Why I'm at the Studio Every Morning at 4 a.m.
BY NANCY MCCAOCHAN
"Have you really been here since 4 a.m.?" a student asked.
I'd just finished teaching the 7 a.m. Short Form Ashtanga class and was standing in the lobby, saying good-bye to the students who'd practiced with me and greeting those who were coming for the next class.
"Yes," I answered, matter-of-factly.
"I was checking the schedule and saw a 4 a.m. class listed and thought surely it was a typo," she added. "What do you DO at 4 in the morning?"
This wasn't the first time I'd heard the question in the week since I'd been offering an early morning traditional Kundalini Sadhana (practice).
"Well. . ." I answered. "We chant for 20 minutes and then do a short physical practice that lasts anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. Then we chant again, but this time for 62 minutes."
If you've never experienced it, this kind of practice doesn't make much sense. I think this might be especially true for people who love a challenging physical session. Even those students who are attracted to a more meditative asana class might find it odd that moving the body is allotted less than half of the time.
A few years ago, I would have been one of those people. But, this is my intent for 2014: to leave the arms of my beloved warm bed early enough to arrive at Karma Yoga by 3:50. This means that I get up a little after 3 in the morning.
'Yikes!" you might be thinking. "That's the middle of the night."
Which is precisely the point.
In the wee hours before the sun comes up, the world lies still. At 4, the sun is roughly 40°below the horizon. (The exact angle depends on latitude and season.) As this celestial body rises in the sky, its magnetic field amplifies whatever energies are projected into the earth's atmosphere.
Meditation, prayer, chanting--all of these practices clear the subconscious of thoughts and emotions (which are forms of energy). The clearing allows us to experience more clarity, and this clarity--whether concretized as thought forms or not--emanates into the atmosphere around us.
I'm not entirely new to the ritual of rising early to meditate. In the 3 Vipassana Meditation courses I took several years ago, we were up by 4 in order to take advantage of the pre-dawn freshness. During my 3 weeks of Kundalini Teacher Training, I was up at 3 every morning and chanting by 4.
But always, when I returned to my daily life, the lure of the bed was stronger than getting up before the sun.
This past fall, however, my seasonal affective disorder kicked in BIG TIME. I became severely depressed--so much so that nothing really lifted my spirits except long walks in the woods. If you've never experienced depression, let me tell you, it is THE WORST. I had no energy. All I wanted to do was sleep. I had very little interest in anything other than teaching my classes.
I did my practices--meditations, asanas, prayers. Nothing seemed to work.
The only thing I WASN'T doing was getting up before the sunrise to take care of myself. My physician's test results showed I was perfectly healthy. And so I vowed that this new year, I would make the one change that my intuition told me I needed to make: I would arise early enough to take advantage of the "ambrosial hours" (the 2-3 hours before dawn), when whatever is done is given a 40-fold boost.
So far, I'll have to say that it's working. I have noticeably more energy. The resistance I normally feel toward some of the less savory tasks in my life is easily overcome. I am happier and more centered.
The arms of my beloved bed still tempt me with their warmth. Getting up at 3:10 in the icy weather we've been having this January is not a cake walk. But when I step out the door and feel the quiet in my neighborhood and catch a glimpse of the stars on clear mornings, I'm delighted I made the effort.
It's said that if we get up for sadhana, we win the day. That is absolutely what I'm experiencing.
So yes. . .I'm at Karma every morning at 4 a.m. It's changing my life.