We all come to our yoga practice for different reasons, but ultimately we're all seeking its many benefits.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning " to yoke, to bring two together, in balance." For many of us, it can easily be understood as balancing body and mind, strength and flexibility, leisure and work, and effort and ease.
Whatever our reason for coming to our mats, one thing is true for all of us—our connection to the rhythms of nature. We are all significantly impacted by the seasons and circadian rhythms. Likewise, our surroundings and practices work with or against the powerful order of nature.
Imagine for a moment going for a vigorous one-hour run before you plan to sleep. Your heart is pumping, your body is energized, and your brain is highly activated and alert. You are feeling invigorated. Is this a good time to go to sleep? Of course not.
Now, imagine you have a busy day ahead that requires you to be alert, energized, clear-minded, and focused. Wouldn't it make better sense to go for a run or a dynamic physical exercise before that? Absolutely.
If our daily routine is to wake up to get ready for work, work all day, then get our workout in so we can go home to relax and, have a peaceful night and sleep well, we may be swimming against the tide and find ourselves up late in the evening trying to fall asleep.
I've learned from experience that vigorous practice in the evening guarantees a sleepless night. It also ensures stress and anxiety as I try to get some sleep and can't. Lastly, it also means I'll be too exhausted in the morning to do anything other than crawl out of bed and rush to get my day started, started-usually running late and thus creating more stress for myself. And this pattern becomes a daily ritual practice.
It's straightforward. Change your ritual practices.
Unless you work the midnight shift, avoid strenuous invigorating exercises after dusk.
Get up early for your fitness routine and do it before your day begins. "But that's too early; I'm too tired. I need to rest because I'm up all night trying to sleep." I've been there and said that too. Ultimately, we have a choice to make. Keep doing and hoping for what has yet to work for you or change it. Here's what my teacher said to me when I replied with that response, "Stop complaining and making excuses. And do it. Report back to me in 30 days."
Incorporate calming practices into your evening routine. They can be slower-paced, strengthening exercises such as Slow Flow, gentle meditative practices, or leisurely walks after dinner.
I've been practicing yoga for decades, and I can assure you from my experience and mistakes. Doing vigorous practices in the evening always led to sleepless nights for me.
Ultimately my teacher was correct. I was avoiding doing the work and looking for excuses not to do it. When I finally did, was I tired for a few days? Yes. In a few days, was I going to sleep much earlier? Yes. Was I waking up much early and having no excuse or obstacle to my exercise routine? You bet. Did it require discipline and will? Absolutely. Did it open up time for me to experience calmer, gentler practices in the evening, and did I sleep better for it? Yes.
One thing is for sure, the only obstacle to our fitness in the early morning is our bed and our head. However, we all have the power to change what doesn't work. All it takes is some knowledge and understanding, followed by disciplined action.
At Mantra, we have always offered gentler practices in the evening and dynamic practices in the morning. Our goal has always been to be more in sync with the rhythm of nature - to bring balance to our lives and connect with the natural rhythms of nature.
Sleep well :)