My journey to a mindful start into the day
Am I a morning person?
Not too long ago, the answer to that question would have been a big fat NO. Too big was the “trauma” from my time at school – dark mornings, while I struggled to keep my eyes open and the day stretched endlessly in front of me. This experience is why I didn’t develop a healthy morning routine at university either. I planned my lectures as late as possible and went out way too much, so that rising early wasn’t really an option. When I started work after studying, my mornings looked kind of like they did back at school: the alarm went off, I hit the snooze button a few times while still being half asleep, then I got ready in a hurry and left the house like a zombie. Only retrospectively did I realize the effects of that routine – I just didn’t know it any other way. I thought it was perfectly normal to feel sleepy until noon, to be in a rush in the morning and to start the day feeling stressed out.
The beginning of my re-start came slowly creeping in: about 3 years ago, I noticed that every time I woke up, my heart was racing. At first, I thought this was because I had had a bad dream. But as this experience kept repeating itself, it became clear that this couldn’t be the reason. It took me a few more weeks to realize that every morning I woke up with a start. I was still using the radio alarm which had been my companion throughout school and university and I thought I would never wake up without the music. In fact, the music and the overly happy radio hosts jolted me out of my sleep every morning. So much for waking up gradually and gently.
Make getting up easier
The first step was to get a new alarm clock, because using my cellphone has always been a no-go for me. My bedroom is absolutely cellphone-free! I decided to get a daylight alarm with natural sounds. Since then, I have been woken up with a gentle light that started to get brighter half an hour before my set alarm time. At the set time, the sound of birdsong comes on – artificial birdsong, but still better than artificially cheerful people. This is how my waking up became a little less stressful each morning, but it didn’t really get easier. I was still having a hard time getting out of bed, but it slowly got better. My wish to eliminate even more stress from my morning grew, and so I tried to make sure that I had a few minutes to read every morning before I went to work. At this time, extra hours were usual, and I often got out of the house thinking “I’m wondering when I’ll be back tonight”. My new habit made me start the day in a much calmer way. I knew: no matter how the day is going to be, I’ve already had some time just for myself. That was so soothing that I wanted more.
Start your day with moving your body
Back then, I already practiced yoga on a regular basis, but mostly only in the evenings and at studios. So, I began to transfer my practice to my place and to the early morning. At first, it was hard, not only because getting up early wasn’t easy, but also because I was used to practicing in the evening, a time when you’re usually warm and more flexible. So here I was, on my mat, tired and stiff, trying to get used to this new experience. Step by step I learned to create my own morning routine, instead of just practicing like I would in the evening. By listening to my body, I discovered which routine would give me energy for the day and adapted it accordingly to my physical and mental state that day. This made my morning practice a lot more relaxed and enjoyable. Finally, it got more regular due to a key moment…
Becoming a morning person
On a summer morning I decided to practice outside. So I took my mat and my stuff, put on a pullover against the chilly air and did yoga on my balcony. Afterwards, I sat down with my lemon water with ginger and just chilled. The neighborhood was slowly waking up around me. I heard alarms going off and saw blinds and windows being opened. When a few little birds came to sit on my flower boxes to keep me company, the relaxed, peaceful morning turned into a special one. It was like a Disney movie! From that moment on, I started looking forward to my mindful start of the day, so much so that I took this new routine on holidays with me. I spent a week in France with a friend of mine, right at the ocean – perfect circumstances for a magical morning! While it was still dark outside, I would go to the beach with my yoga mat and practice while listening to the waves and watching the sunrise. Afterwards, I would swim a few laps in the still-empty pool (the Atlantic Ocean was just too cold for me!) and relaxed in the Jacuzzi. And all that before even having breakfast – can a day start any better?
