Two weeks ago I started a 40-day morning Sadhana between 4am and 5:30am in the morning. It’s not easy keeping up, but it’s worth it. Luckily, I have a friend that joins me in this. We start together and keep texting us throughout the practice. This morning, I was so tired, I would totally have ignored the alarm, if it wasn’t for my friend. If you know somebody is waiting for your text to tune in and start the practice together, you don’t just roll over and fall asleep again!
Getting up early is not so far out as we might think. It brings you back in tune with the natural rhythms of the luminaries, sun and moon. The hours before sunrise are the traditional time for yoga practice. In the Sikh tradition this time is called Amrit Vela, the ambrosial hours; the Hindus know it as Braham Muhurta, the sacred time. When I studied yoga and Ayurveda in India a moderately early morning yoga practice (I got up every day between 5 and 6) became a part of my ayurvedic lifestyle and I got used to it. But then back in Germany I struggled hard dragging myself out of bed before 8 or even later. I don’t know why, but some things just seem to be so much harder in Germany. Do you know what I mean?
I owe it to my teachers that I gradually found back to a morning practice over the course of the autumn and winter months. If it wasn’t for them, I would never understand why what felt like torture to me at first really has an impact. Today, I enjoy Amrit Vela Sadhana and once you know its great benefits and tremendous transformative potential you might want to try it as well.
But Why Would I Drag Myself from Bed Before Sunrise?
Okay. First of all, it’s about discipline and devotion. The Ayurvedic Doctor Alaknanda Puri states:
“You salute the sun when it rises, not in the afternoon or evening when it goes down. The same way you salute your guru when he comes, not just when you feel like it. “What kind of yogi are you, when you cannot salute your guru in the proper way?”.
That sounds maybe a little harsh to Western ears. “Who should benefit from this self-flagellation”, you might ask yourself. “The sun sure does not care whether I get up at 4 or at 9, does it?” Fair enough. Discipline and devotion are not valued highly in Western thinking. But this is also at the root of many problems that arise primarily in Western societies: inner instability, insecurity, lack of purpose, lack of trust and faith.
According to Yogi Bhajan, in order to achieve anything, you need discipline and commitment. How do you learn discipline and committment? Through sadhana. It really is that simple. Try sticking to a specific practice for a planned duration of time and observe what it does to you. Many obstacles will present themselves. When I started my daily sadhana, I first did it at changing times, so I mostly ended up doing it in the evening, and again and again would skip it because I just felt exhausted after a long day.
However, if you stick to a specific time, instead of “squeezing in” your spiritual practice into your everyday schedule, you start working your schedule around your practice. You learn to set priorities. You develop an inner strength and clarity and confidance and you also become more trustworthy and reliable on the outside because you are in charge of your life and thoughts and frequency.
Here it is: When you practice before sunrise, you get rid of your karma. How does that work? Every thought wave creates new karma. A person thinks on average 50 000 thoughts a day. 50 000 thoughts! That’s a great deal of karma. You can practice yoga for hours every day, you will still not keep up with the karma you create with every thought. And there are people around you, many people, especially in the city and each of them thinks 50 000 thoughts a day too. This creates a collective thought wave, a vibration that you cannot escape.
Actively Releasing Karma Through Early Morning Practice
Except during Amrit Vela. The frequency is different during the early morning hours. Did you ever get up before sunrise? Do you remember the calmness and clarity and peace of the early morning? It’s not just because there are no sounds. It’s because there are no thoughts.
Imagine what happens when people get up. You wake up and immediately start thinking about what occupied you yesterday: “I have to do this. What should I do about that? This really is a problem. I like this, I don’t want that”. And so on and so on.
But when you get up before all of this starts, you win space. This is why it feels so good to get up early. It’s also easier to get out of bed. It is true! Once the idea of getting up “in the middle of the night” doesn’t scare you so much anymore, you will feel how easy it is to rise at this time. You will feel refreshed and ready for the day.
Getting Up Before Kapha Time
If you have trouble getting up in the morning, it is probably because you get up after 6 when Kapha time starts. My Indian Ayurveda teacher Dr. Arun Sharma taught me that. Kapha is the Ayurvedic principle of earth and water. Its qualities are heavy and sluggish. From 6am till 10am this element is predominant in your body. So if you get up in this time and wonder why you feel worn out in the morning, now you know why.
Moreover, when you get up to do your sadhana, it’s kind of a date with yourself. Your higher self. The self which is in unity with god. So you get up and your mind is focused on your practice. You can start worrying about the challenges of the day later.
Of course you should not sacrifice your sleep. If you go to bed at 1 and get up at 4 again, there is a good chance that you will be tired all day. It really makes sense to go to bed earlier too. My ashtanga teacher Rolf Naujokat in Goa goes to bed at 8pm when the shala is open. Mysore practice at the shalla starts at 4:30am and he does his own practice before that. Luckily, most of us don’t have to do that, so we can stay up a little longer.
I oftenly hear of yogis that supposedly need very little sleep as an effect of long time yoga practice. Okay, I definitely do need my beauty sleep! If I don’t get a minimum of 6-7 hours of sleep every night, I’m practically sleepwalking the whole day. So if I went to bed after 10pm the night before – which happens quite often when you sit in front of the laptop at night writing and getting carried away researching topics - I take a nap after my sadhana before I get up fully.
In Ayurveda it is advised to go to bed before 10pm. At 10pm Pitta time starts – the time of the principle of fire and water – and it is harder to fall asleep then. You have to find out what works best for you.
The Best Time for Morning Sadhana
The exact time of Amrit Vela or Braham Muhurti differs and depends on location and date. In the European winter the sun rises between 6am and 7am, in summer already between 4:30am and 5:30am. Traditionally, you get up 2,5 hours prior and do your sadhana for 2,5 hours.
So in winter this would be around 4:00am, in summer already around 2:30am. Okay. Forget about 2:30am! But 4:00am is totally doable! Maybe not every day. But even once or twice a week has a great impact. Try it and see for yourself!
It is recommended to do sadhana for 2,5 hours. 2,5 hours are roughly 1/10 of the day. It is said that everything you give you get tenfold back. So if you practice for 1/10 of the day, your practice will cover the karma of the whole day. Anyways, anything lesser than that is fine too. My practice takes roughly 1,5 hours. But one hour is fine too. Or half an hour. Even only a couple of minutes is good. Most important is that you stay engaged, that you do something at all.
Summarizing the Reasons for Early Morning Sadhana:
- to establish yogic devotion & discipline
- to develop strength and the ability to commit
- to release negative karma
- for a refreshed feeling of peace and clarity
- getting in tune with natural rhythms
- to sharpen your intuition
- rising before Kapha time is easier and healthier according to Ayurveda
This cd by Snatam Kaur you might find helpful for your morning practice. It contains some mantras for Early Morning Sadhana, e.g. long ek ong kar, mool mantra, sat siri akaal and wahe guru.
Did you experiment with early morning sadhana? When did you get up and what were your experiences? Share them in the comment section if you like.