simple pranayamas like diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing), it is the quality of our breath that matters. 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.”

Boost Your Focus and Concentration

In addition to waking up the mind and establishing a calm thought stream, yoga with conscious breathwork will also give you a boost of mental focus and concentration. Kelly Clifton Turner, Director of Education for YogaSix,  believes that “as you breathe through your yoga flow, you’ll be providing your brain with loads of fresh oxygen. This will help sweep away any last bits of sleepiness and increase your mental clarity for the day ahead.” Creating a strong mental boost at the start of your day will ensure that you can start your work prepared and allow you to work at your maximum efficiency.

Boost Your Metabolism

If you struggle to maintain a healthy body weight, you should consider shifting your yoga practice to an earlier hour. Turner believes that “morning yoga will wake up your body and rev up your metabolism for the day. Incorporating a few twists into your morning yoga flow will also help stimulate your digestive system, helping get rid of any bloating from last night’s dinner and setting you up to feel great. You can really kick your metabolism into high gear if you opt for a power or heated yoga class in the AM.”

Relieve Back Pain and Tension 

morning yoga benefitsIf you suffer from occasional or chronic back pain, a therapeutic yoga practice may be more helpful if practiced at the start of your day. This will be especially true if your job requires a lot of physical movement and activity. “Stretching first thing in the morning can relieve back pain and tension that you have after a night of sleep,” Hillier explains. “For those with occasional soreness or chronic aches, stretching first thing in the morning can relieve back pain and tension that you have after a night of sleep. As you breathe and move, your blood flow increases, encouraging your stiff muscles to loosen up. For those looking to prevent future back pain, yoga’s focus on balance and steadiness helps the body to develop armor against the most common causes of back pain: weak abdominal muscles and lack of flexibility in the hips. Reviewing the benefits of yoga, particularly in the morning, it’s clear to see that virtually everyone can benefit from this practice.”

Strengthen Your Immune System

If your job or commute requires being around other people, you would be well served by a morning yoga practice. Health and wellness expert Sophie Jaffe notes how “stress is a leading cause of sickness especially when it comes to our immune system. When we let stress control our lives, we’re more susceptible to health problems. Yoga has been shown to help lower stress hormones (which compromises the immune system), calms the nervous system, and starts your day in a more mindful, intentional space. In stretching and moving, we release any stagnant energy stuck within our cells, allowing it to remove harmful toxins in our bodies.”

If you don’t have time for a full practice in the morning, you can opt for practicing a few targeted asanas to boost your immune system. Jaffe tells us that “a Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) encourages more blood flow to the sinuses and a Standing Backbend (Anuvittasana) strengthens the lungs, keeps the nasal passage open for breath and detoxifies the adrenal glands which can often become exasperated due to stress.” Inverted poses like Shoulder Stand, Plow pose, and Bridge pose are also great to boost the lymphatic system to help ward off coughs and colds.

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Starting your day with an act of self-care, like a short yoga practice, increases the chances that you’ll be making healthier choices for the rest of the day,” says Yoga Medicine instructor and Therapeutic Specialist Jenni Tarma. “Think of it as ‘starting as you mean to go on’: if a morning yoga practice reminds you that movement feels good in your body, you’re more likely to incorporate little movement breaks into the rest of your schedule. Similarly, starting off the day with a healthy habit incentivizes us to make better diet choices in general, since we’re more reluctant to “undo” the benefits of the work we’ve already put in.”

“A morning practice can also help boost your energy and leave you more clear-headed, reducing the chances that you’ll wind up relying on sugary snacks and caffeine to stay alert. Plus, you never know, your healthy choices may end up inspiring someone around you to start making some positive lifestyle choices too, so the benefits could extend into your wider social and professional circles as well!”

About the Author

Yoga Medicine®

Yoga Medicine®

Yoga Medicine® is a thorough, anatomically based training system that trains teachers across the globe to work more powerfully with their students. Yoga Medicine® is a community of teachers who are trained to understand the function and dysfunction of the human body in order to work more effectively with healthcare practitioners. Yoga Medicine® loves to post articles based on yoga teacher's experiences, yoga-related research, the relationship between yoga and healthcare, and much more. We welcome guest submissions as well - please contact info@yogamedicine.com to discuss further details.

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