The brahma-muhurta is a special time of day that takes place every morning before sunrise. For thousands of years, yogis and spiritual practitioners have utilized this meditation “prime time” to jump start their day and accelerate their spiritual growth.
In this article, we talk about the value of waking up during the brahma-muhurta, list different activities that are ideal for this sacred time of the morning, and discuss the bigger picture of Vedic time units. As a bonus, we also offer some tips for adjusting your sleep schedule so that you can take full advantage of the morning hours.
The time early in the morning, one and a half hours before sunrise, is called brāhma-muhūrta. During this brāhma-muhūrta, spiritual activities are recommended. Spiritual activities performed early in the morning have a greater effect than in any other part of the day.
~ Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 3.20.46, purport
Throughout the day, the hustle and bustle of the world agitates the atmosphere just like ripples on the surface of a body of water. During the nighttime, as humans, birds, and animals gradually wind down and go to sleep, the atmosphere again becomes calm and clear.
The pre-dawn hours, known in Sanskrit as the brahma-muhurta, are the most peaceful time for meditation and other spiritual or creative activities. Vedic literatures such as the Shiva Purana and the ancient Ayurvedic text known as the Ashtanga Hridayam recommend everyone wake up early to take advantage of this special time of day:
ब्राह्मी मुहूर्तामुत्तिष्थेत् स्वस्थो रक्षार्थमायुष: ।
तत्र सर्वार्थ शान्त्यर्थम् स्मरेचछ माधुसूदनम् ॥
“One should wake up for the brahma-muhurta and meditate on the Absolute Truth, Sri Krishna, who is known by the name Madhusudana. This sustains one’s health and ensures a long life.” (Ashtanga Hridayam, 1.2.1)
Here are some benefits that make the brahma-muhurta ideal for spiritual activities:
- No distractions. Once the sun rises we naturally think of all the things we have to do for the day. During the early morning time, however, our mind is free to meditate and introspect. It’s too early in the day to do anything else!
- No interruptions. Throughout the day it can be difficult to find a time when you won’t get interrupted. Whether you attend university or go to work, live with a family or live alone, there are so many things that can come up. Family members, friends, your phone—it’s hard not to get interrupted by something.
- A refreshed mind. In the early morning your mind has had a chance to process and work through the stress of the previous day. A restful night’s sleep leaves the mind feeling clean, happy, and refreshed. This mental condition makes it much easier to meditate than if you try to think of Krishna or focus on a mantra in the evening, when your mind is swimming in the feelings and thoughts that accumulated throughout the day.
- A spiritually surcharged atmosphere. In addition to the previous benefits, the external environment is itself much more conducive to spiritual practices during the brahma-muhurta. There is a subtle spiritual energy that pervades the air during this special time of morning, just before the sun rises. If we tap into that energy we can much more easily get absorbed in spiritual meditation.
Some people are naturally early-risers. They have an easy time getting out of bed and they enjoy being up to see the sunrise. Others have a harder time. No matter what your current sleep habits are, it’s possible to gradually adjust your schedule so that you can benefit from the power of the brahma-muhurta.
Here are some tips for getting up early:
- Start a sleep journal. It’s helpful to make a few notes about the quality of your sleep and how you feel the next day so that you can track yourself as you develop a new habit. Often we are surprised to find out that sleeping more hours doesn’t make us feel more rested. Or we may find that sleeping less hours improves our overall mental health. Keeping a journal provides you with a record of your sleep so that you can look back and see your progress over time.
- Regulate your sleep and wake times. The first step is to start going to bed at the same time each night. This helps your body develop a natural rhythm.
- Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. After you become settled into a regular sleeping and waking schedule, set your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier. You can keep going to bed at the same time and just sleep a little bit less, or you can go to bed 30 minutes earlier, too.
- Settle into your new schedule. It may take 3-4 weeks to adjust to your new wake time. That’s okay. Don’t push your body or mind too hard.
- Repeat step #3. After you adjust to your new wake time, you can now set your alarm clock back another 30 minutes. Take another 3-4 weeks to adjust to this wake time, and then try setting your alarm back another 30 minutes. In this way, within a few months you will be able to wake up hours earlier than you did before.
A muhurta is a Vedic unit of time. Each day is divided into 30 muhurtas which are approximately 48 minutes long.
30 muhurtas x 48 minutes = 24 hours.
However, the duration of muhurtas vay due to the sun’s movement. In the winter, when the sun rises later in the morning and sets earlier, the daytime muhurtas are shorter and the nighttime muhurtas are longer. In the summer, when the sun rises earlier in the morning and sets later, the daytime muhurtas are longer and the nighttime muhurtas are shorter.
For example, if the sun rises at 5:00 PM and sets at 7:00PM, then the 15 daytime muhurtas would each last for 56 minutes, and the 15 nighttime muhurtas would each last for 40 minutes.
The brahma-muhurta is the second to last muhurta before sunrise. Here is a list of all of the muhurtas that occur every day.