When I first began practising yoga many moons ago I used to marvel at the energy of the teacher: their sustained patience and sense of calm, their ability to entangle (or more aptly perhaps, untangle) us in an atmosphere of judgemental peace. They would float into the classroom – glowing, smiling and ethereal. What species were these patient people? What was their magical secret?
Years later I now know that there is no magical secret, no otherworldly blessing bestowed upon those who teach yoga. It’s all about routine: continuing to practice small acts of compassion, self-love and feed the sub-conscious positive thoughts while it is at its most malleable during the morning. Yoga encourages us to pay attention to our bodies, to express gratitude and to harness our own power so that it radiates through every inch of us. You may do these things off the mat, but the real ‘trick’ (if we can really call it so) is to practice off the mat too.
Cultivate Your Own Glow
Here are seven things a yoga teacher does before 10am that you might want to try out for yourself!
1. Express Gratitude
It is important to feel grateful for what we have and what we are going to have. We may not be exactly where we want in our lives, in our practice or in our own minds but we can shift the focus onto what we do have. Many teachers I know keep a gratitude journal, whether the previous day has been filled with blessings or they struggle to find one positive thing, they sit down each morning and write these out.
When you actively express gratitude, either by writing it down or saying it out loud to yourself, your brain acknowledges it in a much more powerful way. It is easy to simply glide past the things that go our way, or the good things in our lives, because we are focusing on the negative. Taking some time to be grateful for what you had yesterday and what you are going to have today is a powerful way of setting your mind up for the day.
A lot of the time we may find our head is a cacophony of thoughts; of ‘to-do’s’, of ‘should I’s’, of ‘could I’s’ and by the time we get to the mat it takes a while to quieten it down. Meditating can be life-changing if practised often: it quietens the mind, helps us anchor ourselves to the moment, to calm the nervous system and put things in perspective. Focusing on your breath for just 5 – 10 minutes in the morning will have a powerful impact on your day. Of course, meditating for an hour is even better, but don’t be perturbed if you don’t have such time.
It is amazing the changes you can make with just five minutes. There are studies that show that meditation actually physically changes the brain, helps us to see colours more intensely and appreciate music on a deeper level. It will also help you enhance your practice and use your mind to guide you where you need to go, instead of cloud the path.
3. Visualisation Journal
We visualise every day whether we know it or not: daydreaming in a meeting, imagining how our presentation is going to go at work while on the bus or anticipating what will happen at a social event. Our minds can’t tell the difference between what we are visualising and real life: when you visualise something bad happen, you emit a frequency: you feel sad or anxious and you draw these emotions into your day.
Taking some time in the morning to sit and visualise or write out the day you would most like to have sets up a positive frequency for the day. If we always think about the best case scenario and believe this, our day will change. Visualise how you want the meeting to go, visualise deepening your chair pose tonight at class: visualise all the aspects of your day that are important and see how this changes your outlook.
Waking up the body is just as important as waking up the mind. Stretching in the morning gets the blood pumping, wakes up muscles and releases any tension from the day before. Just ten minutes of stretches or a few sun salutations helps to eliminate joint pain and muscle aches, increases blood flow to the brain which in turns sharpens your concentration and helps to energise you. Any type of morning exercise is great but stretching in particular keeps you calm and is easy to incorporate time and space wise.
See Also: What Makes An Ashtanga Sun Salutation?
5. Have an Herbal Tea
Shortly after I started practising yoga I cut out coffee. It felt like it was incongruous to the journey I was on, instead I replaced it with lemon slices, fresh ginger and mint leaves in the morning. This may not be right for everyone (and I know yoga teachers who love a freshly brewed cup of coffee as much as the next person) but before your coffee tomorrow morning, try having herbal tea instead.
Lemon and ginger helps revitalise you and wake up your digestive system, as well as helping to rehydrate you, while coffee dehydrates you. Peppermint tea is also great and there are lots of brands of tea specifically designed for yogis with delicious and nourishing blends. At the moment I particularly love YogiTea’s ‘Breathe Deep’ blend, a mix of eucalyptus, basil and thyme.
6. Eat Breakfast
Eating a good breakfast is important. Its always been my favourite meal but I know lots of people who skip it – whether that’s because they want an extra few minutes in bed or that they just can’t process food when they wake up. Yet breakfast is the most important meal of the day: it helps regulate our blood sugars after sleep, helps us concentrate and just gives us that bit of me-time in the morning that we need and, more importantly, deserve. My favourite breakfasts are oats with almond milk, a dash of cinnamon and berries or avocado and seeds on gluten-free millet bread. If you don’t have time to cook then a smoothie or juice will also provide you with some nourishment and refresh you for the day.
Most, if not all, yoga teachers I know practice yoga in the morning. Yoga teaching is a refreshing ‘job’ in many ways because you do it for the love of yoga: you want to help others bring some peace to their lives, help them feel great in their minds and bodies and become the best they can be. So practising yoga in the morning makes sense – you wouldn’t do sums in the morning if you were an accountant because it wouldn’t benefit you, but yoga does – it flushes out our system, calms our nervous system while stimulating our blood circulation and it opens us to the present moment. My yoga teacher once told me, “if you love chocolate cake, you aren’t only going to limit yourself to having it when you host a party.”
Change your morning routine and see if your day changes. What do you do before 10am?