By Adam Ruggiero
But waking up to hit the ground running, literally, does not require an inborn iron will or a love of agony; in fact it’s a self-sustaining regimen that quickly becomes as natural as falling asleep (which, appropriately, will actually improve if you rise with the sun). Incorporating a morning yoga practice can be the ideal way to power up and kickstart the body’s natural fat-burning and stress-blocking systems. It can also balance your particular doshic nature, helping achieve mind-body-spirit alignment – that feeling of being “in the zone.” (Check out our Dosha series here and take a super-nifty quiz, too!)
First, the benefits of a morning workout routine – any routine – are receiving mounting scientific backing. Many studies are showing that a.m. exercise is a proven effective means of weight control. A light breakfast and moderate to vigorous exercise jumpstarts metabolism and boosts energy levels, promoting further activity throughout the day. And if that wasn’t reason enough to hop-to, further studies are showing that those earlybird go-getters are receiving more restful slumber with better sleep cycles to boot (and they had 25% lower blood pressure, but who’s counting). Needless to say, getting your fit on early on does a world of good, but what can yoga do specifically?
Yoga, like any playful or vigorous activity, accelerates your metabolic rate. Additionally, though, yoga targets the digestive and circulatory systems, and increases lean muscle mass.
By focusing on core strength and engagement through twists and unorthodox maneuvers, yoga poses wring out the soft tubular pathways our food must traverse (sometimes getting stuck along the way). Abdominal flexion puts gentle pressure on the organs beneath, encouraging active, responsive function and detoxification. This combined action means a.m. yoga keeps your digestive system healthy, ready and clean every day.
The other muscular systems also receive a healthy rogering on the mat. Most poses call major muscle groups into action, but the unique twists and extended holds in a morning practice recruit the much smaller muscle groups surrounding them, resulting in cooperative muscle engagement, and increased gains in muscle size and density. Improved lean musculature has two key benefits: 1) You can practice that I-don’t-notice-you-noticing-me face for your next high school reunion; and 2) lean muscle eats up fat for energy. This is not only an aesthetic function, but by having a body that utilizes healthy fat stores, your body is constantly replenishing those stores with new fat. The body enters an optimal supply-demand cycle, preventing the accumulation of stagnating energy stores.
Since all the other muscles are getting attention, might as well toughen up that ticker, too. Yoga requires steady, focused breathing patterns to match up with the body’s movements. The intentional deep breathing techniques open up the respiratory and circulatory passageways, rushing clean blood and fresh oxygen to the organs. Clean, active organs ramp up the metabolic response that keeps the physical machine humming.
The breathing techniques in yoga also trigger a hormonal response. The network of glands throughout the body, known as the endocrine system, present marching orders for the body to grow, react, change, build and adapt, and that system can be regulated through yogic breathing. Doing so begins a feedback loop whereby the hormonal system deactivates the stress response, thus promoting healthier breathing and so on.
Yoga poses can also promote healthy glandular function. Applying pressure to areas of the body where glands reside, or temporarily constricting blood flow to those areas with gentle contortions, then releasing and allowing fresh blood flow back into those areas promotes healthy, regenerative endocrine function.
So, to recap (or if you skimmed through the good stuff):
● Early exercise activates increased metabolic function, promoting healthy weight maintenance (body runs like hot rod).
● Morning exercise, like yoga, improves sleep duration and quality (maybe dreams too, who knows).
● Yoga works out and cleans digestive system (keeps you regular).
● Yoga helps build lean muscle density, which improves healthy fat utilization (hot n’ healthy bod).
● Yoga breathing opens up circulatory pathways and improves blood flow to critical systems (happier vampires).
● Yoga in the morning reduces stress and helps regulate body’s hormonal responses (puberty still sucks).
● Yoga poses improve glandular function and health (invisible stuff that makes you feel good).