“Body is not stiff. Mind is stiff.” ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
I don’t know about you, but at 5:30 a.m., it seems like my body is a little stiff too.
It has been over three weeks since I launched back into daily practice, and most of those days it’s been early. I’m not hating the early hour as much as I did when I first started, but I don’t love it yet either.
If it has been particularly easy for you to get up early, I have a few tips on how to make it harder. Everyone loves a challenge, right?!
1. Stay up as late as possible. Ideally, for a 5:30 practice, you should be up until at least midnight.
2. Put your mat somewhere difficult to find, so that when you are stumbling around barely awake, you will have no idea where it is.
3. Keep your practice space cold. Bonus points for a cold car trip to a studio that hasn’t warmed up yet. (Cold yoga! It’s the next big thing.)
4. Be grumpy. Keep it going. If you notice your mind starting to still, get it going again.
5. Continue the negative self talk (and share it with others) the rest of the day. It’s sooo hard. Getting up suuuuucks. Repeat as needed.
I woke up this morning feeling awful. I moped around briefly, and then got to my mat. All through the sun salutations my mind was a constant flow of “I’m so tired. Why am I awake? I’m cold. My head hurts. Wah wah wah.” As time went on and I moved into the standing series, all the “waves of the mind” started to calm down a bit.
Once I tamed my mind a little, I realized that this recurring feeling of being too tired or not ready to practice first thing was coming out of a place of mind stiffness. It’s like Pema Chodron says: “The hardest times are the ones we give ourselves.” All of my staying up late, complaining about being tired (even internally) and other inflexibilities were affecting my ability to soften, to lengthen, to still my mind.
Much of how the practice shapes our mind starts in the physical practice, but in order to become malleable—to open up—we need to start with the intentions we set inside.
If this is truly important to me, if I want this discipline as part of my life, it doesn’t start when my alarm goes off. It starts by going to bed a little earlier. It starts by having everything ready to go. It starts by changing my attitude and embracing the fact that this early practice doesn’t steal time from me, it actually gives me more time in my day.
Early morning daily practice isn’t for everyone. If it’s what you want, but you are fighting that morning stiffness—internally and externally—take an extra minute before you go to sleep to be grateful for your day. Let the last things that send you off to sleep be softness and sweetness, and let their warmth stay with you when you wake.
May whatever emotions show up in your practice serve to make you stronger, not to rule you.
May you enjoy sweet dreams that help soften the blow of your alarm clock.
May your practice—on and off the mat—soften and shape your heart as much as your body.
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