Get Your Morning Yoga On
I once asked my blog readers (at KimberlyWilson.com) for feedback on how they start their days. I was awed by the response. For years I’ve leapt out of bed and headed straight to the computer. Yep, even on the weekends. Even though each morning after logging on I contemplated crawling back under my covers for more shut-eye, I was inspired by the bliss-filled morning rituals that readers shared with me. Thanks to their ideas, I’ve made some great strides in launching tranquility at the start of the day. Let me give you some examples:
Get your yoga on. Start the day with yummy stretches, such as sun salutations.
Enjoy a moment of silence. Set your kitchen timer (or download a free meditation chime for your Mac) for ten minutes and just be.
Savor getting ready. Rather than rushing out the door, leave ample time for primping, sitting down for breakfast, and writing in your journal.
Pack your lunch (and snacks). Take this time to ensure that you’re feeling healthy and fulfilled throughout the day.
Stimulate your mind. Let some thought-provoking headlines or a favorite inspirational book percolate through your mind.
The key is to set your intention for your day. Let your start be serene, strategic, and therapeutic to your spirit – not rushed, chaotic, and stressful. This will help set the tone for what will unfold and ground you — much different than rushing out the door with wet hair, juggling your breakfast and espresso.
Adopt Eight Yogic Steps for Mindful Mavens
As a yoga teacher and practitioner for over a decade, I love to refer back to the basic tenets of yoga, outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Indian sacred text the Yoga Sutras, to guide my spiritual side. My favorite version of the Sutras is the first translation by a woman, Nischala Joy Devi, called The Secret Power of Yoga. It’s a great read if you’d like to learn more about these ancient teachings from a fellow femme’s perspective.
We all need some sort of road map to help us stay the course and make minor adjustments along the way. The following steps, outlined in the Sutras as the eight limbs of yoga, are great everyday guidelines for mindful bliss.
Yamas. These five guidelines give insights into how to act toward others, and they promote nonviolence, truthfulness, moderation, greedlessness, and not stealing. An example of nonviolence is to make lifestyle choices that lessen your carbon footprint, such as riding your bike to work, eating fruits and vegetables in season, carrying a reusable bag, and turning off the water while brushing your teeth.
Niyamas. These five guidelines focus on how you treat yourself, and they promote purity, contentment, austerity, self-study, and letting go. An example of self-study involves focusing within to recognize patterns, review expectations, and practice acceptance of what is. By doing so, you become able to better understand who you are and why you react the way you do, and to accept situations beyond your control. Let go of that dirty word should.
Asanas (poses). Practicing poses, such as down dog, cobra, and lion’s pose, is what, in the West, we commonly refer to as yoga. The physical practice of yoga is a great way to still the mind and awaken the body. Use your body as a catalyst for change by observing all the sensations that transpire in challenging poses or challenging situations in life. Our bodies hold keys for amazing transformations.
Pranayama (breath work). Breath control is a powerful tool for use during our daily lives. Notice how your breath becomes shallow when you’re on deadline or waiting in a long line. Take deep, full breaths to induce a calming effect and cleanse and balance your nervous system. Take ten deep, full breaths before heading in for your annual review, and notice the powerful effect. My three favorite prana practices are unveiled in the upcoming section on breath.
Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses). This concept encourages us to avoid reacting to everything around us. Picture yourself calm, collected, and compassionate in the middle of a mall on the day after Thanksgiving. Embrace this step in chaotic situations such as family reunions, a fire alarm, or an overreacting colleague. Release all the distractions around you to become fully present with what is happening.
Dharana (concentration). This is the ability to be completely in the moment and focused on only one thing. Use mantras, breath, images, or even candles to help bring yourself into focus. When interacting with others, practice being fully present with them — no texting, no watching who else may be walking by, no checking your watch. The Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us: “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” Help others bloom.
Dhyana (meditation). Turn inward, release the mind, and focus on just being in that moment. Much easier said than done, but it is a critical addition to the physical practice of yoga. It is said that yogis first began practicing their fabulous yoga poses to prepare their bodies for meditation. During your busy day, secure at least five minutes to sit still, focus on your breath, and let go of outside distractions. This assists you with being more proactive and less reactive in daily life. Very helpful — especially if you tend to be a drama queen!
Samadhi (true bliss). This is the experience of wholeness when you are in the flow and feeling connected to all. Think inner peace, bliss, and overall freedom. This step is considered the ultimate experience, where you have control over distractions. Reflect on times when you feel completely in the zone, when you lose track of time and feel perfectly at peace.