Practice Yoga in the Morning to Optimize Emotional Well-Being
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Practice when your body is most limber. Some people find their bodies are stiff in the morning, making practice more difficult. Night practice, however may limit the kinds of postures you do as some are too stimulating and affect sleep. The key is regularity. Enjoy whatever time you have set aside for practice.” – Edith Howell
Yoga practice has been shown to have a large number of beneficial effects on the psychological, emotional, and physical health of the individual and is helpful in the treatment of mental and physical illness. As a result, it has been adopted widely in western society including with children in schools. As I quipped to my spouse, “you know yoga has gone mainstream, when yoga pants have become a fashion statement!” But, there are a wide variety of different yoga practices, practiced for different amounts of time, at different number of times per week, at different times of the day. So, as the application of yoga increases, it becomes more and more important to investigate these parameters of yoga practice and their differential effectiveness; to determine the optimal practice parameters for each application.
Traditional yoga practice consists of 4-5 practice sessions per week conducted primarily in the morning. But, Western yoga practice has become much looser, with yoga practiced less frequently and often in the evening. It is not known what the impact of this pattern of yoga practice might have on its effectiveness. In today’s Research News article “Evaluating Emotional Well-Being after a Short-Term Traditional Yoga Practice Approach in Yoga Practitioners with an Existing Western-Type Yoga Practice.” See:
or below or view the full text of the study at:
Meissner and colleagues recruited Ashtanga Yoga practitioners who normally practiced in the evening for 90 minutes, twice a week. Half of the practitioners were asked to maintain their normal practice for two weeks. The other half were asked to change their practice to the morning for 90 minutes, five times a week for two weeks. Both groups were measured for positive and negative affect, mindfulness, perceived stress, arousal states, and affective regulation style prior to and after the two-week practice period.
They found that there were no changes in the emotions, mindfulness, or arousal states of the evening practitioners. But, the morning practitioners showed significant increases in positive emotions (37%) and mindfulness (17.5%) and decreases in negative emotions (29%) and arousal states (15%). Hence, the findings indicate that switching from a twice per week, evening yoga practice to a five times per week morning practice is beneficial for the emotional well-being of the practitioners.
An obvious weakness in the study was a confounding of practice change, practice frequency, amount of practice, and time of day of practice. So, it is impossible to determine which of these variables or which combinations of these variables may be responsible for the emotional improvements. Future research should manipulate each of these variable independently and in combination to differentiate what works and what doesn’t. It should also be noted that the test was only conducted over two weeks. This leaves open the question as to whether the effects would be sustained into the future or perhaps just the novelty of change was responsible for the effects.
So, it is possible that practicing yoga in the morning improves emotional well-being.
“A morning yoga practice wakes you up, stretches stiff muscles you haven’t used all night, revs up your circulation, and breaks out a healthy sweat before your morning shower and breakfast.” – Lorraine Shea
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Meissner, M., Cantell, M. H., Steiner, R., & Sanchez, X. (2016). Evaluating Emotional Well-Being after a Short-Term Traditional Yoga Practice Approach in Yoga Practitioners with an Existing Western-Type Yoga Practice. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2016, 7216982. http://doi.org/10.1155/2016/7216982
The purpose of the present study was to examine the influence of a traditional yoga practice approach (morning daily practice, TY) compared to that of a Western yoga practice approach (once-twice weekly, evening practice, WY) on determinants of emotional well-being. To that end, in a pre/posttest between-subject design, measures of positive (PA) and negative affect (NA), mindfulness, perceived stress, and arousal states were taken in 24 healthy participants (20 women; mean age: 30.5, SD = 8.1 years) with an already existing WY practice, who either maintained WY or underwent a 2-week, five-times-per-week morning practice (TY). While WY participants maintained baseline values for all measures taken, TY participants showed significant beneficial changes for PA, NA, and mindfulness and a trend for improved ability to cope with stress at the completion of the intervention. Furthermore, TY participants displayed decreased subjective energy and energetic arousal. Altogether, findings indicate that the 2-week TY is beneficial over WY for improving perceived emotional well-being. The present findings (1) undermine and inspire a careful consideration and utilization of yoga practice approach to elicit the best benefits for emotional well-being and (2) support yoga as an evidence-based practice among healthy yoga practitioners.