The magic of mornings

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. ~John C. Maxwell

I’ve been interested to learn about the morning routines of various entrepreneurs from as far-reaching backgrounds as science, fitness, entertainment and politics. All of these high-flying high achievers have a ritual they perform daily that sets them up for a winning day. Many of these morning routines have some common features such as meditation or focus time, movement, journalling and healthy eating.

My well long-standing morning routine has suffered some neglect of late and slipped into a regrettably haphazard, hit and miss, come what may state. I feel the lack of it weighing on me like a heavy wet cloak. Determined to reinstate my winning beginning to each day I have distilled my leanings, reflected on what has worked for me in the past and considered some new ideas.  My intended routine is fairly simple, it’s nothing ground breaking or earth shattering; I don’t have a cryogenic chamber or cold water plunge pool like Tony Robbins (though I could just take a cold shower to boost my immunity though I’m not terribly excited by this water torture technique), nor am I going to be as obsessive as Beethoven was in counting out precisely 60 beans of coffee for his morning java.

First thought:  On waking and before opening my eyes my first thought is always one of thanks and gratitude for another day on this wonderful planet. Test the difference between holding a thought of gratitude and holding one of wishing to sleep longer, being bummed the alarm has gone off, cranky it’s a work day.

Meditation: Always before this step I clean my teeth and wash my face. It just doesn’t feel right to settle into a meditation without having cleansed in some way. I’m not a great meditator but I do enjoy the peace it brings me, even if I spend only 10 minutes in this state.

Journalling: My journalling usually falls out of my meditation practice.  Thoughts and insights that have arisen in that time are written down. Sometimes I draw an tarot or oracle card to provide some guidance or insight for the day ahead or an issue I am facing and journal a stream of consciousness piece that arises from that stimulus.  I have explored Julia Cameron’s morning pages idea and engaged in that regularly for a period of time. Now, though, I am keen to explore some new ideas with regard to my morning journalling that include a focus on gratitude, guidance and intent. Check out the five minute journal.

How do you think you’d feel if you began your day by identifying three things you were grateful for, reading a poignant quote, piece of poetry or spiritual guidance and zeroing in on one thing that must be accomplished in the day? Would you feel more present? Mindful? Full of intent? I’m going to experiment to see what impact it has.

Movement: My steady yoga practice stagnated and died a slow and agonising death when my enthusiasm waned in the absence of a much-needed injection of new inspiration and stimulation. Sadly, my yoga mat languishes in a dusty corner.  I wish to reclaim my morning movement regime, my body is demanding it and my mind needs it, so I am going to experiment with a combination of yoga, stretching and brain gym.  Rather than leap back into a full on hour  and a half Ashtanga yoga practice I will commit to a half hour session of whatever postures feel right combined with some strength training exercises such as basic push ups, sit ups, squats and isometrics, along with some brain gym movements.

I avidly used Braingym routines many years ago in classrooms to increase student performance and focus.  I’ve begun using these again recently and I am keen to pull out my books and charts to refresh my memory to contribute to a vital and healthy morning practice.

How long will all this take? That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? How early does one begin, how much time should one commit to a morning routine? I don’t believe there are any rules. People’s morning routines vary in length from 10 minutes to 90 minutes and longer.  When rethinking my morning routines I allocated 20 minutes to meditation and journalling and 40 minutes to an hour for movement. An hour forty sounds like a lot of time before heading off to work at 7am when showering, dressing and eating breakfast all need to be achieved before walking out the door. Being an early riser helps but a more realistic estimation may be 10 minutes, give or take a few, allocated to the first two areas and then 30 minutes for movement. That’s definitely achievable while allowing room for expansion as the need and desire arise.  To be honest, I don’t think it matters how much time you commit, and I don’t believe you need to be rigid in following each step faithfully each day. Joy in life comes from being flexible and open to spontaneous redirection. Five focused minutes of setting your intention for the day is better than rolling out of bed, eyes half closed, mindlessly and robotically beginning the daily grind.

How might a more focused start to your day change your life?

 

Pilates. A pushover? Think again!

If it doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t change you.

Fred DeVito

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

I attended my first ever Pilates class this week thinking it would be a walk in the park compared to an Ashtanga yoga class. Wasn’t I in for a shock!

I have a regular yoga practice and while I attend a weekly two hour class my home practice isn’t as conscientiously consistent as I’d like it to be. I rarely practice for two hours at home, instead carving out between thirty minutes and an hour most days. So I’m not exactly a yoga master but all things considered I thought a Pilates class would not be as demanding as my yoga practice. Well, I was wrong about that!

Talk about being floored. Almost immediately my bravado and smugness were shattered. I was surprised by how intense some moves were and how strong one’s core had to be to hold others. I was confused by the breathing, which appeared to be opposite to what I’m used to in yoga, and I wasn’t prepared for the weird sensation and lack of coordination when, lying face down, I was asked to move my leg in a circle. My brain and limb seemed disconnected.

Not wanting to admit defeat I soldiered on and my ‘grin and bear it don’t let anyone know how hard you are finding this’ attitude dissolved into a pleasant challenge. Once I settled into being out of my comfort zone I began to really enjoy the demands of the class as well as the mental and physical hurdles being presented. Before I knew it the class was over, I was walking out the door, thanking the instructor and telling her I’d see her next week.

Yes, I’m going back for more.

My greatest hope is that Fred DeVito is right, I expect to see some fantastic changes in my resilience, my resolve and my abs as a result of this new Pilates challenge I’ve undertaken.

What small challenge are you willing to undertake to see changes in your life?

Shannyn