(Work in Progress)
This is not exactly a write up on how you should start your day or what you should do (not like instructions are what I mean – because eh, I’m neither a doctor nor a yogi). Rather I want to emphasize two things: the power of a schedule and the benefits of waking up an hour early to work on yourself, and only that.
A friend of mine has a seemingly lovely life. She has a great family, a great job and hobbies to occupy her free time. Yet, every time we talked she complained of being unfulfilled. She wasn’t happy. Something was missing. What? I asked her. She couldn’t say. She woke up with headaches and body-aches, was ill-tempered most of the time and wasn’t enjoying going from day to day. Maybe you are not doing enough for yourself? I said. Maybe YOU are feeling a tad neglected? (I was just shooting about in the dark and trying to be empathetic by saying the right things, but I guessed her body was acting out something… kind of like she’d taken it for granted, forgotten it was there…)
You have to feel good to be able to pass on the feelings to others, right?
So, together we thought to take up a challenge to focus on ourselves, to make tiny improvements in our lives, by following age-old, sage-old wisdom. And you know what… it’s working. It’s been six months, and we’ve seen definite results in our overall well-being. Our minds are calmer, we are happier and laugh a lot, and we have learned to prioritize stuff i.e. know what’s important and focus on only that. As a result, we are learning to be grateful for what we’ve been given and peaceful because we’ve been given enough.
Try this: For 1 month, wake up an hour earlier than your usual hour. Just for a month – 30 days – (I’m assuming you will miss not doing it after that, as we did). Get a calendar and painstakingly tick off the days. Wake up when the rest of the household is sleeping and when you won’t be distracted. Sleep an hour earlier if possible, because good, long sleep is essential (Thank God, no one’s debunked that yet). Avoid alcohol and eat early so you can wake up on an empty stomach. Don’t worry; as you practice, this becomes voluntary, almost mechanical. You’d start to love the feeling of waking up to do something great and beneficial for yourself.
Now after you wake up, for that one hour, do the following five things. (A note of caution though: This is our customized plan. It works differently for different people. Listen to yourself and see what works specifically for you. Make your own schedule. Stick to it. The idea is to make a workable schedule and follow it for 30 days without a break. It should get to be like brushing your teeth.)
What we do:
10 minutes: Stretch/ Yoga
I start with some wrist rolls, shoulder rolls, elbow rolls, neck rolls, and spine twists. Surya Namaskar is a very good set of exercises to start the day with. Surya Namaskar or sun salutation is a sequence of twelve poses to be done in the direction of the sun at dawn, and ideally on an empty stomach. Coordinating one’s breathing along with the poses helps to focus the mind and ground the body. I find myself calm and rejuvenated even after doing one set. Getting the poses and the breathing right is important though. Here is a great video to learn how to do Surya Namaskar. Don’t push yourself. The idea is also to have fun, connect with your body and set the pace for the day.
The great thing about yoga is all you need to do is PRACTICE. The benefits manifest themselves. When people say stuff like ─ be mindful, be calm, don’t be sad (yikes ) ─ they mean well, but we often don’t know HOW? Regular practice of yoga actually helps understand how. But it’s no quick-fix. You’ve got to be slow, steady and practice regularly.
20 minutes: Vigorous exercise
Okay, this is a tricky one. I don’t really believe one can work-out effectively without being part of a group session, a visit to the gym or run outside. That kind of intensity is hard to reach at home and in 20-30 minutes. But again, this schedule is for people who have little time and do nothing at all.
So, what is it that one can one do at home? Try going for a short run around the park. Else, download a couple of home exercise videos. I like Jillian Michael kicks ass, POPxo, Fitness Blender HIIT. And here is a list of 10 best workout channels on YouTube. Pick and stick to the ones that work for you. It’s good and fun to mix up exercise routines and there are plenty of options out there.
10 minutes: Pranayam/ Meditation
Yeah, sound a bit boring… sitting still and all that… but try doing it for ten minutes to start with. I dare-say this is the most important part of the one hour practice. This is the state of mind you will want to return to when you feel overwhelmed anytime during the day. The idea is to extend the time for which you can sit still and be able to stay in that calm Zen state throughout the day. But hey, let’s start small and easy, shall we?
Sit still and easy. Focus on your breath. Posture is very important when you do this ─ so Keep your back straight, palms open, and eyes half open or closed. If you are an absolute beginner try apps such as Calm and Headspace. Tame your monkey mind.
Here is a great article by GREATIST which summarizes the practice.
10 minutes: Get yourself a detox drink
Finally! Something to eat or drink. The idea is now to cleanse your body of toxins before you start stuffing junk in. Half a lemon and a teaspoon of honey in a glass of warm water is a great detoxifier. Drinking lemon water regularly helps regulate the PH balance of the body, clears skin and boosts the immune system. It also aids in weight loss (Yay! Reason enough). I usually add a spoonful of apple cider vinegar and skip the honey. Add some ginger maybe (Yummies)
10 minutes: Make lists
- Three things you want to achieve today (e.g. answer those pesky client emails, finish the proposal you have been delaying, write a page of my new book)
- Three things you are grateful for (e.g. the wonderful family who puts up with me, the rains which have cooled the city down, and the bed with the softest mattress possible – what a great find!)
- Three things you want to do better (e.g. be calm under fire, be good to my boss, less of dwindling and more of finishing early)
- Three things you want out of your year
As you tick them off, I can’t tell you the satisfaction it gives. Life seems to have meaning. Ticking off lists is therapeutic.
Now let’s begin your wonderful day.