So, if you asked me today if I’m a morning person, I would contemplate for a moment. What does it mean to be a morning person? Is it someone who finds it so easy to wake up that they jump out of bed in the morning, feeling fresh and energized? Someone who doesn’t even know what a snooze button is? Well, if that’s the case I’m definitely no morning person. But if a morning person is someone who appreciates the early morning with its peaceful atmosphere so much that they give their best to enjoy them as much as possible… well, then I am a morning person 😊
My favorite morning routine for a great day
After getting up, I go straight to the bathroom to scrape my tongue. What might sound a little bit weird, is really easy: just put a spoon or a tongue scraper (available in every drug store) on the root of your tongue and pull it to the front. Rinse, then repeat until there is no whitish film on it anymore. Next on the agenda is oil pulling. Both are ayurvedic methods to support your body after the previous night’s detox processes. Take some cold-pressed organic oil or specific gandusha oil (made especially for oil pulling) in your mouth and move it around for around 10 minutes. During that time, I open my blinds, prepare my lemon-ginger-water and get dressed. After spitting out the oil, I brush my teeth and hit the yoga mat. Once I’ve finished my yoga session, I shower, put on my work clothes and read a bit before I leave the house. When I feel like it, I pull an inspiration or tarot card before or during yoga, as a leitmotif for the day ahead.
My favorite yoga elements to kick-start the day on the mat
I like to start my time on the mat with a short meditation. I sit in stillness for a few moments and focus on my breath. Then I do Kapalabhati, an energizing breathing exercise. Afterwards, I do some simple seated positions before doing a little flow which changes according to my current state and the time that I have. At the moment, my favorite elements are stretching poses like forward folds, half split and lizard, combined with standing positions like warrior 2, stretched side angle, triangle or tree pose. They give me energy for the day and strengthen mind and body. What’s never missing, no matter how I’m feeling or how little time I have, is a yummy cat-cow-flow.
3 simple tips for developing a morning routine
Ask yourself what’s really good for you and for what you would like to have more time in the morning. Maybe that’s a workout, maybe yoga, maybe meditation, maybe a good book or a tasty breakfast. Maybe you just want a little more time to enjoy your cup of coffee in a more relaxed way. It should be something that you enjoy so much that it’s worth getting up for a little earlier. Let your mind run wild – just your phone should be out of reach, unless you use it to play some music. Social Media & co is something you should spare for later.
Start with baby steps: Don’t set your alarm a whole hour earlier, start with ten minutes instead. Try to pay close attention to the difference these ten minutes make.
Listen to yourself and your body. Your morning routine doesn’t need to be a “routine” in the sense that it’s always the same. What might feel good one morning might be contra productive on another. That’s why it’s a good idea to start the day with a short meditation or to just sit on your bed for a few moments, eyes closed, listening, feeling. Most of the time, your body will tell you if it’s craving movement and how this should look like. Gentle stretching or breaking a sweat? A run or more time to read the newspaper? You decide!
4 reasons for a healthy morning routine
Atmosphere: The early morning, when everyone else is still asleep, is a very special time and creates a very special feeling. Starting the day in such a peaceful way makes it easier to take inner peace with you throughout your day.
Clarity: There’s a reason why there are early morning meditations at Ashrams. The mind is still clear, not clouded from the impressions of a full day. You see a lot of things clearer, which may enable you to move forward with projects that felt stuck.
Peace & Quiet: Except for you, nobody’s up yet, so nobody will disturb you. This is different in the evenings, when roommates or partners might come barging in any time. Especially if you are living with your family, it can be enriching to have a few moments just for yourself first thing in the morning.
Productivity: You’ll start your day with the feeling of having accomplished something while everyone else was still asleep. This feeling makes you want more of it and can lead to you being more productive throughout the rest of the day. Early risers are often the most successful people. What do Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and Bill Gates in common? They swear by their morning routine!
A final confession
As much as I love my magical mornings, they’re not always easy for me and I don’t claim they will be for you. If you’ve grown used to something for so many years, it’s difficult to change. I also have days when I hit the snooze button more often than I like to admit. That’s when it becomes important to not be so hard on yourself. If it doesn’t always work the way you want it to work, it’s no disaster, as long as you keep trying. Be persistent but gentle with yourself. And when you get to the point where you are excited for the morning when going to bed in the evening, then the hardest part is already behind you.