I woke up this morning and did one of the Yoga Vida on-demand videos. It was called an “Easy Breezy Flow” and it was just what I needed to get myself going. But when I go to class after work, I love how it decompresses me from the day. So which is better – morning or evening yoga? Cindy Lee did a long piece on this for Yoga Journal if you want to get more in depth. Or at least get a less biased review.
The main argument against a morning practice is that your body just isn’t ready for it yet – that it is too stiff to get in to some of the poses. But does achieving the full expression of a pose fulfill the purpose of yoga more than the practice itself? Is yoga not meant to expand – mind and body? Yes, I can get deeper in to poses at the end of the day – and achieve inversions on my first attempt. And yes, that is an ego boost – but is it the point of yoga?
Standing by myself – at 6AM in my kitchen, just me, my mat and my laptop/teacher I can more easily find the calm needed for a truly meditative practice. The poses are difficult in the beginning but as I move through the asanas I feel my body waking up and by the end of the series I am ready to take on the day. Most days (not all, yoga isn’t magic) I am able to keep that calm focus with me through work, through my time with my kids, through the insanity of the NYC subway system.
Don’t get me wrong – afternoon or evening yoga is great too. It gives me the opportunity to decompress from the stresses of the day. Allows me to see things with a clearer mind and helps me let go of some of the difficulties the day may have brought me. It gives me the chance to meditate on the choices I made and the actions of others and find a better way to react to both in the future. In this way, yoga has made me a more understanding person. Yoga in the morning is about me, yoga in the afternoon is about finding a path to acceptance of others.
Perhaps the true difference between the two is the opportunity for a proper Savasana. I never complete the recommended Savasana when I am practicing by myself first thing in the morning. I always jump up and get dressed or wake up my kids or both. But Savasana is just as important as any other asana. It calms the brain, relaxes the body, reduces headache and insomnia. But more than anything, it allows you that moment of true relaxation to close out the practice – breathe deeply and reflect. I allow myself this time when I practice in a studio – Bikram Yoga East Harlem always offers cool cloths with lavender oil which are lovely. But when I practice by myself in the morning, I skip it – jumping up and basically ruining the whole thing. Yes, my body feels great but is my mind getting the full benefit?
Hopefully I do a better job tomorrow morning.