Some days, I wake to complete chaos. The baby is ravenously hungry (the 5 overnight feedings did nothing to squelch her insatiable hunger); my 3-year old is demanding candy canes for breakfast (in May, where does one locate seasonal candy in May); the dog is having a nervous breakdown; my husband lost his keys; no one has matching socks and the cat has vomited in the 3-year old's shoes.
Love them or hate them, mornings are something you can't avoid. There is not much you can do to stop the chaos of a family. But there are loads of things you can do to rise above the drama and find a blissful beginning.
The ancients believed that the morning is a magical time. During the predawn hours, the world is quiet. This is the best time to meditate, to practice yoga, to reconnect with your inner voice and clear your head to begin the day.
Some of my best morning memories are during these early, quiet hours. I remember waking early at my home in Vermont and just sitting on the porch listening to a babbling creek and knitting. This summer, while on vacation in Ocean City, I woke up while everyone was sleeping and took my yoga mat to the deck. I had the sweetest practice while the sun rose and the air warmed.
So you aren't a morning person, yet. But you can be! Here is my simple formula for a blissful beginning!
1. Dedicate yourself to a mindful morning
Make having a good morning your priority. We've all had mornings when we've overslept, wasted time or were just dysfunctional--the rest of the day feels like we are just playing catch-up. Make these mornings a rare occasion--not the norm.
A morning can only be as good as the night before. Prepare the night before-lay out clothes, find matching socks, check the weather, pack school bags, find your keys. Avoid caffeine in the evening. Get 8 hours worth of sleep--do your best to rest--know it is money in the budget for the morning!
In the morning, avoid distraction. Be mindful. In my house, there is no TV or computer or cell phone until we are ready to leave. It can all wait until it is time to go. Don't let the stress of outside influences invade your blissful beginning or distract you from the moment. Take this mindful attitude throughout the rest of your morning.
2. Make a morning budget--one you can live with!
If you are like me, you have more than just yourself to care for in the morning. I budget 30 minutes per child, 45 minutes for myself and another 15 minutes of slush time (for last minute hysteria, disaster, and things out of my control) If I have to be out the door at 8:30, to have an ideal morning I need to be awake at 6:30. I can get by in less time, but the sheer emotional stress of rushing and the pressure just puts me in a tailspin and sets the tone for a rushed, hurried day.
I always try my best to get up first--before the children and the dog. By being honest with time budgeting, you can set yourself for a productive day.
3. Let the morning greet you.
Alarm clocks (or dogs, screaming children and construction) are realities of our fast paced lives. But, we don't have to wake up to an irritating voice on a talk radio station or some blaring music on the radio. I used to specifically wake up to most irritating radio station I could find--because I dreaded the morning. I literally made myself uncomfortable enough that I had to leave my bed.
A happier, healthier way is to let the morning greet you. Pick a soothing radio station, choose a CD of your favorite tunes or invest in an alarm clock (HoMedics makes a great one) that has the option of nature sounds as a wake-up call. Whatever you choose, make it a warm, welcoming greeting.
4. Be gentle with yourself.
Part of my morning budget includes 5 minutes of gentle stretching. Before your head even lifts off the pillow, gently wiggle your toes, your finger tips, do ankle and wrist circles, and reconnect with your breath. Make your inhales long and deep, filling your entire torso. Exhale fully and completely. Inhale peace. Exhale tension. After a few rounds, you've meditated! Return to your natural breath and bring your awareness to sitting up, to waking up. Be mindful just of the moment. Forget your shower, forget packing lunches, just be present.
Then gently slowly, bring yourself up to a seated position. Stretch whatever feels tight. Then rise, mindfully waking and blissfully enjoying the quiet of the morning.
5. Sip some ginger.
Hold off on the coffee--instead pour boiling filtered water over diced or grate some ginger root and have a cup of fresh ginger tea. Fresh ginger root is inexpensive, invigorating and energizing. Delight in the warm spice of the tea--smell it, taste it, enjoy it. Ginger tea leaves you feeling refreshed and awake without the side effects of caffeine or the sugar of energy drinks. It gently wakes up your digestive system.
Ginger is also amazing for pregnancy--it is a fantastic morning sickness fix and a great alternative to coffee.
Don't like ginger? Boil hot water and pour over some organic lemon slices. Lemon, another natural refresher, helps wake up your liver and entire digestive system.
6. Wake up your skin
Treat yourself to this simple spa treatment before you hop in the shower: using a loofah or natural bristled brush, start on the bottom of your feet and brush yourself in circular motions moving toward your heart. Continue up your legs, your abdomen and your chest. Start on each of your palms and brush up through your arms, always towards the heart. By doing this dry exfoliation you wake up your skin, stimulate your circulation and remove dead skin cells. Then hop in the shower. Be sure to follow with a sesame oil massage or your lotion.
7. Sit down for breakfast.
One of the reasons for the morning budget is to make sure you have enough time for breakfast. Like all your meals, breakfast should be plant based. Have some hearty grain bread or cereal. Have a nice sized portion of fruit. Pick from what is in season and local. Have yogurt or a hard boiled egg for some protein. Avoid fruit juice--opt for vegetable or spring water instead. Fruit juice is fruit without the fiber--your body absorbs the sugars rapidly, leading to fluctuations in the level of sugar in your body, which can affect your appetite, mood and energy.
The most important thing is to sit. Take a moment to be thankful for your food. Enjoy it. And if you want, have your coffee or tea. Just one cup.
8. Go outside.
Take a couple minutes to be outside every morning--whether it is January or June--fresh air is a natural detox to our system. Take a walk, take a run or simply sip your ginger tea outside. You can do this at any point in the morning--alone or with your family. If you can, walk to work or your kids to school. Use this time to focus on the quiet of the morning. Listen to your own breathe. Be thoughtful, present and mindful. Don't worry about the destination--you will get there.
Mindfulness is infectious. You have a mindful morning and then suddenly your entire day is like a meditation--you are focused and flexible; driven and relaxed; fluid and at peace. You are all things, all at once. Such is yoga. Wishing you many, many blissful beginnings.