Joyous news, my friends. Spring equinox is just around the corner and that means MORE LIGHT!! At The Light Side, we are all about the light and so we of course are just beaming (pun intended!).
I've been loving having more light in the late afternoon and early evening lately (i.e. not having to drive home from work in the dark!), and with the simple pleasure of waking up slowly to the sound of happy birdie chirps and warm, bright rays of sunshine flooding the bedroom, I rise a little easier, happy to embrace the vitality that arrives as the world around us begins to thaw from winter's freeze. Spring brings us the fresh and the new and its the perfect time soak in and celebrate the energy and light that surrounds us. And, your yoga mat happens to be a perfect place to do just that.
Practice at the start of a fresh new day, accompanied by a the brilliant light of the morning always brings me back to India. At the ashram where I studied yoga, after our daily meditation at 5am, we would gather upstairs in the roof top yoga hut for the first of our two daily yoga practices. There in front of us, greeting our presence with its own, was the most stunning view: coconut trees for miles, only interrupted by the point where they met the glimmering water of the Indian Ocean all set upon a brilliant background of vibrant orange and pink light that danced across the horizon guiding the ascension of the sun. Each day started with this magnificent sunrise--so humbling and so breathtaking.
Our morning practice centred around honouring this magnificence as we began it with Surya Namaskar (i.e. "salute to the sun"/ worship of the Hindu solar deity, Surya; a unique method for making "the perfect synthesis of culture of the body, mind and spirit"). Facing the horizon with hands at heart centre, there we stood in full gratitude for the sunrise, breathing it in... appreciating all that comes with it. We thanked Surya for the opportunities before us that the new day brings, for the nourishment the sun provides and for the beauty of the light that surrounds us and shines within us. I know: pretty moving stuff, isn't it?! It brings tears to my eyes just reflecting on this memory. Standing in gratitude like this each morning, I began to appreciate each day in such a profound way. The simple act of pausing to really take in the power of the light- to stop, breathe and be present with and grateful for it, made me feel like I could stop time, but for a moment.
Surya Namaskar- "The Sun Salutation": a unique method for making the perfect synthesis of culture of the body, mind and spirit. Photo: Prema Yoga
It is this special experience that makes morning my favorite time for yoga (although I admit I find it way easier to be consistent with morning practice during spring and summer when I have the light along side of me...) and I love starting, just as I did in the yoga hut in India with the sun salutation. I can appreciate that same light that shone down upon me in India from wherever I am in the world... And so can you! You can practice at home (I like to be by a window where the light can reach me or outside on the porch/ deck)... You could just do the sun salutation or maybe you add it on to your regular yoga sequence... If you prefer a studio, there are great options in Calgary for early morning classes (I've linked my favourites below). If your instructor doesn't include Surya Namaskar, you can always arrive a few minutes early and guide yourself through it. The where (studio or home) and who (instructor or self-led) doesn't really matter; it's all about the what-- which is, the intentional action toward starting your day in gratitude of light!
Now with all of this said, I know it can be tough to sacrifice the sleep time and hard to pull yourself out of a warm cozy bed in the morning. But, honestly, even just 15-20 mins on your mat in the morning can be just as (or more!) revitalizing that the extra 15-20 mins of Zzzz's. It's worth it. Below are some tips that I use and find helpful to get in the flow (another pun intended!) of a morning practice:
1) Prepare The Night Before
Set out your clothes and your mat the night before and if you're heading to the studio, pack everything that you'll need to get ready after class for the rest of your day. If you're practicing at home, you don't even have to change when you get up; come as you are in your jammies to your mat!
2) Eat/ Drink After Your Practice
Of course, take water as you need it, especially if you're doing a 50 or 75 min practice (this especially applies if you're getting your sweat on with Bikram (hot) yoga) however, it is always best (in my opinion/ how I was taught) to practice on an empty stomach. It will feel better and the better you feel doing anything, the more likely you are to want to make it a regular thing.
3) Just Show Up
You're bound to have days where you are tired, aren't feeling it, are feeling stiff and/or meet your ego on the way to your mat-- and that's ok!. Just show up. If all that is available that day is to simple just lay there on your mat, then do that. And, let the rest go. Chances are though, because half the battle is getting there that once your arrive, you'll think "might as well" and want to start moving.
4) Start Slow & Build
There is no rule about how often you should practice; you have to find out what's right for you. Maybe 7 days a weeks is what you want and need or, maybe 2 or 3 feels right for you. Either way, start out slow try 1 or 2 mornings a week and slowly build toward more, if it feels right.
For folks new to yoga, I recommend taking an intro to yoga class and learning the basics first. Even if ultimately you just want to practice at home, a few intro classes will benefit you by showing your the ropes to keep you safe. You can ask your instructor about Surya Namaskar (or other asana's you're interested in learning) and have them demonstrate them for you. Its also a good idea to have them observe you so they can provide feedback and things to be aware of before tackling them on your own. Basic knowledge is important for practicing both in the studio and especially at home to avoid injury. Videos are wonderful but nothing beats having an instructor's guidance.
And there you have it! Celebrating the new energy of the changing season and starting your day from a space of gratitude for the light is that simple!
To all of you, I wish you a beautiful equinox and a happy spring. I hope you'll find morning gratitude to be as wonderful of a way to start the day as I do. It is truly amazing what even just a few moments of gratitude and movement can do to unite the body, mind and spirit in harmony.
Enjoy all of this extra light and love energy that surrounds you as the seasons change!
Looking for an early morning yoga class? Try one of my favourites below! Hope to see you there!
Yoga Santosha:Yoga Flow 6:15-7:30AM Mon-Fri
Journey Yoga: Morning Yoga 7-8 AM Tues & Fri
Junction 9: Karma Yoga 6-7AM Tues