Brahmamuhurta, the period between 4am and 6am … is a very special, spiritually charged time when the vibrations sent out by all the meditating yogis in the Himalayas can greatly benefit us, if we decide to be up and meditating rather than in bed and snoozing
These days my husband loves to tease me saying that I have turned into a teenager just like our kids. This is in reference to the timings I keep and my current addiction to online never-ending shows: my new bad habit developed in Covid times. Earlier my kids’ school schedule made sure I was up latest by 6.15am on weekdays and I would wake up early on weekends to go to the yoga centre. Since I am a wreck if I don’t get a good long night’s sleep, it meant that I would sleep long before the rest of the family.
But now, there is no yoga centre to physically go to and school starts gloriously late at 9am. Plus, no tiffins are needed and there are others who make sure the kids are up on time. And so, I have had the utter luxury of sleeping and waking up when I please. I admit to days when I have stayed up past 3am glued to my show and woken up close to 10am! But I have to defend myself by telling you that this slip into highly unyogic, utter debauchery is thankfully not a daily occurrence. There are also many days when I wake up for 5.30am yoga and nights I sleep before 11pm.
I find that when I rise early, not only does the day seem to expand exponentially, but I feel a sense of inner expansion and space.
Without going into a space of judgement over my teenager-ness, I can honestly say that I am happy to keep discovering things about myself and learn from whatever is going on. One thing that I feel so thankful about is that no matter what hours I keep, there is yoga in my life. But having said that, I noticed that there is a big difference in the quality of my day when I sleep late and wake up late.
Even if I managed to get my decent seven hours of sleep, I find that on the day I wake up super-late, I feel sluggish and very low in energy throughout the day. It is difficult to feel motivated and happy about life on these days. Of course doing yoga helps me to feel better, but because a large window of time has slipped by in the morning, it means there is less time for yoga on a day like this.
Swami Sivananda (1887-1963), the Guru of many of India’s famous gurus writes in one of the hundreds of books he wrote in his exemplary life, that we should not be snoring during the early morning predawn hours of Brahmamuhurta, the period between 4am and 6am. This is a very special, spiritually charged time when the vibrations sent out by all the meditating yogis in the Himalayas can greatly benefit us, if we decide to be up and meditating rather than in bed and snoozing. “Do not become a Kumbhakarna. Become a yogi like Jnanadeva,” declares Swami Sivananda. (Kumbhakarna, a character in the epic Ramayana is known for his love of sleep and Sant Jnanadev was a 13th century poet saint from Maharashtra.)
I find that when I rise early, not only does the day seem to expand exponentially, but I feel a sense of inner expansion and space. I am protected from the vagaries of my emotions (and others’), I have a sense of awareness and control over what is happening and how I respond. I become less reactive and less whiney. This kind of feeling of space inside is facilitated even more on days when I get up early and also meditate soon after rising. So to me, it makes a lot of sense to choose Swami Sivananda and Sant Jnanadeva over a sleep-loving giant.
The Kumbhakarna days make me feel dull, unfresh and very lethargic. I do love being lazy and lounging around whenever possible, but this is enjoyable laziness, whereas on the Kumbhakarna days, the laziness has a heavy inertness which does not feel good at all.
We are part of that immense landscape and just like other creatures who have not changed their habits or stripes over the centuries, we too could just stay true to our nature. Rising at dawn is one way of doing this.
In a discussion on this topic of late sleeping and late rising with one of the other in-house teens – a genuine teen – I remarked that perhaps it really is true what we keep hearing about biorhythms and how much our bodies are attuned to nature and its cycles and tides. That we were designed to be up and doing things in the sunlit hours and meant to sleep when it is dark. I got a bit of a smirk and a humour-mom-grin as a response.
Yes it’s true that science has advanced a lot, giving us not just light bulbs to light up our nights, but also an endless array of online amusements to stay busy into the wee hours. Telling a seventeen-year-old to behave like someone belonging to a pre-electricity era does seem beyond foolish, particularly to the teen in question.
And yet it’s true that whenever we have a chance to escape from our concrete jungles and go to a real one, when we are in a place where it’s possible to actually see the stars – not just one or two if you’re lucky – but a staggering expanse of diamond-studded sky, then it’s so easy to understand one’s place in the grand scheme of things. We are part of that immense landscape and just like other creatures who have not changed their habits or stripes over the centuries, we too could just stay true to our nature. Rising at dawn is one way of doing this.
One last delicious thing about waking up for Brahmamuhurta – I get a precious chunk of time to myself while the world around me sleeps. At first it feels hard to wake up when others are enjoying their sleep. But once I get out of bed I feel a priceless sense of peace and quiet stealing into me as I go about my morning breathing practice, meditation and yoga. The very peace that completely evades me on a Kumbhakarna day comes and pervades my being throughout a Brahmamuhurta day.
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