So, I’m going to be honest. I’m not really a morning Yoga person.
Well, not since my son came along 5 years ago. He was not a good sleeper for the first 4 years of his life, and the long, broken nights took their toll on my body. He’s now awake at 6am, sometimes 7am, and it’s only now that I’m waking naturally without his early morning alarm call.
So, the idea of setting the alarm for earlier than the one I already get to do Yoga isn’t very appealing. And I’m not very self compassionate either, if I’m honest.
Sometimes we do some Yoga together when he’s awake, but it’s not the peaceful, flowing, moving into myself Yoga that I enjoy alone. We play with stories and poses and have even indulged in Star Wars Yoga, which I must admit is fun and revitalising, but not what I can practice alone.
He likes to take over too and be the teacher, which is fun, and he creates his own Yoga poses, which normally involves running around and making obstacle courses.
Our Yoga practice is definitely not how Mum and Kid Yoga is portrayed on Instagram, that’s for sure!
Our yoga is messy, fast, playful and sweaty. Sometimes he’s into it and sometimes he’s not, and with the school run and preparation for clients, the morning just isn’t the time for me to feel free to really explore my body through my Yoga practice.
In the morning, I often carry out short meditation or breath awareness practices as I do my oil pulling before brushing my teeth, when I’m in the shower or while walking to school, taking my Yoga off the mat and into my life.
I also treat myself to a class once a week with my fab teacher Fabiano Cularo and that’s when I feel the benefits of a morning routine. How it sets me up for the day, how the breathing sets the tone for me and how much more productive I can be having taken the time to enjoy a practice at the start of the day. A few stretches and some breathing exercises are often all I can fit in, but even that does make me feel better
It provides me with my me time once my son has gone to bed. My body is warmer at night, having carried me through my day, and the Yoga often feels a more juicy and delicious than it feels in the morning when I’m more stiff having just woken up.
But I’m wondering from a mind perspective what the difference might be between daytime and evening practice.
You could say that a morning practice is more of a proactive practice, getting the body moving, setting the tone for the day. And the evening practice could be seen as being more reactive, an opportunity to unwind and release after the day’s activities and prepare for bed.
I recently read an article about the difference between morning and evening practice where the writer said,
“If my koshas were like hardwood floors, practicing in the morning feels like adding a nice, smooth protective coat … In the evening, it would be more akin to scrubbing away that day’s dirt and grime on a surface that’s only lightly treated.”
But, I don’t think there is a definitive answer. It depends on you, your needs, your personal circumstances and rhythms, as well as seasonal and cyclical changes going on inside you and around you in the wider world.
Whether you practice Yoga in the morning, the afternoon or evening is entirely up to you. What matters is what your practice is doing for you and what you’re getting from the practice, so both morning and evening practices offer value.
Some people find that an energising, revitalising morning practice is just what they need to set them up for the day. Others use their Yoga practice to unwind at the end of their day, a chance to assimilate all that’s happened and process it through the body.
Some people do the same practice every day, others change their practice to suit their energy, body and mind. Nothing has to be set in stone. You’re free to play around with your practice and change it with the changing needs of your body and mind.
Sticking to a formalised, rigid structure for your Yoga practice at a specific time may negate some of the benefits of Yoga.
If you become stressed trying to squeeze your Yoga practice in at a time that feels unnatural for you, perhaps in the morning when your mind is elsewhere or at night when you’re too tired, you’ll lose some of the many benefits that can be found in the practice itself.
When you use force in your practice or in your life, forcing yourself to do your Yoga practice at this time or that, forcing yourself to go to the mat at a time that’s not ideal for you, you’re not practicing ahimsa (non-violence) to yourself. You’ll resist the force and it’s likely your regularity of practice will suffer as it won’t feel natural and it won’t fit into your rhythm, schedule and lifestyle.
Practicing Yoga in the morning provides you with an opportunity to clear your mind and get your body ready for your day.
A combination of energising poses and rhythmic natural Yoga breathing opens up space in the body, calms the mind and energises the spine, especially when practicing a sequence of poses including sun salutations, back bends and downward dog pose.
Standing poses are important in a morning Yoga practice to give you the strength and energy to go about your day, although starting on the ground to slowly wake the body up can be a nice, gentle way to unfold.
Morning is often the coolest part of the day. The body can be a little tight and stiff so it’s a good time for a more physical practice to get the breath and energy flowing through the body. A morning practice can help you iron out the kinks and get things moving. It’s a good idea to practice on an empty stomach before breakfast, especially if you’re incorporating twisting poses that get into the belly.
