It's time. After having been thoroughly distracted for a while it's time for me to recommit to my morning practice. There was a point in time when I was really good about waking up and meditating first thing every morning. But it's been a while since I've consistently taken the time to meditate before starting my day. And I've missed the sense of groundedness and deep connection it brought me. So last week I re-committed. And just for fun, I decided to experiment by adding in sun salutations before sitting down to meditate. I've never had a consistent sun salutation practice but the idea has always been appealing. I mean, you've got to admit, there is something beautiful about the idea of waking up and greeting the sun each morning.
My goal was to do at least 10 minutes of sun salutations, followed by at least 20 minutes of seated meditation every single morning. I need to start small when setting goals. So I started off with what for me is the bare minimum. Once on my mat I was more than welcome to move for longer than 10 minutes or to sit for longer than 20 minutes, but 10 and 20 were the minimum. Below is a brief summary of what this experiment looked like.
Day 1, 2, and 3:
I was DIGGING IT!! After practicing I was so tuned in and connected. As I moved through my sun salutations I invited in the traditional attitude of reverence and appreciation for Mother Earth - for her nourishment, for the light of the sun, for the health of my body, and for the reflection of the sun's light within me. Adding in the extra bit of intention deepened both my experience of the sun salutations and my meditation after.
One of the things I enjoyed most about adding in the sun salutation is that the moving meditation practice stilled my mind and made it possible to get deeper into seated meditation. I used to make myself sit for at least 30 minutes because it was only in the last 10 minutes that my mind got quiet. I've found that adding in the sun salutations is a way for me to optimize these 30 minutes. I get to enjoy a longer stretch of time in which my mind is still, while at the same time gently warming up my body for the day. The sun salutations are also a great way for me to quickly check in with my body. Is my energy high or low? Do I need more strenuous exercise today or do I need gentle movement?
Despite all good intentions I found myself running late .... It sometimes surprises me how even small routine changes can be hard to follow through with. I woke up about 45 minutes before needing to leave the house (what I usually do when I'm teaching first thing), which in retrospect was clearly not enough time. In order to effectively add in this new routine I needed to set my alarm for earlier than usual, but it's hard to get myself to think about doing that. I'm already waking up at 5am.... So in an effort to stay committed to at least some sort of a morning practice I simply meditated for 15 minutes. Better than nothing...
Day 5 and 6:
On both these days I woke up super inspired or energetic. I wanted to get out of the house, move, and then start tackling various projects I needed to get done. The last thing I wanted to do was to take the time to move slowly and to sit. But I reminded myself that I really do benefit from centering myself before the day begins, so I stuck with it. 10 minutes of sun salutations, 20 minutes of mediation. And of course, it was worth it. It brought me presence and allowed me to be connected to the students I taught, to be more creative, and to be more focused throughout the day.
I can force this developing into a lasting routine (at least for the time being). I woke up craving the new ritual I had developed over the past week. Wake up, sun salutations, meditation, tea, then the day begins. Not a bad way to start.
Below are a tips and few fun things to play with if you are looking to start a similar morning practice:
HOW TO TIME YOURSELF
(assuming you are doing 10 minutes of sun salutations and 20 minutes of meditation)
Option 1: Set an alarm for 10 minutes and practice your sun salutations for this length of time. Then reset your alarm for 20 minutes and meditate until it goes off.
Option 2: Set an alarm for 30 minutes. This allows you to split the time between sun salutations and meditation according to what you need that day. I often found I didn't know how much I wanted to move until I was in it so I preferred this method. This gave me the freedom to continue to move without being disturbed and to sit whenever it felt right. Having the timer there also gave me the freedom of not having to worry about continuously checking the clock. Like most people, I have limited time in the morning to myself and I usually only have 30 minutes or so to practice (if I get that much). The timer allowed to to practice in peace and prevented me from hanging out on my mat for too long.
Option 3: Use music. Create mini playlists that last about 30 minutes. You can even choose a first song that is about 10 minutes long so that when it ends you know you have completed your sun salutations. This is my personal favorite method. Below is a list of songs that work well for this. The first song is about 10 minutes.
- Rarified by East Forest
- Cosmic Awareness by Out of Gravity
- Chakra Balancing - Merging All by Dean Evenson
- Song of the Morning by Jeremy Arndt
- Hang Drum - By Relaxation J. Trainer
- Gaia Nector by Masood Ali Khan
PLAYING WITH MANTRAS
If you are someone that likes the use of mantras or just wants to experiment with using them the Gayatri Mantra is a great one to use during a morning practice. You can either find a song that repeats this mantra over and over again (ex Gayatri Mantra - Shimshai by Jaya Bhagavad) or just repeat it to yourself over and over again in your head while practicing and meditating
Om Bhur Bhuvaḥ Swaḥ
Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
Dhiyo Yonaḥ Prachodayāt
We meditate on that most adored Supreme Lord, the creator, whose effulgence (divine light) illumines all realms (physical, mental and spiritual). May this divine light illumine our intellect.
From Sathya Sai International Organization
The eternal, earth, air, heaven
That glory, that resplendence of the sun
May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
May the sun inspire our minds.
Form Yoga Journal translation by Douglas Brooks
DIFFERENT SUN SALUTATIONS
Sun Salutation A
Sun Salutation B
Just feel into your body and move in whatever way it wants to move. Maybe it's fast, maybe it's slow, Maybe there is balancing involved, maybe you don't stand up and stay seated or on the knees instead... Make the practice yours.