As a college student a few years ago, I struggled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and lack of motivation. Depressed, I laid in bed all day watching A&E and the Lifetime Network. My mother mailed me a self-help book called Eat That Frog! I rolled my eyes and put it back inside its packaging and there it sat for at least a month; only when I stopped paying my cable bill and the TV got cut off did I read it. I am not one to be suckered into self-help marketing ploys, but from reading this book, I learned a new golden rule: do your least favorite thing you have to do all day first thing in the morning. Procrastination was the main accompaniment to laziness, at least for me.
You may be thinking to yourself: what does this have to do with yoga? Well, it can be nerve-wracking to take on the day’s most dreary task very early in the morning, but, while mornings might be stressful, they are also productive for this yogi. A little yoga before or after my least favorite tasks makes everything more tolerable and relaxing. Doing yoga in the morning — be it via a DVD in my livingroom, amongst nature in my back yard, or old school in a studio, gets me amped up through the day. I find that I have more energy and am more flexible first thing in the morning.
Before you can start a morning practice, you need to decide what you want to get out of your practice. Set your intention. Are you looking to relieve tension or stress? If so, a gentle hatha practice might be just the right pace. Are you looking to energize a tired, mildly hungover body? Try a restorative session. Are you looking to sweat? Grab a power yoga DVD or go for the classic 108 sun salutations on your roof deck. Here are a few simple poses that will at least get you going:
• Cat/Cow: Come to tabletop on your mat (on all fours). Inhale, curl the toes under and arch your back as high as it will go, dropping your chin. Exhale and look up, bringing the back down, your bottom up reaching towards the head, and resting the tops of the feet on the ground.
• Plough Pose: This deep inversion purifies the body and limbers up the back. Try it out: come onto your back halfway down the mat. Bring both legs together and up towards the sky and over the head, until the toes touch the ground. You can bring the hands to support the lower back, or stretch them out alongside your torso in the opposite direction as the feet.
• Pigeon Pose: Come onto a seated position with the legs stretched out in front. Bend one knee out, the shin parallel to the hips, as if you were coming into full lotus. Then, bring the other leg behind the body and straighten it back. You can use the hands on either sides of the hip to balance if this pose does not come easily. Repeat on the opposite side. Pigeon is great for opening up the hips and will increase flexibility in this region, as well as energizing the body and reducing fatigue.
Do you prefer doing yoga in the morning or early evening?