We kick off our yoga classes pretty early most mornings off the week, with the option to get your practice in before the day really starts. But the season change and the darker mornings can make it harder to get out of bed and onto your mat.
To be honest, I like the darker mornings. There is a certain sense of peace when it feels like the rest of the world is sleeping. There is a low level excitement, reminiscent of heading to the airport. You get the feeling of accomplishment; you've got up and will get what need done before anything else can get in the way.
When it's daylight at 5am, this magic doesn't hit the spot in quite the same way. But this could just be me.
To help you get back to your early starts and hopefully make them a little easier, here are my top 5 tips for getting out of bed in the morning:
1. Use a light to help you wake up.
The body uses sunlight to start the process of waking up, in the winter this natural process is hard to come by unless you're staying in bed until 8-9am. But there are some very good lights available that create that morning sunshine feel all year around.
There are many of these lights on the market now, I use a Lumie light, but other brands are available and vary in price.
How it works: So when you set your alarm (on the light) for 5am, it slowly starts to light up about 20 minutes before. It's so dim to begin with it's unlikely to wake you but by the time it gets to 5am you wake up with ease, to a bedroom full of a lovely soft light.
What the light also helps you to avoid is the feeling you're digging yourself out of a deep sleep when the alarm goes off, which is a horrible feeling, and unlikely to be followed by a productive morning.
2. Try to get up at the same time every day.
This is a tough one for some, but this technique really does work. It was first introduced to me in the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, and then I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ayurveda recommends the same thing.
Getting to bed at a similar time helps too, this way you can make sure you're hitting your 7.5-9 hours sleep a night. But when it comes to getting out of bed with more ease, it's the waking up time that has the biggest impact.
Your body thrives off routine, so when you start consistently waking up at the same time each day you'll find it easier and easier no matter how dark it is outside. Obviously if you go to bed at midnight and expect to wake up at 5am each day this isn't going to work, you will suffer. But if you can get to bed by 9-9:30pm, that 5am alarm will get easier and easier.
If you're wanting to make 6:30am yoga, you might even be able to delay that alarm until 6am.
Try it and see. You won't regret it.
3. Establish a night time routine.
Sometimes we get to bed early enough to set us up for a great morning, but sometimes there are those nights where we get into bed and the brain doesn't switch off and sleep alludes us for hours.
Once again, the body and mind thrives on routine, and having a bed time routine helps prepare us for good sleep and we're much more likely to fall asleep quickly.
Examples of a bedtime wind down could be:
- A bath or shower (some alone time)
- Write a to do list for the following day (get the stress out of your brain and onto paper)
- Get your morning outfit, coffee, breakfast all prepped. (Clothes waiting, coffee machine primed, breakfast in the fridge ready to go) This limits barriers. So if you want to get to Yoga in the morning, have your mat out ready.
- Switch off screens (you know this) at least 30 minutes, if you can 90 minutes, before bed. Read a book perhaps if you need some kind of entertainment, but keep the screens off and out of the bedroom.
- Write or think of 3-5 things you're grateful for so you fall asleep with happy thoughts in your head
- A 5-10 minute meditation or sleep story to fall to sleep to (many available online)
- Open the window (having a cooler bedroom is conducive to good sleep)
There are many other routines and lovely things to do to finish your day, so play around with what feels wholesome to you.
4. Try Vitamin D3
A lot of people struggle with the shorter hours of daylight, and it can lead to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can cause a serious drop in mood and energy levels. If you work inside all day 5 days a week, get to work and leave work in the dark then it can be really tricky to get any daylight, or even sunlight at all. Therefore the amount of Vitamin D we are able to absorb really drops and with that your mood and energy levels.
There are a couple of ways to help combat this, firstly, try to make it a priority to get outside for at least 10 minutes on a sunny and 15-20 minutes on a cloudy day at some time in the course of your morning. And add to this by getting outside on your lunch break. It really is important to get outside everyday.
But you can help supplement this by taking Vitamin D3. It's available online, in most health food stores and pharmacy's. By taking Vitamin D3 each day you help keep your levels topped up through the winter months to combat the shorter days, lower moods and energy levels.
5. Make you Yoga Practice part of your morning routine.
By having your mat and your yoga gear out ready the night before, the odds of you getting your practice in first thing is more likely.
Once you create that pattern of making the same 2 or 3 classes each week you won't even think about it. Getting onto your mat and ensuring your daily practice will be guaranteed.
By leaving our yoga practice until later in the day we're more likely to talk ourselves out of it, to find an excuse on the get it done or make the time.
Putting aside 40 minutes in the morning for yourself will help set you up for the day in both body and mind. If you do nothing else all day, you know you've taken care of number one, and once you've done that you know you have the capability to look after any other challenge the comes your way.
Love and light
Alex Howarth, owner of GAIN Mobility, Fitness, Astanga, Hatha and Vinyasa teacher. Lover of meditation and writing. Even if I can't spell.