Morning Routine with Laura Ahrens

Laura wearing the  sweatshirt 2.0  and  frost joggers

Laura wearing the sweatshirt 2.0 and frost joggers

The way we spend the morning sets the tone for how the whole day will unfold. Living a life of mindfulness allows us to use our attention to live more fully in our lives. Spending a few extra minutes in the morning to be intentional may transform the way that you live the rest of your days.

Keep it simple and doable. No need for 3 hour ceremonies and expensive accoutrements, unless that would bring you authentic joy. What’s more important than grandeur and grandiosity is that you’ll stick with what you’ve chosen. As it gains familiarity and consistency it can become the foundation for your resilience as you navigate life’s twists and turns. You can always build upon what you’ve chosen. Two or five minutes of meditation may one day turn into twenty or thirty. A few sun salutations may evolve into a yoga and mindful movement practice. Plant the seed for your practice, knowing that that’s how oaks are grown. They don’t just spring up from the ground.

Here are some ideas to build a morning ritual that will help you greet the day.

1- Meditate.

Sit yourself down, or lie comfortably if you won’t fall back asleep. Sometimes I choose to sit in my couch or up against the headboard of my bed. Others, I bring myself into my meditation room and sit down on one of my cushions or benches. I’ve meditated countless mornings in hotels, retreat centers, friends’ homes, my childhood bedroom, on airplanes before a red-eye lands. It’s as portable as you are. Setting a timer can mitigate the need to clockwatch or stay on schedule. Start small and doable. Even if you’re running low on time you can still sit for one minute. Start by watching the breath. No need to keep thoughts out, the mind was built for thinking. Instead, choose to pay more attention to the breath.

2- Drink a warm beverage.

According to Ayurveda, which encompasses the art of daily living and is a sister science to yoga, starting the day with a glass or so of warm lemon water will help to move the digestive system and hydrate the body. Not your thing? Make yourself a warm beverage that you’ll love and sip it mindfully, taking it in with all of your senses. Need an idea for a coffee-free alternative of a morning bev? Try this “uncoffee to go” by my girl Lauren Massalas Ayurveda

3- Practice yoga.

No need to bust out a wheel pose or to pike into handstand. Just a few simple sun salutations or stretches on your floor will do. Perhaps a few twists, side bends, lunges, and standing balances to pump the blood. Get the body moving and breathing, and start to link your attention to the present moment so it’s more likely to stay that way when you walk out the door.

This is the sequence for Surya Namaskar A, or Sun Salutation A.

Tadasana (mountain pose)

Inhale, urdvha hastasana (upward salute)

Exhale, uttanasana (standing forward bend)

Inhale, ardha uttanasana (half-way lift)

Exhale, chatturanga dandasana (4 limbed staff pose/low push-up)

Inhale, urdvha mukha svanasana (upward dog)

Exhale, adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)

(inhale bend knees look between hands, exhale land at the top of the mat)

Inhale, ardha uttanasana (half-way lift)

Exhale, uttanasana (standing forward bend)

Inhale, urdvha hastasana (upward salute)

Exhale, tadasana (mountain pose)

4- Breathe.

Pranayama is a powerful tool to anchor yourself to the present moment and harness your own energy. Some simple, intentional breathing can transform your relationship to yourself and the present moment. To keep it simple, watch your breath as you sit. You can practice alternate nostril breathing. It starts and ends on the left side, which is the nostril associated with our more lunar, receptive, and passive aspects of being. Fold the first two fingers of the right hand down to the palm. The thumb will always press against the right nostril, the ring finger and pinky the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril while the thumb blocks the right. Hold both nostrils briefly, and suspend the breath with the lungs full. Continue to block the left nostril and exhale through the right. Once you’re empty of breath, inhale through the right side. Suspend, and hold full while blocking both nostrils. Exhale through the left while blocking the right nostril with the thumb. That is one round. Continue for a few minutes or as long as you like! For a tutorial and guided practice, check out the video that I made for Coolidge Yoga, in Brookline MA, last year.

5- Pray or express gratitude.

A short expression of your intentions and hopes for your day, connecting in your own way to your own interpretation of the divine, or giving thanks can change the way you interpret the events to come. Kneel by an altar, hold a special talisman, spend a few moments outside, or simply be wherever you are. Even if it’s in front of the mirror before you brush your teeth or in your bed before your roll out to shower, this can be a potent morning ritual that transforms the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Do you have a morning ritual that you love? Share it in the comments.

Photo credit: Cam Ciccone

Photo credit: Cam Ciccone

Julia AhrensComment