Think back to the most stressful day you have had recently. Chances are, things got off on the wrong foot as soon as you woke up. Certain bad habits, like staying up too late and overeating at night, can set you up for a less than optimal day. The key to having an amazing day is getting things started right with a rejuvenating morning routine.
In Ayurveda (the traditional Hindu system of medicine), morning is the time when you cleanse and heat your body, and get your lymphatic fluid circulating after spending 6-8 hours at rest. This daily routine is called “dinacharya,” which literally means “daily routine.” This practice is incredibly helpful for facilitating a yoga routine as well as building self-esteem and keeping you from getting sick.
Here are 10 ways you can create a yoga-based morning routine that is sure to set you up for an amazing day!
Prepare For A Healthy Morning The Night Before
The goal with any morning routine is to reduce the stress present overall in your daily life. Chronic stress has been linked to several diseases and disorders, but there are things you can do to reduce stress in your life. Sometimes, it takes a little investment of time and energy up front, but if it helps you live a happier and healthier life, it’s worth it.
For starters, try your best to keep your home clean. Waking up in the morning to a messy environment is a big stress trigger for many people. Make a habit out of washing the dishes and tidying the bathroom at night before bed. In the kitchen, you can team up with your roommates or romantic partner to do the dishes while the other person cooks. Even if other rooms of the house are messy, keeping these two central locations orderly can set the tone for a relaxing morning.
You can also reduce stress by eliminating the amount of decisions you have to make in the morning. For example, pick out your clothes and pack your lunch for work the night before. That way, you can focus your mental energy on other things that might be more important to you in the morning.
If you really want to start your day with a special glow, think of all the things you are grateful for before your feet touch the ground. This process can be very simple – even if you feel you don’t have much to be grateful for, there is always something! Maybe you are grateful for yoga, your healthy body, your loved ones, access to clean water, or your home. Either way, focusing on what is right in life will put you in a positive mindset and get the momentum of the day going in a positive direction.
Take things slow & wake up early
Few things are more stressful than rushing in the morning. Especially if you work a 9-5 style job, it’s incredibly important to take time for yourself and your goals in the morning. If you are always rushing out the door to work, you might feel like work is becoming your life! Going to bed earlier and waking up an hour or two sooner can help you take the time you need for self-care. If you have trouble getting up early, try planning your sleep cycles using a program like Sleepyti.me. Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle is disorienting, but if you rise at the end of a sleep cycle, it will be much easier to get up.
In Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, each hour of the day corresponds to a different organ function. It is recommended that you go to bed before 11pm, which is the time of the kidneys, and wake up between 5am and 6am, which is the time of the large intestine. According to these ancient medicinal practices, sleeping and rising on this schedule will help your body’s functions work most effectively and will help you feel more rested overall.
Clean Your Face, Mouth, Eyes & Nose
In Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, cleaning your face, mouth, eyes, and nose is a fundamental part of daily cleansing. Overnight, environmental toxins from air and food are released through the orifices of the body. Before you drink water, coffee, or tea, make sure you clean your tongue with a tongue scraper.
Cleaning your tongue prevents the buildup of bacteria in your mouth, which can help you prevent illness, have fresh breath, and overall better oral hygiene. This process also stimulates the digestive organs, which can help you with morning bowl movements.
After cleaning your tongue, brush your teeth and do an Ayurvedic mouth wash with herbs that support your constitution. Then, splash your face and eyes with water. You can even do an Ayurvedic eye wash that is tailored to your dosha.
Finally, clean out your nasal passage by doing a salt rinse with a neti pot. This will remove dust, pollen, and other irritants from your first line of defense – your nose! This is where many viruses enter the body, and flushing the nasal passage every day can help you stay healthy.
Hydration is important all day, but particularly in the morning as you likely haven’t had any water all night. Once your mouth and face is cleansing, slowly drink a glass of room temperature water to lube your internal organs and hydrate your body. Drinking water in the morning (especially if it is warmed up and mixed with lemon juice) can help you have better bowl movements in the morning as well. This can prevent stomach cramps and other digestive issues from forming throughout the day.
