My morning routine is sacred.
It’s the difference between habitual self-care and feeling like balance is something I might achieve in the future.
Essentially, my morning routine acts as insurance that I’ll have steady energy all day and be able to focus on the people and projects that are most meaningful to me.
But, here’s the biggest misunderstanding that I want to debunk right now: your morning routine may not happen every morning.
I know that the die-hard morning routine advocates would completely disagree with me but let me explain.
Within the span of six weeks I went on four trips. Two were for family and two were for work.
I love to travel and to spend time with family and friends. That being said, I knew deep down before I went on these trips that it was going to be stressful on my body. Despite struggling with the decision – I made the choice to go on all four trips.
And as I suspected, it wasn’t ideal for my health.
The reality is that life happens. We have family obligations and there are things we want to do that aren’t always perfect for our well being.
I didn’t do my morning routine the way I do it at home everyday that I was traveling. Somedays I came closer to keeping my daily habits than others.
Despite these inconsistencies while traveling, I still cherish my morning routine because when I’ve overextended myself – it’s the first thing I put back into place to return to self-care, balance, and ease.
Good health isn’t about never falling out of our healthy habits, it’s about getting them back on track as quickly as possible when we do.
When I got back from the last trip of my whirlwind six week adventure, my top priority was to step back on my path, return to my daily habits, align with the current season, and slow the *#!^ down!
Whenever I feel off balance, I know I can reset by returning to my morning routine.
I’ve learned to soften my previously debilitating perfectionism and accept the ebbs and flows that are bound to occur in life.
As soon as I realize that I’m off track – whether I knew it was coming or not – I listen and adjust as soon as I possibly can.
Sometimes that’s within the same day, sometimes it takes a week, but rarely (if ever) do I get stuck in an ongoing unhealthy pattern.
This is one of the gifts that practicing yoga and Ayurveda have bestowed upon me. I can pivot much more easily back toward what supports my health, than I used to be able to.
While my morning routine may not be exactly what will work for you, I thought I’d share the details in case there is anything that might help you customize the perfect morning routine for yourself.
The key components of my morning routine come from my study of yoga and Ayurveda. Over the years I’ve customized the tools and techniques that work best for me and used behavioral science to get these habits to stick.
My mornings are no longer rushed. In fact, these days I look forward to my morning routine each evening, because a good morning starts the night before!
Here are six key components to my morning routine
Wake up Before Sunrise
According to the Ayurvedic Clock, the hours between 2am and 6am are perfect for contemplative practices because it is the vata time of day when energy is more etheric.
This morning my alarm clock was set for 6:00 am, but I woke up naturally around 5:30 am because I’ve set an intention to increase my morning meditation practice to 30 minutes and take advantage of the optimally still hours of twilight.
So it wasn’t hard for me to take a few easy breaths, stretch, repeat my dharma code (a statement of purpose developed through the Four Desires process) to myself and then put my feet on the floor to start my day before my alarm went off.
First things first, a trip to the bathroom to do the usual things you probably do too (brush your teeth, wash your face).
There are a few things that you might not be doing at this same time that I want to share.
I also use this time to either dry brush (it takes less than a minute) or spend a couple of minutes massaging my legs and body with oil.
I’m big on oral hygiene and love my Sonicare toothbrush paired with an Orabrush for tongue scraping. Checking out the condition of your tongue first thing in the morning can steer you toward resolving internal problems that are building ama (basically the Ayurvedic term for plaque and gunk that builds up in your system).
Then I do two rounds of neti (nasal saline rinse) and start drinking a few cups of water (room temperature in summer, warm water in winter). The water sets me up for peristalsis – the process of muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract inducing elimination – yep, we are going to talk about pooping in this post.
Now, in an ideal world, I would do some light yoga postures, breathing and other techniques to allow for healthy elimination. See, I warned you!
The thing is, I don’t live in an ideal world and I bet you don’t either. So most days it takes about an hour from the time I wake up until I eliminate yesterday’s waste (sometimes it doesn’t happen until later in the day). So, I sit and meditate for the next 30 minutes.
It took me years to build the habit of a daily morning meditation practice. Now I absolutely love this part of my day and see how beneficial and supportive it is to my productivity.
[Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t there or even if you aren’t interested in getting to a place where you meditate daily. Take the pressure off yourself. If you can’t get curious about the process or find some enjoyment it in, it’s unlikely to stick.]
My actual mediation consists of a single practice that I work with for at least a 40 day period.
The particular practice I choose comes from my study as a ParaYoga teacher, connected to the lineage of the Himalayan masters using Sri Vidya and Tantra. I use the Insight Timer App to keep my self-guided practice on track after I have practiced that specific meditation for several days using an audio recording.
Sometimes I will go back to the recording if I’m feeling particularly unsteady and know I could use extra guidance that morning.
All of this takes me about an hour.
My second hour of the morning consists of a few things. Elimination (again, very important for overall health), getting dressed (very important for others not to think I’m crazy teaching yoga in my PJs), sometimes exercise, other times breakfast (depends on if I ate early enough the night before and gave my digestive tract a rest for at least 12 to 14 hours).
Over the summer breakfast consisted of a fat rich chocolate shake. It’s a recipe I modified from Dr. Kelley Brogan. It keeps me full for hours. It even helped me change from being a 10am snacker to a non-snacker before lunch.
Now that it’s fall I’m transitioning to warmer foods and hot herbal tea. Somedays I eat two eggs sunny side up with toast, other days it’s an oatmeal creation. These food choices are a big change from my 35+ years as a die hard cereal eater!
Finally I enjoy planning my day with a paper calendar (I’m currently using the Daily Greatness Yoga Journal) and reviewing my digital calendar.
The act of literally using a pen to write things down and block time helps me mentally prepare for the day ahead.
I appreciate that my journal has some questions that prompt me to have a gratitude practice, set intentions and connect to why I’m choosing to achieve certain things that day. I’ve added a practice I learned from Tim Ferris, by making a list of 3 things that would make that day great. Usually I list something that is a stretch and usually there is at least one thing I have full control over like calling a friend.
If I’m still feeling mentally taxed by something I’ll set a timer for a 15 minute brain dump. This is where I write, in stream of consciousness style, with no objective for 15 minutes straight. When I stop I might take note of a few things that came up or I might head straight to the shredder and press the “eat it” button.
By that time I’m about two to two and a half hours into my morning and it’s time to teach a yoga class or get to my workout class (I’m a big fan of City Surf and personal strength training).
There you have it – my morning routine. It’s thrive insurance!
Comment below to let me know if this helps you think about how you want to structure your mornings so that you can truly thrive!
Photo credit: Werner Sevenster