My Morning Routine + Finding a Backdoor into Meditation

Since January I’ve been implementing a new morning routine that’s really been working well for me. It involves meditation, but not in the way that you might think. You see, my take on seated mindfulness meditation has always been: “I know it would work wonders for me…if I could only make a habit of it!” My brain goes so many miles a minute that the discomfort of pausing and attempting to quiet my thoughts often leaves me feeling more antsy than not; and I’ve talked to other high-strung, type-A folks who have had this same experience. But then last fall I began working with a wellness coach who provided me with a set of physical and breathing exercises that I can mix-and-match on a daily basis to support me shifting out of anxiety and into a more upbeat outlook. And guys, I’m telling you, they are so effective.

The exercises, or “practices” as my coach calls them, are drawn from yoga, Qigong, and other Eastern healing modalities. Some I was familiar with from the beginning—for example I start each morning’s session with sun salutations—and others, like the Qigong move “Turtle Drinks from Deep Waters”, felt completely foreign at first. The idea behind all of them, though, is to use movement and breath to release any negative energy I may be holding onto, thus opening a space for positive energy to rush in. Some of the practices put me in a fiery, “Let’s do this!” mood. Others foster a more serene vibe. I mix and match them accordingly, depending on what the day ahead holds. Heck, sometimes I’ll even do a mini session midway through the day if I sense my anxiety mounting. The one thing that remains constant, though, is I that I do the practices for at least twelve minutes; and I always put on music to block external noise and set the scene for me-time.

I don’t manage to do the practices every day, but on mornings when I do complete them, for the rest of the day I’m less irritable and more able to handle stumbling blocks. When I do them for several days in a row, I really start to feel like life is flowing. And when I skip a day, even Ivan notices. (He’s been known to interrupt me during an argument and ask, “Did you do your exercises today?” Usually the answer is no!) Because I’ve experienced so many benefits, the practices have become self-reinforcing. On mornings when I’m dragging my feet to do them, I remind myself that the real magic lies in the consistency. And hey, what’s 12 minutes from my day?!

I’m not sure why this routine has become a habit when seated meditation never has, but I have my theories. For one thing, the practices get me out of my head and into my physical experience of the present moment, which in turns lowers the volume on my racing brain. For another, I can adapt them to suit my needs. If I’m tired, a round of gentle sun salutations is healing and nurturing; if I’m upset, I’ll do them more vigorously. Either way, I can nudge myself to set my timer then explore what feels right and good. Without judgement, and without rules: A rare and precious promise to someone as self-critical as I am. In the end, though, I don’t even need to understand the reasons they work to accept that they do. So I’m keeping at ’em for my own sake, for Ivan’s sake, and for the sake of everyone around me!

P.S. My coach Safyra is AMAZING! Here’s her website to learn more about working with her. She works remotely so you can access her wisdom and guidance from anywhere in the world! Photos: Sarah Elliott.