Morning Mindfulness: How Yoga Improves Your Daily Disposition

About a month ago, I decided to begin every morning with 20-30 minutes of yoga practice. Even before I make my morning cup of coffee, I roll out my yoga mat and take that short time to focus on nothing else but me. The first morning I tried it was simply because my muscles were feeling a little tight and I wanted to stretch them out before I went on with my day. I quickly found that practicing yoga is much more than just getting a good stretch in.

The main focus of yoga is mindfulness, which, according to EkhartYoga is, “knowing what you are experiencing while you are experiencing it. It is moment-to-moment awareness, has the quality of being in the now, a sense of freedom, of perspective, of being connected, not judging.” It isn’t completely emptying your brain of all your thoughts, rather it’s being aware that they are there but not reacting to them. This sense of mindfulness reduces rumination (deep thought), stress and emotional reactivity. It also increases your focus and can even improve relationship satisfaction.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, yoga has been found to reduce stress and anxiety and improve autonomic functions like heart rate and digestion by triggering neurohormonal mechanisms. Balancing college, a job and a social life can be extremely hard and stressful for many people. From my personal experience with yoga, I’ve found that I am able to cope with that stress a little bit better than I could before. I used to feel overwhelmed in the mornings just thinking about all the things I needed to get done that day, and taking that small amount of time in the morning to focus on basically nothing at all has helped me feel more calm and relaxed throughout the day.

Yoga is also largely centered on steady breathing, and while I haven’t yet perfected the art of mindfulness, focusing on my breathing helps keep my floating and stressful thoughts at bay. The breathing exercises practiced in yoga have also helped me to remain calm throughout the entire day. I’m very much an overthinker and I get stressed very easily, but starting yoga has taught me to slow my breathing and focus on my breath rather than on whatever it is that I’m stressed about. So when something happens that I may have used to let ruin my mood for the entire day, I use the breathing and focusing techniques I’ve learned to help me relax.

Yoga seems to have a negative stigma behind it— a lot of people think you can only do yoga if you’re flexible. I will be the first to admit that I am embarrassingly not flexible and for the first week or so it was hard to achieve some of the poses. The great thing about yoga is that there are no rules and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. You can tailor everything to what feels best for you and your body. Yoga also isn't all about the physical aspects. Many people practice yoga for the mental aspects alone. So don’t let yoga intimidate you— once you give it a try you’ll see major improvements in your overall mood and then you’ll never look back.