7 morning rituals to get the day off to a great start
The Christmas break, and ensuing New Year are always a great time to reset and one of the best ways to do this is to start day with a wellness ritual. We’d go so far as to say that it’s essential that you take time for yourself each morning to reconnect with your own innate rhythm; the quiet steady rhythm of your body that is in line with the primordial rhythm of our planet and the universe. If we have any intention of restoring some balance to our planet, there is no better place to start than with our own bodies and minds.
There are many ancient principles and systems that recognise the importance of a disciplined morning practice and ritual as a gateway to a more balanced, healthy and fulfilled life. Yoga and meditation are beneficial in many ways but most relevant to us, perhaps, are their stress-reducing qualities. When we minimise the impact of stress in our lives, we allow our bodies to function more efficiently, which promotes better sleep, memory and relationships.
Being fully ‘present’ means that we can learn to respond appropriately to a situation without falling back on our out-of-date defences, which were built on past experiences. Thus, we are much less likely to create stress and anxiety for ourselves and others.
When we respond to a crisis or danger, there is a surge of cortisol in the body. This is a natural and healthy response that enables us to act in a way that could save our lives – when the threat is real. This is known as the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response. A healthy body will return to the ‘rest and digest’ mode of functioning once the danger has passed, leaving it to re-focus on the restorative functions, such as digestion and renewal. However, when cortisol levels remain chronically high, it has a damaging effect on the body’s defences. Each time you meet a stressful situation, you are effectively adding layer upon layer of tension onto yourself. If you have a predominantly sedentary lifestyle, that tension has nowhere to go so the body never returns to its all-important state of equilibrium.
Taking time in the morning to recalibrate and purify means you can start each day afresh, as though it were your first. You will begin to see that certain things that once bothered you, are no longer worth risking your health over.
Top tips on how to start the day well
PACE – Set aside 20-40 minutes each morning when you can set the tone for how you want your day ahead to continue. So often we press ‘snooze’ and then rush to get out of the door, setting up a manic pace that leaves us feeling on the back foot all day. In Ayurveda, the suggestion is that we wake up at least 20 minutes before sunrise. This time of day can be very peaceful with the added bonus of allowing you to see nature’s colours emerge.
HYDRATE – Soon after waking, mindfully drink a large mug of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon. Although lemon is an acidic fruit, it magically has an alkalising effect once inside our stomachs. This will also help kick-start your digestive system in a much healthier way than coffee.
GRATITUDE – While quietly sipping your warm lemon water, contemplate all the things in your life that you are grateful for. This can help to filter out any unhealthy cravings and compulsions.
BODY – Practice some yoga postures to help ease out any tension or stiffness in the joints and muscles, and get your circulation going. The Western World sometimes forgets that yoga is about much more than doing a posture correctly. Our bodies are immensely intelligent and we were born to know what is right and healthy for us. If you can give yourself ten minutes each morning to stretch and breathe, you will be amazed at how you start to move more intuitively; giving your body and mind the medicine it needs. Listen to your body’s whispers before they become shouts.
MEDITATE – The word ‘meditation’ can bring up some anxieties; be aware of your own. Find a comfortable position, ideally with the spine upright, and set a timer for 10-20 minutes. Take this time to be still and quiet away from technology and simply observe the experience of BEING YOU in those moments.
DIGEST – The body needs to feel as though it’s safe to digest; that there aren’t more important things to do, like simply survive. If you haven’t already been to the toilet for your morning elimination, having the time and space to relax should help to set a healthy digestive rhythm for the day.
FEEL – Whatever you choose to do in the morning, do your best to BE with whatever feelings arise. Often, if we sense an uncomfortable feeling, we either repress it or distract ourselves away from it. However, rarely do these feelings simply disappear; they usually linger until one day it’s impossible to ignore them. A lot of the busyness in our lives is our own creation in order to avoid feeling. Like a small child, once this anxious or vulnerable part of yourself has been acknowledged and comforted, it is much more likely to settle and then you can approach your day with the optimal presence and wonder of a child.
From an early age, Claudia worked with the body, studying dance and performance. Having explored the mind/body connection, first through dance and later through the medium of audiovisual and performance art at university, Claudia began practising yoga and became a registered yoga teacher in 2009. She continues to study and teach in Buckinghamshire and is currently deepening her understanding of what it means to be human by training as a transpersonal and integrative psychotherapist. www.uyoga.co.uk