By Hannah Lott-Schwartz, Yoga Journal
Looking to start (or commit to) a morning yoga practice—but don’t exactly bound out of bed and make a beeline for your mat? It might be because you’re not a morning person, and if that’s the case, there’s actual scientific evidence that might explain why you’re not so chipper after your alarm goes off.
However, studies show that those who get an early start on the day report being happier than night owls. In fact, becoming a morning person can open up a whole world of benefits beyond improved mental health, including a trimmer body and increased productivity— plus, you’ll never have to worry about the brunch rush again.
The good news? Our biological clocks rely only partially on genetics and are likely to change with age, meaning we all have the potential to get enthusiastic about the early hours. If mornings currently aren’t your bag—but you’re committed to starting a morning yoga routine you’ll actually stick to—Marla Ben-Dor, a certified nutrition consultant and registered yoga teacher in Encinitas, California, says you can try to transform yourself into a morning person by implementing a few tweaks to your daily routine.
Here are her top six suggestions for setting yourself up for a.m. success.
1. Develop a fool-proof nightly routine
Your good morning starts the night before, so get into the habit of establishing a lights-out routine that bolsters a bright tomorrow. Ben-Dor suggests incorporating a few yin poses into your nighttime routine, like Melting Heart (Anahatasana) and Dragonfly (Upavistha Konasana), held for 3–5 minutes with pillows for support. “Yin practice is really grounding and a great way to induce calm energy for sleep,” she says. Poses that you can rotate into your routine to calm the mind and body before bed include Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose), and Balasana (Child’s Pose).
See also 12 Yin Yoga Poses to Awaken Dormant Energy and Recharge Your Practice
2. Induce serious sleep
Your body will tell you how much sleep you need—you just need to listen. Go with the tried-and-true rule of giving yourself a full eight hours of shut-eye, and adjust from there depending on how you feel. “If you have a hard time falling asleep when your head hits the pillow at night, try incorporating more exercise into your daily routine and less screen time during the evening hours,” says Ben-Dor, who also suggests sipping a calming herbal tea before bed to help you unwind.
See also 9 Keys to Getting the Sleep You Need
3. Be your own alarm clock
“In a society where our nervous systems are out of whack from so much stimulus and stress, having a peaceful wake up (sans artificial sound) is a great way to set the pace for your day,” says Ben-Dor. It takes some practice to actually wake up without an alarm, but it goes a long way toward setting a natural circadian rhythm for your body, which will give you an extra pep in your step. Consistency is key for setting your internal alarm to autopilot: Wake up at the same early hour every day (yes, even on weekends), and eventually, you’ll start to wake up on your own. But be patient — it won’t happen overnight. Try Sleep Cycle (for iOS and Android), which uses sound analysis to track your sleep pattern and wakes you up during light sleep so you’re less likely to feel groggy.
See also Can’t Sleep? Try These 6 Restorative Poses Right in Bed
4. Take a moment to breathe before getting out of bed.
Instead of reaching for your phone, scrolling through social media feeds, or opening your email, just lie in bed and breathe. “When you wake up in the morning, take a conscious, present breath,” says Ben-Dor. “Notice how even just one breath shifts your awareness away from stress to what really matters—the present moment.” Use that first mindful breath of the day as an opportunity to check in with how you’re feeling, and to make an adjustment if necessary. Doing this not only centers you first thing in the morning, but also reminds you to pause for your breath throughout the day, when the daily grind threatens to usurp your best mindfulness intentions.
See also Breathe to Relax in Restorative Yoga + Meditation
5. Feed (and water!) yourself
Yes, you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but with good reason: Don’t skip breakfast! It’s vital to coaxing your brain into showing up for your day. Ben-Dor prefers a raw breakfast, which is easy on digestion and comes together quickly. Her faves? A bowl of fruit, an avocado, a green smoothie (with spinach, spirulina, frozen fruit, and coconut milk), or a bowl of soaked chia seeds or sprouted oats. Add 16 ounces of warm or room-temperature water with lemon to the equation (to kickstart your lymphatic and immune systems), and you’ll feel ready to get after your day.
See also 3 Sweet Alternatives to Lower Your Sugar Intake.