How to Start Your Day
By: Derek Beres
What brings you out of sleep each morning? A buzzing alarm, a child’s cry, sunlight? Or is it like what my wife and I experience on most mornings when our cat Osiris bounces on our bed to shove his nose in our faces?
How we wake up and what we do immediately afterward sets the tone for the rest of the day. While I do not have a complicated morning ritual, there are a few things I do to ensure I spring into my day with my best foot forward. It all begins with the alarm.
- Pick the right alarm sound.
As Don Campbell and Alex Doman write in their most recent book, Healing at the Speed of Sound, what you wake up to affects your entire day. “By changing the way you start your day, you change all of your days,” they write. The authors offer an extensive list of options for everyone from light sleepers to heavy dozers. Those of us who wake easily, they write, should try nature sounds or classical music, while the hard-to-awaken may need jazz or bossa nova. Anything but that grating, annoying buzzing sound, which jars you from subconsciousness. After reading their book, I changed my alarm song from the upbeat “They Don’t Want” by Electric Wire Hustle to the Iranian classical song, “Where Are You?” by Kayhan Kalhor. Being a light sleeper, it’s much more easeful to wake up to a melody than a beat -- if my cat doesn’t get to me first.
- Pracice Kapalabhati breathing.
Otherwise known as the “skull shining breath” in yoga, Kapalabhati is a wonderful way to refresh your lungs and get your entire body going. Sitting on the edge of my bed, or on the floor cross-legged, I soften my gaze and begin to strongly pump my lower belly, forcefully exhaling while allowing the passive inhale to follow. It’s recommended that beginners do this 30-50 times, and you can slowly build up. (I do three rounds of 100.) Try not to bob your shoulders; you really want to focus your exhale from the contraction of your lower belly. In metaphorical terms, old yogis say this cleanses stagnant chi from the bottom of your lungs. It will definitely give you an immediate boost of energy.
- Drink warm water with lemon.
Yes, your grandmother probably did this. Instead of rushing to your coffee pot, give it a shot. Cut a fresh lemon (yes, it must be an actual lemon, not packaged lemon juice) and squeeze it into a cup of lukewarm water. Pretty simple; very effective. Lemons balance your body’s pH (they’re an alkalizing food), boost your immune system and act as a diuretic, helping to clear toxins. You want to do this before putting anything else in your body to give your digestive system a restart: It aids digestion by helping the liver produce bile and also helps reduce heartburn (something I can personally attest to).
As you sleep, your body repairs itself. Sometimes this involves elongation: Your spine uncompresses, meaning you can be up to a 1/2 inch taller in the morning than the evening. Mostly, however, certain muscles tighten, such as your hamstrings and quadratus lumborum, meaning that your lower back might feel tight. A simple standing forward bend or seated spinal twist could help clear this up. But even more effective is the Cobra pose, which, as a backbend, has an energizing quality to it. Not only will this release pressure from your lower back, but it will also open your shoulders and clavicle area, releasing any neck tension you might have suffered while asleep.
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is Completely You’s Getting Unstuck blogger. A journalist, yoga instructor and DJ/music producer, he has written for such publications as Departures and The Huffington Post. He teaches yoga at Equinox Fitness and Yogis Anonymous, and is one-half of the music production team EarthRise SoundSystem. For more info, visit DerekBeres.com.