Before you shower, treat yourself to a relaxing self-massage. Massage is the perfect way to practice self-love and self-care, and it is nourishing to the mind and body. Self-massage can improve your overall self-confidence and also encourages fat loss, reduces pain, and can assist with anxiety and depression treatments.
To begin your massage, dry brush your entire body. Always move the brush in long, broad strokes towards your heart. This removes dead skin, encourages blood flow, and improves circulation. Then, use an organic body oil (jojoba oil is best as it mimics the natural oil created by our skin and absorbs easily) to massage yourself from your toes to your neck. Rolling your joints (like your ankles and wrists) between your thumb and peace fingers can help warm them up in the morning.
When you get to your head and face, place a little bit of oil on your fingertips and massage your scalp. This encourages hair growth and blood flow to the head. If you are concerned about face wrinkles, massage your face with a jade face roller. Jade face rollers are cooling and help to eliminate wrinkles by stimulating natural collagen production. It can also help you eliminate facial patterns that cause wrinkles to form.
When you’re done with your self-massage, take a shower and put on comfortable clothing to practice yoga in.
Warm Up With Yoga
Naturally, a key part to a healthy morning routine is yoga! Thankfully your morning practice does not have to be complicated – wise yogis thousands of years back developed the perfect morning routine with the Surya Namaskar (also known as Sun Salutation) sequences.
To practice Sun Salutation A:
1. Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and bring your awareness to your chest. Focus on this point for a moment and take a deep breath. Exhale loudly.
2. On the inhale, raise your arms above your head, arms rotating inwardly.
3. Exhale into a forward fold Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Let your arms hand and feel your lower back release.
4. Inhale, lift half-way to a flat-back position – Ardha Uttanasana (Half-Standing Forward Bend).
5. Retain your breath. Place your palms on the floor, keep your core active, and jump or step back to Chaturanga Dandasana (Push Up Position) or plank to knees-chest-chin.
6. On the inhale, rise into Upward Facing Dog.
7. Exhale, lift your hips to the ceiling, and come into to Downward Facing Dog. Bend your knees if needed. Stay here for 2-3 breaths.
8. On the next inhale, jump or step your legs back to the front of the mat between your hands and come back to Ardha Uttanasana (Half-Standing Forward Bend).
9. Exhale and drop back into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend).
10. Inhale and bring your arms back over your head.
11. Exhale, come back to Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
If you skip everything else on this list and want just one thing to improve your mornings, go for pranayama. Breath work exercises are so beneficial they can actually change your life! For starters, pranayama improves circulation and prevents heart-related issues. It improves concentration, increases oxygen intake (even hours after practice), releaves stress and depression, reduces headaches, reduces asthma, improves sexual function, released stagnant emotions, and increases self-confidence.
Some pranayama exercises you can try are breath of fire, alternate nostril breathing, the 4-7-8 technique, and skull-shining breath.
Before the activity of the day sets in, focus your mind and clear your energy with a meditation. Whether you like to sit for 3 minutes or 30 minutes, a meditation practice can reduce stress, clear away “busy-minded” thoughts, get into a flow state, and increase your awareness. The benefits of meditation have been studied far and wide – all you need to start meditating is a comfortable place to sit and a willingness to keep coming back to the practice. If you are new to meditation, try listening to a recorded guided meditation from a teacher like Ram Dass or Jack Kornfield.
Spend Time Doing Something Creative
Last but not least, spending time doing something you love – whether it’s creative or not – can make a big difference in helping you feel fulfilled in life. Many people are not living the life of their dreams, so spending a little time working towards your goals in the morning can make you feel productive and more in control of your destiny. Whether you are a painter, poet, musician, writer, dog groomer, rock climber, or DJ, spending a little time working on your craft of choice can make the whole day feel worthwhile.
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Having been a teacher’s assistant at over 50 yoga teacher trainings worldwide, Rebecca Rebecca has a firm grasp on the fine art of yoga and meditation. In her work, she carefully reflects on a vast expanse of knowledge to help others find peace in both body and mind.