I have never considered myself a “morning person.” In my twenties, I would stay awake until 11pm or midnight and sleep until 8am. I naturally had energy in the evenings and was pretty sluggish in the mornings. If you had told me there would come a time when I would wake very early to meditate and set the tone for the day, I would have said NEVER! When I had children, everything changed — it become clear to me that the only guaranteed quiet time for myself is when my kids were sleeping. Thus began my habit of waking early to ensure quiet practice time for myself. It has become something I look forward to and something I actually need and relish on a daily basis.
Whatever your yoga practice might be, and whatever stage of life you are in, I highly recommend creating a morning meditation ritual. Here’s why:
Many of us lead very busy lives with little opportunity to be still and quiet during the day…we don’t often have a chance to check in with ourselves at all. Yet this is so critical. By being still and quiet, we can pay attention to ourselves on many levels, creating awareness of our needs before we navigate the day. Consider:
-How is your body doing today?
-Where are you stiff, achy or sore?
-What physical areas do you need to be aware of as you move about the day?
-How are you feeling emotionally?
-What deeper feelings arise as you get still?
Set tone and intention
Once you get quiet and have an idea of how you are feeling on multiple levels, you can choose to set the tone for the day. Some mornings, for instance, I may feel very tired with low energy so I set an intention that relates to pacing myself. Or perhaps I am feeling particularly strong and joyful, and I decide to actively share my energy with everyone I encounter during the day. This day-specific self-awareness helps create focus and intention for my day.
Your thoughts are more powerful than you know
Setting aside meditation time each morning allows us time to clear the mind of unhelpful thought patterns. Much of the time, our minds are roaming free, totally unchecked and likely taking us down some very bumpy roads. The problem is we are often totally unaware that this is happening. It is an unconscious pattern. I can quickly ruin my whole day before it has even started just by focusing my mind on something negative and thereby creating a downward spiral. Getting still affords me the ability to clear my mind, become aware of unhelpful thoughts and choose better ones. This is incredibly powerful and can positively drive my whole day.
Make a special space
You may not have the luxury of an extra room in your house which you can devote to meditation or yoga. So, create a special corner somewhere in your home: your bedroom, living room or even dining room. Neatly stack what you need to sit comfortably. Being physically comfortable is important. If you sit on the floor be sure to have enough lift or additional props to gently tilt your pelvis and support your knees so that you are not uncomfortable. You might require a chair for easy sitting or a meditation bench- be sure you can sit tall, without slouching or pain in your legs. If possible, make it a beautiful space — place flowers nearby, create an altar, add decorative items you love.
Set the time and stick to it
The first few days of your morning ritual may be challenging -- but stay the course. Get up at the same time every day. You may want to enjoy coffee or tea before you meditate. But do not get going on too many tasks before you sit. Commit to an exact time you will land on your chair or cushion to build the good habit.
Use a simple technique
There are many meditation styles and techniques. If you have one you know you like and it helps you to get quiet, then use it every day. If you don’t have a specific technique, try this one: "So Ham." It means I Am That and is the sound of your breath. Once you are comfortable and sitting tall, let your body relax and your breath be natural, then begin to silently repeat “So Ham" in your mind. Do this for several minutes. Some days it may be easy, other days your mind may be all over the place -- but stick to it. After a few minutes, check in with how you are feeling from the outside in. Pause to sit with what you discover. Before you finish, set an intention for your day. Keep it simple so you can come back to it throughout the day many times.
This morning ritual will positively guide you on a daily basis. You may not notice gigantic changes instantly, but you will notice gradual and beneficial changes over time. You will come to love your morning meditation ritual...I promise!
About Nikki Estrada
Nikki Estrada has been in the yoga scene for more than twenty years. She lectures, leads workshops, teacher trainings and immersions nationwide. Nikki began her formal training in India, focusing on Ashtanga—a very physically challenging style of yoga. She is currently a senior yoga teacher and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nikki's Vinyasa-based classes are a synthesis of her years of yogic and Ayurveda study and personal experience, with an emphasis on spirituality, intelligent alignment, meditation and living life more joyfully. Her videos can be found on www.yogainternational.com. More information about Nikki can be found at www.nikkiestradayoga.com She resides in northern California with her husband and two daughters.