by Zoe Satara (Clinical Nutritionist & Yoga Instructor)
With a lot of change and uncertainty in the world and life lately, I’ve found it super important to incorporate a morning ritual that I can count on every day. To cultivate mindfulness and reconnect with a calm natural state of being, unreactive to the world around me. These simple practices help to set me up for a more positive and productive day. You can start with small changes at a time and see what works for you!
It can be so easy to press snooze, snuggle up in your blankets, reach for your phone, scroll through social media mindlessly and realise time has passed quite quickly and you then have to rush off to start your daily tasks/work. It happens to me too don’t worry! Imagine what it would be like to take that time for yourself to benefit you greatly. It might mean just setting your alarm half an hour earlier a few times a week to open up a new window of time. Once you wake up, get dressed, make your bed (so it doesn’t call you back in), enjoy a warm cup of tea/ lemon water & maybe even watch the sunrise if you have a lucky viewing point!
Then to get moving, there is a peaceful and tranquil quality about the morning where everything is quiet and still. Going for a walk is a great way to warm up and energise the body, whilst enriching the senses with fresh air, bird song and shared smiles with strangers (from a friendly 1.5m distance). You might like to schedule a day/time throughout the week with a friend or family member which helps keep you both accountable!
I like to sit outside on my balcony to eat breakfast without any distractions; tv, phone, work. Giving yourself time to eat your meals in a relaxed state assists healthy digestion. Focusing on the taste of your food, chewing/ savouring each mouthful. Being mindful when you are eating can also help you make more nourishing decisions about what your feeding your body. Cultivating these short moments of present awareness throughout the day can help as a reset.
If you wake up with racing mind and a million things to do a nice practice to start with is morning pages- writing down an unfiltered stream of consciousness- anything and everything that crosses your mind. These are for your eyes only so no need to worry about what it sounds like. This assists with clearing and calming the mind. You can then follow this with setting intentions and/or tasks for the day. Sometimes visually seeing what needs to be done and writing it down best helps us to create and keep a routine. The morning is a great time to set a positive focus from the start of the day, by writing down a few things that are going well in your life/ that you are grateful has a flow on effect for the day.
I have been practicing yoga weekly for the past 4 years and have found a practice like this so precious. In yoga and meditation by feeling into the body and breath; tuning inward, withdrawing from the external we can tap into this untouched ever-present peace and contentment. Simply by resting our awareness; noticing the space behind the thoughts, the mental turbulence of the mind can quieten down. Creating space for clarity and calm. Through asana practice (postures) we can develop body awareness, ease tension and tightness, gain strength, flexibility and many physiological benefits. Pranayama (breathwork) is the foundation to yoga practice and life. It is your 24/7 accompaniment. A great tool for connecting mind and body into the present moment, increasing energy, reducing symptoms of stress/anxiety. When you allow your diaphragm to move down, as you deepen and lengthen the breath into a soft belly it instantaneously stimulates the relaxation response in the body~ rest and digest. Our bodies are pretty amazing! Tune in and try a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing when you wake up/ throughout the day/ before bed. See how it feels.
If you’d like to try a specific technique that is calming and soothing for the nervous system, please see below!
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
- Purifies the energy channels in our body, supplies our body with a boost of energy.
- Infuses the body with oxygen
- Improves concentration and focus
- Brings balance to the left and right hemispheres of the brain
- Deeply calming- reduces stress and anxiety
- Best practiced in the morning on an empty stomach
- Find a comfortable seat, crossed legged on a cushion or seated on a chair. Grow tall through the spine, softening shoulders back and down away from the ears.
- Start with a few deep diaphragmatic breaths. Inhale belly rise, exhale belly fall.
- To start the practice, rest your right-hand pointer finger and middle finger to the space between the eye brows.
- Close the right nostril gently with the thumb, inhale through the left, counting to 4.
- Close left nostril with right ring finger and exhale out the right nostril counting to 6.
- Inhale through right side for 4, exhale out left for 6 counts. That’s one full round.
- Continue for 5-10 minutes with this pattern. inhale through the left nostril, exhale out the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril, exhale out the left nostril.
- With more experience with pranayama you can try to to lengthen the count of the breath. Inhale for 6, exhale for 8, noticing the gentle pause in between the breaths.
- Allow your breath to return to normal. As you do, notice your state of mind. How are you feeling? What sensations are present in your body? Quietly observe the effects of the practice. Then, gently open your eyes, continuing to focus some of your awareness within. When you feel ready, slowly get up and offer your full presence to the rest of your day.
By implementing small changes slowly and acknowledging areas in life we would like to improve or perhaps know we might feel better health-wise by making some adjustment, you are already actively on the path to creating a routine and lifestyle that best serves to benefit you and your overall health.
Zoe Satara is a Clinical Nutritionist (BHSc Nutrional and Dietetic Medicine) and a certified Yoga Instructor (500hr RYT). She enjoys the simple things in life like cooking wholesome nutritious food, growing her own herbs and vegetables & spending time in the sunshine.