Updated: Feb 9
short answer: go to bed at the right time, then wake up for practice, of course! But if you're up late, wake up early anyway. Yoga will restore you to your best self.
There is nothing more lovely than starting a yoga flow in a dreamy state. Enjoy the softness of a sleepy mind-- it's a much easier starting point than a busy mind if you are (and you are) working towards inner clarity.
While we sleep, gravity compresses the body, especially if you are still/stiff in the night (active sleepers may wake up already warm!). When we stretch first thing in the morning, we create the space and order required for strong, clear tone in mind and body.
On the mat, we draw the subliminal into conscious awareness, just as we do in dreams. Why is sleep particularly important for non-yogis? It’s the only state of consciousness devoted to rest and healing. Yogis who practice often, daily, and deeply, reach this state more frequently, and during the day. Though conscious awareness, fewer harmful actions/experiences are incurred, allowing deeper layers of the body and psyche to be healed through practice and rest. When the diet is simple and close to nature, then even less energy is needed for rest because digestion happens easily. So with time, yogis require less sleep at night, and are more resilient to stressful events.
Stress is being at the state of alarmed rather than peacefully, confidently, alert. When the mind is low on energy, because the body requires rest/healing, then there is dullness and insensitivity, or a narrow focus rather than an expansive, inclusive awareness guided by inner attention. Decreasing stress frees our energy, increasing our resilience and ability to quickly recover from weariness. It's a positive cycle of good energy liberating more good energy.
When are our attention is attuned to our thoughts, and the body-mind is in a state of good health, then we experience our thoughts as brief manifestations of energy, the way we see a shooting star, knowing that the thought, the object of our awareness, came from an expansive place and returns to that same state of undifferentiated energy. There is a sense of space in its wake, and the result of the thought is easily transformed into an action, understanding, or an expression (language, music, art, etc).
In states of stress, the thoughts are unclear and unactionable; energy doesn’t flow well and the thoughts often become stuck, repetitive, habitual. This is so common that we consider it normal rather than symptomatic.
What we do not conventionally consider is the possibility that thoughts can, like energy, circulate through the body. Often the thinking, and the thinker’s majority of energy, becomes stuck in the head. The forehead falls heavily forward, the face is weighed down, and paths become clear over time— the same running rivers that a tear would follow. Furrows around the nose, to the lip tips, dropping down into a shortened and stiffened neck.
To free the circulation of energy of the body, we need to care for the body, of course, but also care for the contents of the mind. This is what makes therapy popular.
You can also listen to yourself, on and off the mat, and consider the balance you care to cultivate within.
In the medical field, maintaining inner balance is an intricate, involuntary process called homeostasis: keeping things the same. Of course, everything is in constant, dynamic, motion, so it takes true discernment to see what changes and calibrate the mind from the inside. It helps to not only listen to what your thought process is like, but also consider why we have an inner dialogue.
The inner dialogue upholds our perception of the world. If we want to change our lives, our world, we have to begin within, and begin with what we repeat to ourselves most often. These core beliefs can be healthy, empowering, or stressful, debilitating. Sometimes we don’t question these beliefs, so it can be mind blowing to consider the possible effects of holding the opposite thoughts.
Also interesting is the obvious fact that no one can hear our thoughts, but many can hear our speech and read our words. When you speak to yourself, where no one hears but you, is it different from what you project to the world? That separation can be the source of conflict and self doubt.
Most interesting is noting what happens when the mind is silent, serene. Then we feel that all of nature is complicit in the energy that supports that state of being. There is no stress, nothing to heal, and everything to feel.