A morning Yoga practice sets the tone for the whole day, perhaps also involving setting intentions or connecting to mantras. It gives you time to draw in, quieten your mind and breathe, enabling you to connect to your own needs before stepping out into the wider world.
If you do manage to squeeze a morning practice in, the best time is as soon as you get up, in your PJs and on the mat before you get distracted and decide to do something else.
An evening Yoga practice is best if you’re not naturally a morning person or if you’re a busy Mum who relishes the quiet time at night when your children are in bed.
It’s the perfect time to enjoy some self connection. It can help you wind down after a busy day, especially if you make your evening practice gentle, calming and restorative, including calming poses to wring out the day such as child’s pose, belly focused twists and forward folding poses.
You might have more time and space in the evening for your Yoga practice, when you don’t feel rushed and can be more present to what’s going on within your body. You can perhaps hold and savour the poses for longer, delighting in fully enjoying every part of your practice without feeling rushed or concerned about time.
Your evening Yoga practice can form part of your bedtime routine, especially if you suffer from sleep issues such as insomnia, anxiety or stress, helping prepare your body and mind to fall to rest. And if you finish with some deep relaxation like a 20 minute Savasana, Meditation or Yoga Nidra practice then even better.
You can also use your evening Yoga practice to break habits such as late night snacking or binge box set or Netflix TV watching by making practicing Yoga a new habit to indulge in.
There is no one single right time for you to practice. You have to find the time that best suits you and your schedule.
If your morning is like mine, full of tasks, getting children ready for school, making breakfast, walking dogs, feeding pets and rarely making it out of the door on time, committing to a morning practice may be unrealistic, and could potentially just become another stick to beat yourself with when it doesn’t happen.
The same could be said for an evening Yoga practice if you have lots of commitments already, go to clubs, the gym, often socialise in the evening or go to bed early.
Your own personal constitution plays a role in choosing your ideal practice time too. If you had all the time in the world, if you take a while to get going in the morning, maybe later in the day would suit you better and conversely if you like to go to bed early, perhaps an evening practice is not best for you.
To find out when is the best time for you, just play around with it. Be really honest with yourself about who you are and what you need and experiment. The Yoga police won’t come knocking on your door if you change things around. Perhaps try a morning practice for a week and see how it feels, then change things and practice for a week at night.
Be really attentive and observant to what is going on in your body and mind. Bring deep awareness to your practice so you can see what qualities the different practice times bring to your life. You may find benefits to both and then perhaps look at how this works with your natural cyclical energy throughout the month, during the phases of your own menstrual cycle or during the cycle of the moon if you are in menopause.
How does this impact on your choice of practice time? Are you more drawn to a daytime practice in the more vibrant phases of your cycle such as ovulation time? Do you require a more restful night time practice pre-bleed? Explore your yoga practice as you explore yourself.
It is YOUR Yoga practice, own it, develop it and cultivate a practice that works for you and your body.
Basically, it all comes down to this:
“Practicing with total attention within the body is advanced Yoga, no matter how easy the posture; practicing with your attention scattered is the practice of a beginner, no matter how difficult the posture.”
H David Coulter
So, think about how the timing of your practice helps or hinders your attention.
Yoga is a practice of union of integration and it might be helpful for you to consider some questions that might help you to develop a deeper awareness of why you practice and when might be best for you to practice.
You can keep returning to these reflections as you practice throughout your life. The answers can help you cultivate new habits and create new patterns when you need them, if you perhaps get stuck in one way of doing things and need a change. The answers are like seeds that grow and flower within your Yoga practice, the more you water them the more they grow.
Like the changing cycles and seasons of the natural world, you as an individual will experience different mental, emotional, spiritual and physical ebbs and flows of energy. Some of these are related to your menstrual cycle and some are related to where you are in the cycle of life. You can use your practice to tune in more deeply to your inner current and the natural flow of energy you have inside you, reflecting on when you are at your most energetic and when you feel most stagnant or lethargic. This may change as the yearly seasonal cycle changes and as the number of hours of daylight transition and change in length through Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
So your preference for a daytime or evening Yoga practice may alter too as the light changes and energy shifts within you, perhaps favouring a more energising daytime practice in Spring and Summer and a quieter evening practice in Autumn and Winter.
Have fun exploring.
Here are two practices for you to try at home one for the morning and one for the night time…especially appropriate for full moon time too!
Full Moon sequence
Also Sun salutation sequence.
I use the incredible healing, calming, strengthening and restorative power of yoga to help you find the balance you need, no matter what stage of life you’re at. I couple this with Mizan massage, belly binding, birth preparation and doula services to support you as needed.