2020 was the year that taught us all to appreciate our health and wellbeing and so, as we head into 2021, it seems sensible to equip ourselves with some positive new habits to help embrace our best, most healthy self.
For me, this begins with a healthy morning routine – my experience has been that the way we begin the day powerfully impacts the rest of the day. And, as we plan this new routine, we should include practices that embrace our health on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
To help get you started, I’ve put together seven simple practices that I do myself every morning and have also shared with many of my Yoga students. You can begin all seven practices right now or take one at a time to get your routine going gradually *.
Wake up early.
I get up at 6am which really isn’t as bad as it sounds! I began early morning rising to attend a Yoga therapy course that was being Zoomed in live from Rishikesh during the second lockdown. The experience really grounded and centred me and gave me some precious quiet time in the morning before the rest of the family woke up and I began teaching my own online classes.
When I started to look into it more, I discovered that the period before sunrise is said to be conducive to meditation, prayer and intention-setting as it’s a powerful time energetically. It definitely gave me clarity for the whole day. In fact, now that the classes from India have come to an end, I am still getting up early – a positive, new healthy habit that I am committed to.
Scrape your tongue.
This simple practice will help your body to expel the wastes and toxins that have accumulated on your tongue overnight. Believe me – if you have never done this before, your mouth will feel so much fresher than it has ever done before. Use a copper scraper if possible (these are widely available) and scrape your tongue a few times after you have brushed your teeth.
Drink a mug of hot water.
This is a gamechanger and, if done regularly, will make a huge difference to your health. It kickstarts your digestion which always needs a little revving up first thing in the morning, helps the body’s elimination process, speeds up your metabolism and is good for your skin, too. Remember it needs to be plain hot water with nothing added, not even lemon.
I would add that many of my online students have taken up this practice and the feedback has been amazing. One student in particular has noticed a significant reduction in the bloating she had previously struggled with.
We are now ready to move the body. I have been a Yoga teacher for 16 years and have taught all levels and abilities. The following are some simple stretches you can do even if you’ve never been on a Yoga mat before. They’re accessible for everyone and, if practised regularly, they will make a difference to your flexibility and ease of movement.
Supine spinal twist
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent. Breathe in, and as you breathe out slowly release your knees to one side and turn your head the other way, then breathe in and return the knees back to centre before releasing to the other side. Repeat eight times to each side.
Knees on chest pose
Bring your knees up onto your abdomen and place your hands on your knees. Breathe in and guide your knees away from you, breathe out and bring your knees back towards your abdomen. Repeat eight times.
Now come onto your hands and knees and begin to describe a circle with your hips, in one direction, then the other. Ensure you are transferring your weight from one hand to the other, one knee to the other as you do this. Broaden and open your lower back and feel the release there. Continue doing this for several breaths.
Finally, come back into a tabletop position. Breathe in and as you breathe out, slowly round and arch your back, bringing your shoulders forward and your chin to your chest. Breathe in, slowly lifting your head and sitting bones as you release your spine. Repeat eight times before releasing and resting your hands and knees.
The next practice is a simple mindful breathing exercise that calms and soothes the nervous system. Begin by sitting comfortably with a straight spine. Take your awareness to your nostrils. Just notice the breath flowing in and flowing out. Then take your awareness to your abdomen, notice how your abdomen expands as you breathe in and gently draws back to the spine as you breathe out. Say the word “in” to yourself as you breathe in, and the word “out” as you breathe out. Continue this for a few quiet moments.
Research has shown that mindful breathing can significantly lower stress and anxiety levels if practised regularly so, as you move through your day, remember to pause and take a mindful breath allowing your mind to rest.
Make time for a healthy, preferably warm, breakfast that you have prepared with care and sit down to eat it. Remember to take three mindful breaths before you begin your meal.
Finally, complete your morning routine with a silent thank you for anything or anyone you feel grateful for
Someone who loves you, your health, your home or anything else that fills your heart with gratitude. Know that a gratitude practice can be hugely transformative, changing the entire way you see the world.
Practise these simple but powerful wellness tools as often as you can and watch how they help you to embrace your very best self in 2021.
*Remember to always listen to your body and if anything doesn’t feel right, simply stop.
© 2020 Brenda Ward
About the author
Following a career in Law, Brenda qualified with the British Wheel of Yoga in 2004 and, since then, has helped hundreds of people achieve physical and mental health and wellbeing through the practice of Yoga.
In addition to her daily online classes, Brenda also runs fabulous retreats on the Amalfi Coast, children’s Yoga and mindfulness classes in local primary schools and regular health and wellness workshops at historic Lytham Hall in Lancashire. She also runs a foundation course both in person and via distance learning for those who want to deepen their knowledge and/or are thinking about teaching themselves. In addition to her teaching, Brenda writes a health and wellness blog published on her website and is a regular contributor to a variety of health and wellness magazines.
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