How to Start a Morning Practice (And Stick With It)
Ah, mornings. It's a love-hate situation, right? Especially for New Yorkers, since dinner time around here is, like, 9pm, and bedtime is closer to midnight, which is technically morning, right? For any of us interested in wellness, we've all heard the importance of mornings and how they are the time for us to "set the tone for the day", so therefore, we should have some "morning practice" or routine around them. But sometimes, with all the information out there, it can feel overwhelming to start a morning ritual (drink lemon water, meditate, make a green juice, journal, say affirmations, stand on your head, do yoga, breathe, brush your hair 72 times...) leaving us feeling like we'd rather hit the snooze button than conquer adding all these steps.
I’ll be honest with you. I was that girl. I tried to add everything in because I was feeling so bad about myself and my lack of morning routine. Wanting to do anything and everything that I could to feel better -- physically and emotionally -- I searched all the blogs, all the magazines, and asked all the life-coaches, 'What is it that's going to make me feel better?!' And of course, the more I looked and asked, the longer my list got. All of the health, wellness, and spirituality tools that were supposed to make me feel better actually made me feel worse, because I couldn't keep up with them all, leading me to start my mornings off ridden with guilt and shame rather than feeling bright and radiant. So, take it from the extremist here: a few tips on how to turn your mornings into your favorite part of the day, rather than your most dreaded, and how to begin a morning ritual based on what your uniquely individual needs are, rather than what everyone else tells you (yes, including me!).
BUT WHY ARE MORNINGS SO DAMN SPECIAL?
Okay, first, lets break down the whole morning situation. Why is it recommended to do all of these things in the morning rather than later in the day? I personally believe it’s good to have both morning and evening rituals, the former to get your mind in the right tone for the day and the latter to clear your mind, body, and spirit from all the stresses you’ve taken in (consciously and unconsciously) throughout the day.
In Yogic traditions, many yogi’s practiced meditation and yoga early in the morning because of something called Amrit Vela, also knowns as the ambrosial hours. If you’ve ever waken up early enough to watch the sun rise, you know there is something quite magical about it. It’s a time when your inner world matches that calmness and serenity of the outer world, meaning that your mind is not as active in the morning. This makes it easier to direct the mind toward positivity rather than trying to do it later in the day when you’re already dealing with all the demands and stresses of life. Whatever you decide to practice, whether it be yoga, meditation, affirmations, or simply setting intentions for the day, it’s powerful to do this first thing in the morning, as it helps to consolidate your energy towards feeling positive, powerful, and good throughout the rest of the day.
HOW TO GET STARTED…
I’m not a morning person, and I will completely and honestly admit that. I really quite hate waking up early. But I do my best to wake up between 5-6am (unless during moon cycles, when which I have learned that my body needs more more sleep for), which was a feat to conquer when I first started doing a morning practice. I knew that I really wanted to get up earlier so I could do my Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, but I also knew that I really (really) loved to sleep in. So how does a girl conquer these polarities? I made an agreement with myself! If I get up early in the morning, I will make myself the most delicious cup of coffee with grass-fed butter and help milk (mmm!) before sitting down to do my practices. I have found that when I add in steps that make me look forward to getting up, it makes it that much easier. Because the reality is, we’re all trying to change habits and re-create new morning routines, which are all eventually going to feel really good, but at first it might feel hard. By giving ourselves daily rewards, we make the changes more exciting rather than daunting. Maybe you like to have coffee in the morning, or a delicious cup of tea, or a little nibble of your favorite raw chocolate while you sit down to begin your morning rituals. Choose what you love best, and dive in.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR RITUALS…
There are so many things that I (and any health or wellness guru) can tell you to do, but ultimately, you have to find what works for unique you. What gets you inspired to wake up in the morning? I will share with you my personal favorites and the incredible results I have noticed since practicing them:
JOURNALING: I always keep a journal close by during my morning rituals. There is nothing worse than remembering something I have to do during the day and being distracted by it during my meditations. When I wake up, while I’m drinking my coffee, I sit in silence and just allow my mind to run. Not what you expected, right? But when I let my mind wander, it reminds me of all the things I need to do for the day and some of which I might have forgotten. I write down every single thing I need to do, people I have to talk to, orders I have to ship out, emails I need to answer. That way, it’s out of my mind and on the paper in front of me, so my mind is lighter and calmer, knowing that I have a plan of attack for the rest of the day. By leaving all of these thoughts in our mind, we actually waste a lot of precious energy trying to remember them, leaving us exhausted by the end of the day. Try it for a couple days and see if you notice how much clearer you feel!
