Morning yoga when you're not a morning person

cream natural yoga mat with ray long text book on top

Some days (alright then, most days) it takes me an hour to wake up and get ready in the morning. There; I said it. This is not because of some high-maintenance skin routine or make-up regime or for important fashion choices I must make (ha!). No; it is simply because I am not a morning person.

Lest I sound all too lazy, I’ll throw in here that our mornings start at 6am or thereabouts, ten minutes either side, when our littlest one awakes. You’d think we’d be used to it by now but it’s still an abrupt way to start the day. I remain shell shocked and bleary-eyed every single time my baby’s cries sound a morning alarm. It’s not as though I spend an hour lolling in bed. It’s just I move slowly when my day starts thus. It takes me a while, to shower, to brush my teeth, to get changed. I need a little time to wake up before I face the day, is all.

Still, my mornings are made more palatable in different ways: a hot shower, a clean flannel, the faint smell of Italian lemons in my cleanser, a cup of piping tea waiting for me made by an ever-patient husband who is much better at handling breakfast time with three five-and-unders than me while the rest of the street is still asleep. And now, added to that mix: a few moments of yoga too.

I may be training to be a yoga teacher, but I still sometimes (often) require coaxing to move, even when I know it’s good for me, even when I know it feels good to me. What can I say; mornings do this to me. I need all the sleep I can get.

I confess, my morning yoga was born more out of necessity than any idealised notion of starting the day in a calm, balanced way. While I have always carved out time for yoga at home, I cannot in all honesty say I would have worked out a way to practice yoga specifically in the mornings, the part of the day I find the toughest, were it not for my yoga teacher training which demands it of me.

I am five months into my training and while I love it for the way it makes me feel, for the way it pushes me to my edges, it still has sometimes been hard to convince myself to step onto my mat when I am on my own. Between family life and writing life, time is precious. There have been some weeks where I haven’t done any yoga at all - because one of the kids had a cold or a play date or there was dinner to make or a book to read or a blog post to write before bed. Or because I was just plain old tired and I didn’t feel like it at all. And as always, those days piled up into a heap the longer I left it; and the longer I left it, the worse I felt. And the guiltier too. These past few years, yoga practice at home has kept me steady when I’ve faltered. But teacher training is intense. I am the only person on my teacher training course with young children and this makes it doubly challenging. I simply don’t have the childcare available to make it to studio classes. So I needed to find a way to keep up with my yoga so as not to fall behind.

My way? Little but often; there is such truth in this! Before I started Our Story Time and my writing packages, I used to do a yoga video every day after the kids were in bed - half an hour or 45 minutes feeling like a good amount of time. But now, I don’t know where that time has gone (scratch that; I do know where it is - it’s in this blog post, and next week’s, and in writing a new column and in working on new ideas). But I’m realising that even just ten minutes of yoga a day helps me keep in touch. It may not always be realistic or even possible for me to go to a class or do a 45 minute video every other day, but it is at the very least realistic for me to spend ten minutes every day practicing, say, a series of sun salutations. Unfurling like a cat helps me wake up, start the day a little taller. Breathing intentionally, in and out, and thinking about the way in which I move, and how I feel that day, helps me feel stronger in a purposeful way.

I am aware ten minutes of daily yoga is hardly anything at all, but it is hardly anything and also everything. It’s what I can do. It’s where I am right now. It’s enough to make me happy. By setting my sights a little lower, I’m more likely to step onto that mat each morning, especially if I make it easier for myself in small ways like leaving my yoga mat by my bed, so it’s waiting for me first thing.

This is what I remind myself on the days it feels like a struggle: you put one foot just a little in front of the other. You take the first step to where you need to be. And then, from there, you begin.

Four easy ways to practice yoga at home

1 Make it easy for yourself

I keep my mat by my bed (it helps that it’s a rather lovely natural jute, which feels good to step onto too) and my yoga clothes are just a step away in a bottom drawer, although if I’m honest, first thing in the morning I just hop on in my pjs. I don’t have an excuse if everything is so simple.

2 Follow online teachers

Since starting my teacher training, I rely a little less on videos so I can feel my own way through a little routine, but I still like to do them a couple of times a week. I have in the past used Asana Rebel and Movement for Modern Life but honestly, I don’t think you need to pay for online classes. I still prefer Yoga With Adrienne - I first got into home practice with her, and still love her affable, down-to-earth and unpretentious style of teaching; there’s plenty for free on YouTube, just find the kind of style you like.

3 Remember it’s not just about the poses

One of the first things you learn in yoga teacher training is that yoga is so much more than something physical. I remind myself of this often now when I begin to feel guilty that I am not doing enough. Yoga is taking space to breathe, it is taking time to think or not think. Yoga is as much in the reading and learning and thinking of it than it is in whether your heels touch the ground in downward dog.

4 Do it with your kids (if you have kids!)

I have all but given up on the notion of a solid yoga practice where I can concentrate fully. I just don’t have the time, space or quiet in the day to work that in. Some days, I’ll just roll out my mat while my littlest one is pottering around and playing. Sure, he’ll come sit on my back or my head or be in fits of giggles, but it is what it is. I do what I can, and it’s energising this way too. And honestly, it’s sort of nice sharing it with him.

Footnotes

As part of my teacher training, we study the origins and philosophies of yoga in great detail. It is a philosophy so ancient, so full of wisdom. It had never occurred to me until I started my teacher training - for I am still always learning when it comes to listening to others and hearing what they have to say and what they believe - that there is a (large) degree of cultural appropriation in yoga. Cultural appropriation, in my understanding of it, is when one culture inappropriately adopts something that belongs to another culture and fails to acknowledge or reference that in anyway.

The roots of yoga are sacred to those for whom it is a part of their Hindu faith. When yoga studios decorate their walls with pictures of the Buddah, or when teachers sign off a class with Namaste (I choose not to say this) and even when yoga becomes referenced as a lifestyle movement - it’s cultural appropriation.

I’m still figuring this element of yoga out. Learning about it from a philosophical standpoint has given me a lot of insight; I’m not sure if I’ll train to teach but if I do, I’ll be doing my best to acknowledge what yoga means and try my best to keep it an open space that is not just for a certain type of person.

You can read more about this if you so wish, here:

I Wish Yoga Didn’t Involve Cultural Appropriation (written by an American yoga teacher of Indian origin, who grew up with yoga as a child yet feels the Western culture of yoga excludes her)

8 Signs Your Yoga Practice is Culturally Appropriated

Cultural (mis)appropriation in Yoga (on the triyoga blog, this summarises a symposium on cultural appropriation of yoga with triyoga teachers talking about their own opinions on it. This is super interesting if you’re considering teaching or if you happen to go to a triyoga studio at all).

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