Being a yogi means striving for a higher level of consciousness on and off the mat. It’s a way of life, a filter through which we approach everything that we do. It starts each day the moment we awake as part of a conscious living morning routine.
The First Thought of the Day
Even before we open our eyes in the morning, we can attune ourselves to conscious living by carefully choosing our first thought of the day. We can either think, “Oh no, I have so much work to do today,” or something more positive like, “Today will be a beautiful day.” Our very first thought sets the tone for our whole morning and even our whole day. We’ll either roll out of bed with dread or float out with open arms, ready for whatever the day brings. Conscious living is very much about the attitude we adopt.
“Today I will learn.”
“Today I will grow.”
“I love myself and I love everyone.”
“Thank you for another day of life.”
Connect with the Earth
After setting the day’s tone with a positive thought, we can consciously remind ourselves of our connection to Mother Earth. She is the universal Consciousness in physical form and very much worthy of our conscious attention. Mother Earth provides us with everything we need to live and thrive.
We can connect with Mother Earth by rooting our feet to the ground for a few seconds just as we’re getting out of bed each morning. The bedroom floor isn’t the same as being barefoot in nature, but the action of grounding the soles of our feet to the earth is a similar symbolic gesture. (Learn more about Getting Grounded: What it Means and How to Get It.)
Caring for the body is a high form of consciousness. The body is a temple for the soul; a vessel through which we can transcend the physical to attain higher levels of consciousness. Treating the body with love and attention is a means of honoring the soul. And much like choosing a positive first thought of the day, morning self-care sets the tone for how we feel on a daily basis.
Yoga lays out the morning movement and breathing practices that make us feel awake and limber after a full night’s sleep, while Ayurveda lays out the practices that cleanse us on a more literal level. Much of this daily routine, or dinacharya, takes place first thing in the morning. Dinacharya practices clear out the waste that has accumulated from the previous day. These include the three main wastes, which are feces, urine and sweat; and secondary wastes, which accumulate in the sense organs.
Ayurvedic Dinacharya Practices
- After getting up in the morning, tend to the natural urges to eliminate.
- Next comes brushing the teeth and tongue scraping. A tongue scraper is a stainless steel "V"-shaped tool made especially for this purpose. Hold both ends and place the "V" at the back of the tongue. Scrape from back to front five to 10 times, which takes only a few seconds. Tongue scraping removes accumulated toxins from yesterday’s digestive activity, which can be seen on the tongue as a thin white coating. While a thin white coating is normal, a thick, bad-tasting coating, which comes back even after being scraped, indicates that there is toxic buildup (called aama) in the digestive tract. Fasting and ginger tea helps to digest aama.
- After tongue scraping comes oil pulling, known in Ayurveda as kabala. This includes swishing one teaspoon of coconut or sesame oil in the mouth for five to 10 minutes. This practice lubricates the gums and mouth, strengthens the jaw and helps to remove toxins.
- The most rejuvenating practice of dinacharya is abhyanga, or self-massage. This requires heating one ounce of sesame or coconut oil. Then, starting from the head and working down to the toes, give yourself a loving self-massage. Use gentle, rhythmic long strokes on the long bones, like the arms and legs. Use circular strokes on the joints and clockwise circles over the belly. This practice nourishes the skin, calms the nervous system, boosts immunity, lubricates the joints, flushes out waste products and improves circulation. Allow the oil to soak in for 10 to 20 minutes and then wash it off in the shower.
- After bathing, have a cup of hot water. Hot water is the first thing that should enter the digestive tract in the morning as it helps to flush out toxins and stoke the digestive fire. (Read about this recipe for a Lemon Ginger Morning Detox.)
Yoga and Meditation
It goes without saying that yoga and meditation are part of a conscious living morning routine. And morning is truly the best time to practice -- this is when the atmosphere and nature are calm, quiet and peaceful; ideal for spiritual practices.
A conscious morning routine reminds you of your connection to the greater universal Consciousness, making you feel more whole and full of higher purpose. When you combine all these practices, you’ll undoubtedly feel a positive shift in your consciousness that will permeate throughout your life. (Read more for a Guided Meditation for Finding Your Life's Purpose.)