What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Hit the snooze alarm on your phone? Blearily scroll through your Instagram feed? Look at the time and cry a little? Regardless of how you spend your first few waking moments, a morning routine (or lack thereof) can have a significant impact on both your energy and stress levels during the rest of your day.
Establishing a successful morning routine is difficult, especially when you factor in how much earlier you’ll need to wake up in order to fit working out, showering, reading, and getting a decent breakfast into your morning before heading out the door. And if you had a late night the night before, a morning routine can be even harder to adopt. Thankfully, there’s one simple habit you can implement each morning that will give you greater alertness and energy in the morning, and help you get rid of that morning dread—and it only takes ten minutes: meditation.
When most people think of meditation, they think of sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, and humming a monotonous “om.” They believe meditation is about clearing your mind of all thought and becoming “one with the universe.” While there is a lot of truth to the stereotype, actual meditation is about establishing control over your mind and body, learning to let go of negative thoughts, and building positive energy that can sustain you throughout the day. Simply put, meditation helps you to visualize a successful day; and the clearer that picture becomes, the more power you have to achieve it.
Meditation takes discipline, but if you can implement the following meditative practice into your morning, you’ll have more energy, more focus, and less stress.
Cooper’s Posture (10 Breaths)
For many of us, our first emotional response to waking up in the morning is the “flight or fight” mentality. You immediately start stressing out about everything you have to do that day, everything you didn’t do the previous day, and all the negative emotions that go with those thoughts. Cooper’s posture is a self-soothing technique that provides comfort to the body, and calm to the mind. During Cooper’s posture, try to focus on your breath instead of your to-do list. Then, as you feel comfortable, draw your focus onto one positive thought or word, and hold onto it throughout your meditation.
To get into Cooper’s posture, follow these steps:
- Whether you’re on your bed or on the floor, move yourself into a seated position with your legs extended in front of you and crossed at the ankles.
- Extend your arms in front of you, and rotate the thumbs down.
- Cross your arms at the wrists, interlace the fingers, and pull your hands under and through to your collarbone.
- Rest your chin on your knuckles, and close your eyes.
- In this seated position, take a deep inhale through your nose, and pause for a second or two. This requires you to stay in the present moment, and helps you avoid distracting thoughts.
- Exhale gently through your mouth, taking note of how this has a relaxing effect on your entire body. Repeat this breathing cycle ten times. Don’t rush.
Alternate Breathing (5 Breaths)
Following Cooper’s posture, you’ll begin alternate breathing. Alternate breathing is the process of cycling air in through one nostril, and out the other, then repeating the same process on the opposite side. The theory behind alternate breathing has to do with restoring balance to the brain. It also draws out the length of the breath and forces your brain to focus on the positive thought or word you’ve chosen for your meditation:
- With your eyes still closed, slowly release the grip you’ve made in Cooper’s posture, and allow your left arm to rest in a comfortable position at your side.
- Firmly plant the middle finger of your right hand in the space between your eyebrows (also known as “the third eye”), with the thumb of your right hand blocking the right nostril.
- Take a deep inhale through the left nostril and pause. Then, before you exhale, block the left nostril with the ring finger of the right hand, and remove the thumb from the right nostril. Then exhale slowly through the right nostril.
- Repeat this process in reverse, breathing in through the right nostril, and breathing out through the left. This entire cycle counts as one complete breath.
- Repeat the entire process for five breaths.
Once you’ve completed your alternate breathing exercise, bring both arms down, and take one final inhale through the nose, then once cleansing exhale through the mouth. Open your eyes. You’ll find that only about ten minutes have transpired, but you’re more awake, more alert, and less stressed that you were ten minutes ago. And while this habit might be difficult at first, daily practice will give you greater control over your thoughts and emotions over time, and bring you that much closer to accomplishing your goals.
-Jordan Grimmer, LulaFit