My friend and fellow teacher Kelly recently gave me a sweet shout out in her great yoga newsletter asking if I would share my morning routine. It’s funny to me that I’m getting known for teaching people how to upgrade their mornings. When I was a kid I remember wanting to throw my pillow at my mom when she would throw open the blinds. In my past relationship I was the sleepy one who needed to be coaxed out of bed with a cup of coffee.
So how did I become a morning person?
First, I started eating an earlier lighter dinner. This is a huge teaching in Ayurveda. Basically we have no digestive power after the sun goes down and if we cram in a bunch of latenight calories then we are going to sleep like crap and wake up feeling like our head is full of sand. This teaching made a lot of sense to me so I decide to make dinner by 6pm a priority, which meant skip the 8pm glass of wine or ice cream for dessert.
Suddenly a 10pm bedtime didn’t feel so hard. I began waking up earlier, ready to live another day. Also, I lost over 20lbs and my eyes got a lot brighter and I stopped feeling anxious all of the time. Eating earlier and lighter is a hard habit to ground in our dinner-friendly culture but give it a try if you want to see real results.
The second thing is that I finally started to face my FOMO. I’ve written about this in other articles but for a long time in my life I squeezed as much into my weekly schedule as possible. On some level, I thought if I said yes to everything that was offered to me I would save myself from feelings of alienation and loneliness. Guess what? It didn’t work. It only put a weird kind of plastic wrap over those feelings and the over-extension left me tired and disconnected.
Now I spent most weekday evenings--the ones when I don’t teach--at home, hanging with Poncho and writing in my journal and reading so many good books. The feelings of loneliness show up sometimes. They tell me that I should be out and that I’m missing out on my real life. I acknowledge their presence but the more I listen to them, the less I believe. I’m alive and vital and need time to rest. So I ask the lonely feelings what kind of tea they want--chamomile or sweet rose? They choose the rose usually and settle into bed next to me. Being ferocious takes a lot of work and when offered they welcome the rest too.
With those two things cleared up, the morning part is easy. This is how it usually goes…
5:45am My alarm goes off if I am not already awake. I stumble to the kitchen, put on a kettle of water and crawl back into bed (the best snooze button ever). Poncho is still asleep.
5:53am Kettle whistles. I jump up to turn it out off. Then I scrape my tongue, do a forward fold, scan my email from my phone, read a page in the awesome daily reader my friend Justin gifted me for 2015. I drink hot water from a quart jar until I am ready to poop.
6:05am I poop and appreciate that my body has learned this habit so nicely.
6:10am Brush teeth, wash face, spritz on rose water, massage jojoba oil into my skin, snort nasaya oil.
6:15am Meditate, feel the big and small of the universe and my place in it (in the present moment). Then breath work--alternate nostril breathing and breath of fire. Poncho is still asleep but starting to rouse himself.
6:30am Exercise! Sometimes yoga where I fire up Spotify, start with sun salutations and then see where it takes me. Sometimes jogging with the dog and then stretching in my kitchen while I make breakfast.
7am Light breakfast while I listen to NPR. Lately I’ve been making myself a hot chocolate with cocoa from my Guatemala trip and turmeric and cayenne and cream and maple syrup. Note, make sure you vitamix your hot chocolate if you want it to be frothy and the most delicious ever.
7:15am Feed Poncho. He’s grateful, I think. Then shower and do a quick massage with sesame oil + whatever essential oils I’m feeling (right now it’s jasmine and vanilla). I put on something cute, blow-dry my hair, and apply a little sparkly eyeshadow.
7:30am Get online and start my work day! I’m usually in a great mood by this point so the exclamation point is warranted.
And that’s it. But please understand this doesn’t happen every day. On Tuesdays I call my mom at 7am and take Poncho for a long walk around the Basilica. On Thursdays I meet my friend Erin for 6:30am yoga and chai tea after. On Fridays I give myself an oil massage, water all of my plants and then head to a meditation group.
But while it’s not perfect I do have a daily and weekly structure to my mornings that gives me energy. I replicate it the best I can when I travel and modify it when I have house guests. When I compromise it too much I notice. I begin losing my sense of control over time and start feeling like I have to prove myself to the world, which drains out more energy.
I’ve been working little by little to have a better morning routine over the past couple of years so please don’t fret if yours is more like Poncho’s or if you just want to throw a shoe at your alarm clock. You can always try eating earlier, lighter dinners for a week and notice how your mornings might get easier. Or play with a little light exercise before breakfast and check in with your mood. Something tells me it'll be better than with no exercise.
Remember that small and consistent changes are effective. Remember that time is more elastic than we think (thanks Einstein!) and that if we take charge of it right away, the quality of our days will shift. Remember that you are worth taking care of from the moment you wake until the minute you fall asleep. If you ever doubt this then just imagine me and Poncho offering you a cup of tea, throwing open the blinds, and nodding our heads with the trueness of it all.
Where you are you stuck in your morning routine? Maybe I can offer some advice. Let me know!