For me, mindfulness begins before my feet even hit the floor in the morning. Between running a business, hosting retreats, and teaching yoga classes, staying centred just isn’t optional. Many of you probably know that when you have employees or students relying on you, you have to keep your energy positive and your mind centred. That’s why I couldn’t accomplish everything without daily practice.
Mornings might be the most important time for cultivating mindfulness. When you have a lot on your plate, it’s just too easy to start making to-do lists and pre-empting troubles in your day. The first thing I do in the morning, especially if the day is starting off rough, is to make a list of ten things I’m grateful for. This immediately starts my day by cultivating a sense of awareness through focusing on the blessings in my life.
Some people can’t get their day started without their morning cup of Joe, but if you’re like me, you can’t get going until you’ve had your morning meditation. There’s just no better way to start your day than by experiencing the sacred and cultivating inner peace.
So, here is the exact routine I do in the mornings:
- As soon as I wake up, before anything else, still laying with my eyes closed, I do the gratitude practice. It is very simple. Just analyze the past 24 hours and find around 10 things to be grateful for. They can be small everyday things, just think of every surrounding detail, like the colors of leaves on trees, some person smiling at you, a smell of coffee and so on and so on. This will help you to establish a habit of paying attention to a million of beautiful things that surround you, and maybe not to let that single negative event take you on a negative spiral. (Also, don’t forget to find a few things that you are grateful for about yourself.)
- Then I go on to my pranayama and meditation routine after I take a shower and brush my teeth. I will start with nauli (abdominal movement), then go on to 5 rounds of 100 breath each kapalabhati (forceful abdominal breathing with strong exhale), 3-5 rounds of bhastrika (full forceful inhales and exhales), and about 10 minutes of ujjai pranayama (deep slow forceful breathing). This brings me to a meditative state, after which I can just sit and be aware for as long as comfortable.
- Then throughout the day, a simple mindfulness technique you can try to do, is to ask yourself as many times a day as possible: “Is my body comfortable right now? Is my spine straight? Are my shoulders relaxed? How about my face? Is my breathing deep?” This way, you will start to notice what is happening with your body throughout the day. You might be surprised to learn how much tension may be happening without you noticing… By being mindful, you can relax the body, breathe deeper and let go of some tension.
Plenty of us start checking our phones even before we’re out of bed. There’s no question that this frazzles your mind and forces you to disconnect from your experience. A recent study actually found that cell phone use can increase your risk of psychosocial hazards like stress and insomnia. An important part of my mindfulness routine is avoiding looking at my phone for an hour before bed. This simple practice actually helps me to sleep better; looking at a screen has been proven to wake up the brain and suppress melatonin. In the mornings, I don’t look at my phone until after meditating and eating.
Most of us are low-key addicted to technology. Technology is an important part of our lives that we should be grateful for, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good for us all the time. Yogis and mindfulness lovers in recent years have started taking digital cleanses to calm their minds, soothe tired eyes, and free themselves from distraction.
I first learned about the joys (and struggles) of technology fasting at a yoga retreat. Stepping away from technology had such a positive impact on my attention span and ability to connect with others that unplugging is now an integral part of my mindfulness practice.
As I started to develop mindfulness practices, I began to literally see the world in a new way. Have you ever noticed that after meditation everything looks high-definition? After integrating meditation and mindfulness in my day-to-day life, I realized that there was a whole world that I was completely neglecting to celebrate.
Once you start to notice the nature that surrounds you, you’ll realize that you’re almost constantly surrounded by the beauty of the Universe. Noticing the vastness of the night sky or the depths of the ocean helps to put your problems into perspective. Personally, spending time in nature can instantly turn my mood around. It’s just not possible to hold onto negativity when I take the time to really notice the beauty of the sunset each day.
Of course eating mindfully involves eating healthy, but there’s a lot more to it than that. For one, eating mindfully means being present with your food, so eating at your desk while working is just not an option. When I eat free from distraction, the food tastes better, I eat only what I need, and I take the time to thank the Universe for the blessings in each meal.
A mindful lifestyle also asks us to be aware of our environmental impact. When I sit down for a mindful meal, I know that the food I’m eating was sustainably grown. Because compassion is an important part of mindfulness, I’m also sure that no humans or animals were put through suffering for my meal.
As I mentioned before I, like everyone else, have to undertake many roles in life. Two of the ones are yoga teacher and business owner. As a yoga teacher, I have to manage large groups of students (up to 40 people), who are all going through some strong physical, energetic and spiritual transformations and this can be a very emotional process. When you are the one facilitating, it can really channel back at you and be quite difficult to manage if you are not mindful.
The same goes for running a business. Currently our team is nearly a 100 people and it’s like a huge family. Imagine your family, even with 3-10 people, things can get complicated. But when it comes to a 100, things can get really out of hand. Mindfulness allows me to stay calm amidst the storm, and give back to other people without depleting myself. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be able to be as present and available with my students. By integrating simple practices like noticing nature and savoring food, life is filled with more beauty and joy. It’s amazing how seemingly small changes can have such a huge impact on your wellbeing.