Having a hard time settling on a morning routine? How you approach your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, and kick-starting with a positive routine can help encourage productive energy that flows into each thing that you set out to do. Warrior Ambassador Kristen Schneider, an international yoga teacher and Ayurveda Practitioner, knows a thing or two about starting her mornings the right way. Her focus in her teachings is to "encourage people to live a holistic lifestyle with proper nutrition, self-care, and movement that makes their heart sing."
We loved hearing Kristen's thoughts on her five-morning routines that will help jumpstart your day:
1. APPRECIATE THE SACREDNESS OF MORNINGS
The morning is sacred. I love the way the black sky turns violet just before the sun begins to rise. The morning hours, just before dawn are quiet, and dense with peace and insight. The ancient yogis and sages used to wake up to meditate at 4 AM each morning because the hours just before dawn were believed to be auspicious. In Ayurveda, the hours between 2 AM and 6 AM are said to be governed by Vata—the energies of movement and creativity, and the subtle energies of empathy and intuition. This is why so many of us wake up around 3 AM with an active mind, often laden with insights.
The famous poet, Rumi said, “The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep! You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep! People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep!” His advice to stay awake at 3-4 AM may not sound practical for those of us who have busy days ahead and need proper rest, but I think we can all borrow some wisdom from his sentiment. If you wake up in the middle of the night it could be helpful to journal your thoughts, write a list of intentions or affirmations, meditate, and pray. We might as well take advantage of what has been long believed a sacred time.
One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Dr. Wayne Dyer started each day with five simple words— thank you for this day. By beginning your day with gratitude, you set the tone for happiness and abundance. If you’ve heard of The Law of Attraction, you know that you invite into your reality that which you think about most. If you start your day with thoughts of gratefulness, you will attract into your day more things to be grateful for. This isn’t magic. It’s perspective.
If I make a list of all that’s wrong in the world. I will prime my eyes to focus on the negative. I will likely feel tired and heavy as a result. Conversely, if I focus on all that is right in the world, I will shift my perspective to take notice of all of the beauty and goodness that surrounds me. Starting the day with gratitude is like placing a magnifying glass over all of the blessings in your life. The recognition of the goodness that already exists in your life will provide you with energy and zeal for the day.
3. A SHOWER FOR YOUR INSIDES
You may have heard that drinking hot water with lemon in the morning is good for you. This isn’t a rumor. It’s true. Many of us find that a hot shower in the morning not only cleanses the body, but it also calms our minds and enlivens us with fresh energy for the day. Drinking hot water with lemon in the morning is like giving your insides a shower. A wedge of organic lemon in hot water helps to neutralize acidity in the body. It decreases unproductive acids in the gut while increasing productive acids. The right alchemy of acids promotes better digestion and detoxification. Hot water also generates peristalsis, meaning it helps us go to the bathroom. Finally, the ritual of drinking hot water with lemon in the morning is grounding and soothing in the hot becomes a routine. Ayurveda teaches us that giving ourselves routines minimizes the guesswork and unpredictability that leads to anxiety and stress. Positive daily routines like drinking hot water with lemon in the morning are not only good for our bodies, they’re good for our minds.
Moving our bodies is so intrinsic to human life. Rewind thousands of years ago—we humans hunted and gathered our food. We were nomadic. We hauled our belongings from one location to the next, setting up camps and little villages. Rewind just 100 years ago. We worked in the fields. We tended to farm animals and traveled on foot. Heck, rewind just 50 years ago—we mowed our grass with push mowers, we washed our cars—using our muscles to scrub. The activities required to live required us to move.
Nowadays, the modern convenience of automating and outsourcing tasks, compounded with longer hours at a desk, on a computer, or stuck in traffic has caused us to become immobile. They say sitting is the new smoking and I believe it. The leading causes of death in the United States come from diseases that are born of a poor lifestyle. Moving our bodies is one way to reverse the pandemic of needless illness. Sorry if that turned morbid. But it’s true, and it’s important. We can all take our health into our own hands by introducing healthy habits into our mornings.
There are so many ways to move our bodies. We can go for a walk or bike ride. We can do Thai Chi or CrossFit. We can swim, paddleboard, ski, or rock climb. As a yogi, I, of course, have a predilection for unrolling my mat and doing a little practice each morning. You might be thinking, “Yoga sounds great, but I can’t make it to a class in the morning, and I don’t know what to do at home”. There are wonderful applications such as YogaGlo; along with YouTube videos and DVDs you can order off Amazon. You can use the guidance offered to practice at home. But if you’re seeking something simple that you could easily guide yourself through, I offer you this:
1. Stand at the top of the mat.
2. Inhale—Extend your arms up and reach towards the sky.
3. Exhale—bend in half and reach toward the earth. Hang out in a forward fold for as long as it feels good. You can place your feet hip-width apart to release your low back and feel free to bend your knees to it feels comfortable.
4. When you’re ready, step back to plank pose. Hold this for a few breaths to cultivate strength. In plank, you want your shoulders over your wrists and your back in one straight line. Try not to raise your hips, or let your low back dip down. If this is difficult, you can drop your knees. You’ll still be building strength.
5. When you’re ready, lower down to your belly. Place your hands to frame your chest. Spread your fingers wide, and press your hands into the mat to raise your chest up. This is cobra pose. Take a few breaths.
6. Now, keep your hands where they are, but tuck your toes to lift your hips up. You’ll find yourself in downward facing dog. In down-dog, your hands are shoulder-width, and your feet are hip-width apart. Your hips are lifted high towards the ceiling. Your body will look like an inverted “V”, with the hips being the highest point. Here you’re stretching your back and hamstrings. Your strengthening your whole body. Take a few breaths in this pose.
7. When you’re ready, step to the top of the mat. This is an ancient sequence called Surya Namaskar, or the sun salutation. It is a wonderful way to move your body and invite in new and bright energy for the day.
5. LOVE YOURSELF
Hopefully, you’ve found these tools and insights helpful, but I want to leave you with one more thing...love yourself, love yourself, love yourself. Establishing new routines and staying committed to a healthy lifestyle can be tricky. Heck, mornings can be tricky; but so long as we are kind to ourselves through the process, we are doing well. It’s easy in this fast-paced, “More is better," culture to feel like we’re always behind, or never enough. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are always in the right place at the right time, and we are more than enough. Our value and worth are not based on how much we accomplish. Our value lies in our hearts—in the ways we love.
And here’s the key point...we love others the way we love ourselves. Let me repeat that, we love others the way we love ourselves. If I’m only kind towards myself when I’m doing stuff “right”, then I’m likely to be only truly kind to others when they’re doing stuff the way I’d like it done. If I find myself judging someone, it probably because I’ve spent a lot of time getting good at judging myself. If I get irritated with myself, I respond to adversity in my surroundings with irritation. Learning to love is an inside job, and it begins by resolving each morning to practice being kind to ourselves.
There’s the sentiment, “If I talked to my friends the way I talked to myself, I wouldn’t have friends.” This speaks to our internal narrative. Self-love comes from witnessing the narrative that plays out between our ears and re-writing any thought patterns (stories) that are unloving. So yes, please practice gratitude, drink hot water with lemon, and move your body. But if all else fails, just be kind to your beautiful self.
Kristen Schneider is a KiraGrace warrior, author, international yoga teacher, and NAMA board-certified Ayurveda Practitioner. Her books Love Fearlessly: The Soulmate Within, and Your Life is Medicine: Ayurveda for Yogis are on Amazon and Wellblends.com. Kristen currently lives in Tampa, Fl and is in graduate school earning her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.