MEDITATION: I believe that meditation is hands down, if you do nothing else, the one ritual that every person should add in. Yogi Bhajan, the master of Kundalini Yoga, once said, “Meditation is the art of breaking habits.” Habits, whether we know it or not, are what guide our lives, both the good habits and bad habits. Most of us are interested in letting go of the habits -- physical, psychological, and/or emotional habits -- that make us feel less than great about ourselves, and are interested in developing new habits that will make us feel more than great about ourselves. I have found that Yoga and Meditation coupled together is the fastest ways to let go of the old habits that no longer serve us, clear out the subconscious mind that drives us to engage in those habits that don't serve a higher purpose, and put some energy in our system so we have the power to choose which habits that do serve our purpose. My favorite meditation is the Addictions Meditation, which only takes three minutes to do! Your practice doesn't have to be hours long…a three minute meditation from the Kundalini practice is enough to make massive shifts in your life.
INNER BEAUTY: As women, it’s unfortunate that we constantly feel like we are not good enough. When we look in the mirror first thing and don’t like what we see, it’s quite difficult to have a good day from thereon out. What we see in the mirror reflects how we feel about ourselves inside. If we can begin to change the inner dialogue with ourselves towards ourselves, we can set an entirely different tone for the day, allowing us to feel more confident, more beautiful, and more accepting of the one body we will ever get. I have completely turned my morning beauty routine into a self-care ritual. When I look in the mirror, the first thing I do is look into my eyes and say, “Good morning, I love you, you are beautiful.” Some days I don't feel it, and I cry, which leads to me to feel immensely compassionate towards myself and where I am right now. Other days, I feel it -- in my heart -- all the love and the beauty I tell myself I am. We are conditioned, especially as women, to look in the mirror and pick ourselves apart. And every time we do that, we are turning our backs on ourselves and causing our spirits tremendous heartbreak, daily. I believe, as women, it’s of utmost importance to our happiness, our health, our relationships, and our vitality to use the mirror as a tool for our affirmations; to look ourselves in the eyes and tell our hearts all the things we want to hear from others. When we look at our eyes in the mirror and say it to ourselves, it’s infinitely more powerful than hearing it from someone else. Over time, we will begin to reprogram our minds to not only accept ourselves and what we see in the mirror, but begin to completely and wholly love everything about who we are, right down to the "imperfections" that are actually quite perfect.
MY SUGGESTION TO YOU…
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re interested in starting a morning ritual practice and have done your research beyond this post. You probably have a lot of ideas of what you want to do or think you should be doing. My suggestion to you is to not do them all but pick the top three that inspire you and leave you feeling like you're able to add them into your life daily, long enough to see changes, even if some of these practices might be a little uncomfortable at first. In the space of discomfort is a tremendous opportunity of growth into more love, more compassion, and more acceptance. And for the love of God, please reward yourself with (insert your treat of choice here) for doing this incredible work and choosing to actively, step-by-step, day-by-day, become the most radiant version of you.
Comment below telling us some of your current morning practices, as well as hopes and dreams for future ones!
* Desiree is a Kundalini Yoga + Meditation teacher and natural beauty alchemist behind Benshen. She's on a mission to spread the wisdom of the mind-body connection. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and studies Doaist Medicine with Chris Chen, Kundalini Yoga and Meditation with Harijiwan, Tej, Guru Jagat, and Gurujas in Los Angeles. Everything she has learned and continues to learn has taught her to believe in magic and that we are much more powerful than we could have ever imagined.