A Yogi’s Morning Practice: 10 Steps to Align with the Cycles of Nature
There is, at the core of everything everywhere, an all-pervading essence. It is the source of life. As a product of that cosmic force, we have within us an inborn flow, an intelligence that can support, assist and guide us in life. When we resist or divert that flow, the result is separation, anxiety, loneliness and disease.
Yoga is a science of seeking out, locating and attuning to the flow of that essence within each of us. On the yoga mat, as we align our physical, mental and emotional bodies, we bring our dissonant rhythms into harmony. We become empowered to choose a more life-supporting posture on the mat.
But what of our posture in life, after we leave the mat? What of our relationships with one another and with the world? Is there a way to further that quality of alignment into every corner of our existence?
We find such a way in Ayurveda, yoga’s ancient sister science, which is devoted to mind-body health on all levels. According to Ayurveda, the root cause of all human suffering is praghya-aparadh—the mistake of the intellect.
The mistake is a belief in separation. Fundamentally it is a kind of amnesia—a “forgetting,” on a cellular level, about our connection with the whole.
The foundational ayurvedic antidote for praghya-aparadh is a set of practices called dinacharya, or daily routine.
According to the Ayurvedic Institute, dinacharya “helps bring a person’s biological clock into alignment with the cycles of nature, aids digestion, absorption and assimilation, and generates self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness, and longevity.”
The following simple morning routine is designed to align the body/mind with circadian rhythms of nature. For successful practice, avoid electronic screens until finished. Start off easily with what works for you. Gradually implement more of the practices as you feel ready and inspired to do so. Commit to a daily practice.
Aligning with the Cycles of Nature
All life forms are subject to the daily cycle of light and dark as the sun rises and sets.
A major shift in the environment happens every day about 90 minutes before sunrise. The natural world begins to awaken; a wave of freshness spreads out; other-than-human species awaken, shake off the residue of sleep and prepare for the doings of the day.
A second, more powerful upsurge comes about a half hour before sunrise. This energy pulsation has important implications for harmonizing the individual with the cycles of nature and marks the start of our morning dinacharya.
The following simple morning routine is designed to align your body/mind with the circadian rhythms of nature. I recommend that you avoid using your cell phone until after you complete it. Start off easily with what works for you. Gradually implement more of the practices as you feel ready and inspired to do so. And commit to a daily practice.
Your Morning Practice
- Rise with the sun. The 90-minute period before sunrise is called Brahma muhurta—the time of Brahma. It is a time that qualities of sattva (harmony, balance and clarity) bring freshness to the atmosphere, the body and the mind. Ride the wave of clarity by starting your day at least a half hour before sunrise. Set the tone for your day with this important first step.
- Bring awareness to your breathing. Upon waking, place your right hand on your belly and connect with your senses. Feel how your body moves with the breath. You may feel a pulse with your hand on the belly or you might find a pulse point on the wrist or neck. It’s a way to begin to get centered, to soothe any momentary agitation if waking up was too abrupt.You could also briefly massage your head, temples, face and body with long strokes along the bones and circular strokes at the joints.
- Thank the Universe for another day. For example, you could say, “Thank you for this day, for this opportunity to bring my gifts to the world. May love, peace and clarity of purpose guide my life today.” Make it a habit.
- Go to the bathroom. Empty your bladder and bowels, if it’s comfortable. Don’t strain.
- Wash. Wash your hands and face, rinse your mouth and clean your tongue. There’s a handy little tool called a tongue scraper. It’s used to remove ama, an ayurvedic term for the indigestible crud that appears on the surface of the tongue each morning. If we don't clean it off, it gets re-absorbed but never digested. Ewww. Tongue scrapers are available at natural food stores.
- Take water. Drink a glass of room-temperature or hot water. Avoid caffeine during morning dinacharya.
- Do some light yoga. Even ten or 15 minutes of sun salutations can make a difference in the quality of your day. Or take a walk while there’s still morning freshness in the air.
- Take a shower. Start with warm water and finish with cold water. Why? It improves circulation, skin and hair, immunity and even emotional resilience. And if you alternate cold and hot, it drains the lymphatic system and wakes you up in the morning. Oddly, it also helps you go to sleep at night. Go for it!
- Meditate. Do your meditation practice. If desired, start with alternate nostril breathing.
- Set your intention. A great time to set the trajectory for your day is right after you meditate. Your intention is different from your to-do list. First, resolve to do something to uplift at least two people during the day. It could happen randomly. Even better, if you know ahead of time who it will be, tell them what you like, love or appreciate about them. Uplift their spirit. Uplifting someone stimulates the flow of prana in and through you and the recipient. They, and you, will feel the benefit.
These crucial minutes will bring inner and outer radiance to your life. Try it and see. Love yourself enough to commit to 40 consecutive mornings of dinacharya.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is like a ring upon the door.
Eventually, the joy inside will open a window
and look out to see who’s there. —Rumi
Founder of Peachtree Yoga, Graham Fowler teaches Anubhava meditation. Reach him at [email protected].