How best to stop your thinking, or: Late-night versus early-morning practice

We Ashtangis all know we are supposed to practice early in the morning: 5 a.m., 6 a.m.. If I’m right, the schedule at the Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore right now is beginning at 4:30 a.m. (That’s in part to accommodate all the students.)

We Ashtangis all know this. But I know we all don’t like it. Some don’t like it if they are still in the early stages of the Ashtanga Process, meaning you aren’t yet used to being in bed well before 10 p.m. They can change. Others just aren’t morning people. Others I know simply have better practices later in the day. That probably won’t change.

Savasana via Yoga Journal

I’m among those who have moved a fair ways down the Ashtanga Process. Getting up at 5 a.m. is no longer impossible, but it still is pretty abhorrent. I don’t like feeling like 10 p.m. is late. I used to love reading and writing and talking late into the night and then on into the morning.

But I also like having the Ashtanga done, even if I’m never at my most flexible.

I also was under the impression that one benefit to an early morning practice was my mind was not cluttered. (That at the risk of my mind’s not being active, either.) Being up for an hour or so — even if most mornings that does include doing some work before heading out to the yogashala — doesn’t allow all the crud to seep in to the mind. No time yet for the vrittis to boggle my chita.

I guess, in a sense, it is kind of like cheating. The mind is already pretty stopped at that hour of the morning.

Or so I thought. Well, judging by one example.

Last night, I ended my day with a Led Ashtanga class. (Yes, one of Bobbie’s.) Normally, I try to get to the yogashala with at least 15 minutes to spare so I can try to find some nirodha. Maybe a little pranayama. Or maybe just some stretching.

Well, Google “California state budget” and you will understand why there was no nirodha for me yesterday. It was all vrittis, right up to the time I raced from the office pretty convinced I’d be late, at best, to Bobbie’s class.

Luckily, enough people are still on holiday that traffic wasn’t too bad, but I still got to the yogashala (sans shoes, by the way, as I’d forgotten to bring ones to wear) with just a few minutes to spare.

This would be bad enough, normally. But yesterday was a hectic day. (As today is, in fact. I’m squeezing this in between calls and emails and other fires.)

And so I expected my mind to keep moving — I was still waiting for more emails, in fact. My work day wasn’t really over. But I was squeezing the practice in.


By the second down dog, I was solidly on my mat. It could have been 6:15 a.m. except for Bobbie’s counting out the breaths. I was thinking about my badhas and my dristis. And not about my day.

An hour and a half later, as I was coming back from Savasana, my mind started moving again. Just like any other practice, albeit maybe a little more extreme than normal.

But for those 90 minutes, my mind was pretty still. Perhaps with some more practice, this yoga will be coming, indeed. And the mind will stay stilled.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “How best to stop your thinking, or: Late-night versus early-morning practice”

  1. I’m not a morning person, never have been. I love the solittude and creativity of the night. And it has always seemed just the right time for my practice of yoga and mediation. My body is more fluid and my thoughts are ready to settle in as if they were grains of sand that were stirred up all day long.
    Thanks for this post. . . it helps me to let go of that tug to be a grown up and meditate and do yoga when it’s proper.

  2. I use to be a late night/evening practitioner. I swore by it. That was until I started practicing early in the morning. I was an almost instant convert. Don’t get me wrong, I struggle to get out of bed some mornings, but it is so worth it.

    When I made the switch the best analogy I could come up with is that practicing in the evening for me was like taking Nyquil after you’ve caught a cold. Sure, it makes you feel better, but it doesn’t actually cure the illness. Whereas practicing in the morning was similar to mega-dosing on Vit. C before you actually come down with anything. Yes, you might not beat the cold completely, but it is at the very least weakened and easier to deal with throughout the days ahead.

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