Practicing Yoga in the Morning versus the Evening: What’s the Difference? ~ Rose Tantraphol

Via on Sep 28, 2012

I’ve always sworn that I could never—ever, ever—be turned into a morning person.

But a strange thing has been happening over the past year, as I’ve started practicing Ashtanga yoga six days a week. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve started to really enjoy practicing in the morning.

I had this realization this week when, despite my best intentions, I didn’t wake up when the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. for my Ashtanga practice. I never hit the snooze button that day, but for whatever reason, I didn’t wake up either. Oops. I ended up getting out of bed with only enough time to get ready for work.

It’s been months since I’ve done my home practice in the evening and I had two main observations about my practice at dusk:

I had forgotten how delicious it feels to practice later in the day, when your body isn’t as cold and stiff.

On the mental front, I was using my practice reactively rather than proactively.

The first one is pretty straightforward. As for the second, work was draining today and I realized I was using the practice to try to erase all the little irritants that had accumulated in my body—drip, drip, drip straight into my upper back—and in my mind. This is how I practiced for years—shedding my day on the mat.

It’s a beautiful use of an asana practice—how wonderful that we have that option. Yet there’s something about the proactive versus the reactive that’s been interesting for me to reflect on. If my koshas were like hardwood floors, practicing in the morning feels like adding a nice, smooth protective coat. I’m standing at our kitchen island while I type this, noticing how beautiful the shiny hardwood floors look. In the evening, it would be more akin to scrubbing away that day’s dirt and grime on a surface that’s only lightly treated.

Now, can I become a cheery morning person? We’ll see what another year of morning practice six days week can do for me.

When do you prefer to practice, and why?

 

Rose Tantraphol is a journalist-turned-social-media-junkie now based in Michigan and working in the communications field. She practices Ashtanga yoga, teaches yoga and writes the YogaRose.net blog, which is ultimately about passion and the search for balance and inspiration—whether it’s found in a yoga studio, a Detroit Tigers game or a Radiohead song.

~

Editor: Malin Bergman

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15 Responses to “Practicing Yoga in the Morning versus the Evening: What’s the Difference? ~ Rose Tantraphol”

  1. tracie says:

    I do a combination and see your point on both fronts. Even when I'm planning on a longish evening practice, I almost always without fail wake up and do at least 3 Sun As and 2 Sun Bs to get things going in the morning. Sometimes though I relish my evening practice because of all of the reasons you listed. It prepares me to sleep and rest and while my morning practice prepares me for the day, I almost depend on my evening practice to keep me sane.

    • Yoga_Rose says:

      Interesting, to do some As and Bs in the morning even when you know you will practice in the evening. Thanks for sharing that! I might try that some day when I have to practice in the evening…hmm…

  2. Thaddeus Haas Thaddeus1 says:

    Thanks for sharing this Rose.

    I had the same realization but it took me much longer than you to arrive at it. I practiced in the evening for the first five years of my ashtanga practice and it wasn't until I had the opportunity and discipline to switch that I stumbled upon the glories of a morning sadhana. And yes, it is exactly like you say. An evening practice is addressing all the trials and tribulations of the day, whereas a practice in the morning sets the tone for the day.

    The analogy I often use is that practicing in the evening is like taking Nyquil once you already have a cold. Sure, it will make you feel better, but it isn't going to address the real sickness. But, if you can mega-dose yourself with Vit. C, or whatever, before you actually come down with anything you are all the better off. Good nutrition might also be a good analogy now that I think about it. Besides, you have to practice in the morning on a regular basis if you ever want to experience the sheer symphony that an evening practice can become on those rare occasions.

    Anyway, thanks again.

    Posting to Elephant Ashtanga. Be sure to Like Elephant Ashtanga on Facebook.

    • Yoga_Rose says:

      Great analogy, Thaddeus! And I didn't come upon this realization in a short amount of time. It took me years to even get to a more-or-less consistent practice, much less to a consistent home practice. And a consistent home *morning* practice? That was a whole journey in and of itself, and that segment of the journey took a year. Let's just say it has been a long but worthwhile journey.

      I was wondering why I slipped up so much and didn't wake up that day I wrote about, but I do think it was perhaps so that I could realize — truly distill for myself — this difference.

  3. Joy says:

    Hi Rose:)

    Morning, definitely. My schedule varies due to my teaching commitments and family demands, but, the latest practice I have is 10:45am my weekly Guided Primary and the earliest practice is my home practice at 6:30am, it’s interesting though, lately, I’m finding that I’m not as stiff in the early am as I used to be, we’ll see how this winter goes:) Thank God for space heaters:) Love your blog Rose, thank you:)

  4. Karmela says:

    If you'd told me last year that I'd be getting up every weekday at 5am to practice, I"d have laughed hysterically in your face. But now, I can't imagine mornings without practicing. Mind you, the switch from evening workouts to crack-of-early yoga didn't happen overnight. It was graaaaaadual and really, the only realistic way I could have done it. Now evening practice feels weird and exhausting.

  5. Yoga_Rose says:

    No kidding on this not being an overnight process! Thanks for sharing your experience on how evening practice feels like now. For me, it's sort of like returning to a city you used to live in — you are ready for everything to be the same as it was, but everything has, of course, changed. :-)

  6. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    I still struggle with the morning – especially if I'm not getting to bed 'on time' – but it's what I prefer. My mind is less cluttered, although my body is stiff, it seems a 'quieter' more internally focused practice. And, my body has gotten less stiff in the morning over the years. :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  7. [...] Practicing Yoga in the Morning versus the Evening: What’s the Difference? ~ Rose Tantraphol [...]

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  9. Nadia says:

    I used to practice in the evening after work but as much as I loved it, found the process to be draining instead of the other way around. I have a long commuting period between work and home, and usually by the time I would start my practice it was more of a dreadful feeling, a chore really, instead of something I am looking forward to. Sometimes I lacked energy and focus.

    Recently I changed to a morning practice (not too early, at 7 am) and I am loving it. It's exactly like what you said – it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I don't think I'll revert back to an evening practice until I absolutely have to. I am trying to maybe do it earlier, which wasn't hard because I am a Muslim and we have a dawn prayer to commit to, it just requires a bit of effort on my part.

    enjoyed this article, thanks.

  10. sitarabird says:

    I had never thought about my practice as being proactive or reactive. What an interesting light to shed because I have always thought "well, yoga will make me feel better." I just finished reading your other article with tips on waking up in the early morning. I'm trying to transition into a morning mysore yogi. Thank you for the inspiration!

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