Turning your face toward a Yoga morning

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For thousands of years, Yoga practitioners have begun the day at sunrise, a time considered to be favorable and especially potent for meditation, prayer, and tapping into your highest potential. Called brahma-muhurta in Sanskrit (brah-mah moo-hoor-tah, which means "hour of brahman," with brahman being the ultimate Reality), this time sets the right tone for the entire day.

Sunrise isn't only a quiet, peaceful time but also a time charged with symbolic significance for Yoga practitioners. Traditionally, the sun is celebrated as the first teacher, or guru, who brought the teachings of Yoga to humanity. According to Yoga, the sun is a symbol for the spirit, which shines with undiminished brightness forever. The sun salutation exercise described in Chapter 13 is one way yogis acknowledge their reverence for the inner sun.

Of course, India (Yoga's native home) is blessed with a lot of sunshine. Even if your climate doesn't offer much physical sun, you can still enjoy sunrise as a special, daily occasion — just ponder the sun's profound symbolism!

Here are some suggestions for transforming an otherwise mundane daily routine into a meaningful ritual that can energize and prepare you for the onslaught of the day:

✓ Create a peaceful mood in your heart and remember your connection with everyone and everything. Do this work as soon as you wake up and before opening your eyes and getting out of bed. If you believe in a divine being (call it God, Goddess, or higher Self), this moment is good for inwardly aligning yourself to it/him/her.

✓ Write down any significant dreams. When you live an active life of self-transformation, dreams often carry important messages. They may mirror and confirm your present inner development or stream of experiences, or they may provide you with a key for understanding what you're going through. If you don't write down your dreams shortly after waking, you're likely to forget them. If you find that they fade from your mind rapidly, you may want to consider jotting them down in a diary before making your daily resolution (samkalpa, pronounced sahm-kahl-pah), which we cover next.

Too much of a good thing

Exposure to sunlight early in the morning is beneficial. Later on, the sun's ultraviolet rays become lethal, causing skin cancer from prolonged exposure. Yoga practitioners refrain from the widespread practice of baking in the sun (or under an artificial light source) to achieve a tan.

✓ Affirm your highest resolve. For example, repeat (aloud or in your mind) your resolution, such as "I intend to act all day long in accordance to the highest spiritual and moral principles," "I intend to be (more) compassionate today," "I intend to harm no one and benefit as many people as possible," "I intend to think only positive, benign thoughts today," and so on. Repeat your intention (samkalpa) with great conviction three or more times.

Remembering an affirmation throughout the day is often difficult for beginning students. Try carrying something small around with you, such as a pebble, a button, or a ring, that can jog your memory whenever you see or touch it.

✓ Before getting out of bed, consciously relax and take ten deep breaths.

✓ Stretch and thus fire up your muscles while you're still in bed.

✓ Use the bathroom, wash, and brush your teeth.

Meditate. If you meditate sitting on your bed, your mind inevitably associates "bed" with "sleep." See Chapter 21 for more information on the art of meditation. Some authorities recommend that you do postures and breathing exercises before meditation, but we feel this preparation is only necessary when your mind tends to be sluggish in the early morning and you need to jump-start it. If you wake up easily and happily in the morning, use that time for meditation or prayer.

✓ Do your Hatha Yoga program to vitalize your body and fortify your mind.

If you can't practice in the morning (because, for example, you have to be at work when the rooster crows), make sure that you leave room in your schedule for Hatha Yoga and/or meditation at some other time during the day or in the evening. Even a few minutes of postures and breathing exercises are better than no exercises at all. But more importantly, always start your day right by making your resolution upon waking and centering yourself by breathing consciously.

Yoga with your youngsters

If you have young children and have no leisure time to practice Yoga on your own, don't despair! Make the most of the situation. As the saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them. Your kids will love it — at least while the novelty lasts. Depending on their age and general disposition, the youngsters may get used to this little routine and happily participate in it or, if not, they may at least allow you to practice your own Yoga routine without too many interruptions. If you don't want them to get bored, you must make the session fun for the kids. As you well know, the universe revolves around children and their needs — until they learn otherwise. Your own peacefulness can definitely have a calming effect on them. Check out Chapter 17 for more on doing Yoga with kids.

■flV w If you have a family, make formal agreements with your partner and/or children so that you can practice Yoga as undisturbed as possible. Be sure that ■ #qj 1 everyone is aware of and honors your private time. If need be, lock your door or post a reminder sign. You may not always be able to get private time, especially when you have young children. In that case, try to do whatever practices you can while you're still in bed, and then include your children in your Yoga program. As a parent, you're the best role model for your children, and even toddlers can participate in your Yoga practice.

Some people are super-busy — going to bed late at night after they're exhausted and starting out the next morning still feeling tired. A regular Hatha Yoga routine can give you energy, making regular practice well worth the time it takes. Beyond the physical and mental benefits, Yoga provides much-needed quiet time, where you can be by yourself without distraction. If your situation permits, arrange to have 15 minutes a day that you can consider all yours. Make a creative deal with your partner and/or children that can benefit everyone.

Or, if you live alone and feel the pressures of time and attention to lots of details, just negotiate an agreement with the person who shows up in your mirror. You can be a better friend to that face if you set aside some time for inward glances.

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