The Healing Power of a Morning Routine
"You'll 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 really excited to share my thoughts on this subject—creating a morning routine. Establishing a morning practice is something I help clients create when they work with me on their private healing retreat. It can be deeply transformative and powerful. In this post, I’m going to share my own experience of this and how you can start to incorporate it into your own day-to-day.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve had periods of time when I had attempted to create some sort of morning ritual or routine. Looking back, I can remember feeling really good from having those practices but not fully understanding why. During those times, a lot of transformational shifts and changes occurred but I never equated it to having a morning routine.
Often times, those routines would slip away because I didn’t have a deep enough understanding of tapas. In the yogic teachings, tapas, literally meaning “heat”, is one of the five Niyamas, which are practices that help us cultivate a deeper sense of contentment and a stronger relationship with ourselves. Tapas is essentially self-discipline. Tapas is the calling within, that can allow us to release old habits and patterns that are no longer serving us. For example, when my alarm wakes me at 5:30 a.m. to go meditate, some days (ok, maybe a lot of days) I think to myself, “I just need to sleep one more hour...” But then there’s this little voice deep down saying “Get up. Go meditate. This is helping me become a better version of myself” and I get up and do it. And guess what—I always feel better afterwards.
This is tapas. Listening to that deeper, intuitive voice, despite the heat and tension we may feel in that decision-making. Following that intuition and knowing this is serving our highest-selves. Over time, practicing tapas cultivates transformation and change—revealing our inner radiance. We can practice this in the way we eat, exercise, meditate, and even with the most seemingly simple tasks like washing the dishes. I’ve certainly experienced these transformative effects since I’ve established my own morning routine.
I picked this practice up again when I was recently at my yoga teacher training at Blue Osa in October, when we were required to wake up every morning at 4 am, drink a cup of hot water, use a neti pot, journal, practice breath-work, relaxation and meditate. When starting this practice, I had mornings when it took everything in me to do it. But in those moments I used tapas—the deeper knowing that this was serving me in a positive, healthy way. Even if I couldn’t see the effects immediately. I had to trust it was creating change. I took this morning practice back home with me and have maintained it since.
Then, very recently, my dear friend Robin shared with me the work of Dr. Claudia Welch, and I discovered her e-book on dinacaryā—the Ayurvedic concept of daily routine, which can improve our overall health and wellbeing (Welch, 2016). Dr. Welch beautifully describes, in-depth, the meaning of dinacaryā and how it works on a macro and microcosmic level. In this post, I’ll specifically focus on dinacaryā in relation to the morning routine.
In the context of dinacaryā, when we look at the hours of our day as if it were the life-cycle, morning (between 3 a.m. and dawn) would be representative of the time of birth and early childhood (Welch, 2016). How we utilize this time of day, can impact how the rest of our day unfolds. Much like how our experiences and events in early-childhood impacts our adulthood, positively or negatively. We can relate this to the practice of a morning routine. Creating a morning routine during these hours can create steadiness throughout the rest of our day.
Yes, the hours of 3 a.m. to dawn is early. Like, really early. However, in the Ayurvedic teachings and even in other spiritual teachings like Christianity, it is said that these early morning hours are most ideal for meditation, reflection and prayer (Welch, 2016). This time of day is dark, quiet, and peaceful—a time where we may feel less inclined to feel like we’re missing out on any daily activities (Welch, 2016). Early morning time also holds sattvic qualities—feelings of lightness and clarity.
Creating a morning practice during this time of day can truly be healing and help us to re-wire old patterns and habits. Think of it as an act of self-love. Which brings up another significant point that Dr. Welch makes—if your morning practice doesn’t come from a place of love then it will be difficult to maintain (Welch, 2016). Make it enjoyable. Remember tapas.
So, what can you do during this morning ritual? For everyone, it will look different. For me, I take about an hour each morning--use the restroom, brush my teeth, use my neti pot, drink a cup of hot water with lemon, do some concentration techniques, breath work and meditate. Think about tasks around cleansing and mindfulness. I try to incorporate each of these practices every morning. Most mornings, I can do it. Since I’m human, of course I have days I may wake up late and have to move some things around or eliminate a portion. Some days I journal, some days I don’t. Sometimes, it’s important to find the balance between discipline and flexibility.
With that said, I think it’s very important to have a clear intention of what you will do, what it will look like and try to stick to that. But then also don’t beat yourself up when you have off-days. Remember, it’s a practice. Try again the next day and do better. Think of tapas. Think of the deeper importance behind this routine.
Here are my final thoughts on dinacaryā and having a morning routine: I recently traveled home for the holiday and had the intention of keeping some rendition of my morning practice while I was away. Well, for a lot of reasons, that didn’t happen. And I can really feel it, deeply. I found myself feeling much less grounded and not as connected with myself in a loving way. I could have spent a lot of time beating myself up for what I could have done differently or making a list of all of the “shoulds”—but I’m not. That doesn’t really serve me. I can recognize what changes I could have made, let it go and move forward.
If anything that experience has made me even more profoundly aware of how important and transformative this morning practice has been for me and my healing. It majorly impacts my entire day. So my lesson has been to keep it up, no matter what.
This is self-love and self-care. Taking time to take care of yourself and cultivate long-lasting change requires courage and tapas.
Welch, C., Dr. (2016). Dinacaryā: Changing Lives Through Daily Living(3rd ed.).