I had coffee with a friend of mine a couple days ago, and he said something that really resonated with me. He told me that when he first wakes up, he tries to immediately engage in something creative before doing anything else. He hypothesized that doing so would launch your mind into a creative mode.
Those first moments upon waking seem to be crucial for setting the tone of your day. Unfortunately, many people wake up and as we sip those first sips of coffee, we mindlessly scroll through our Facebook newsfeed, turn on the news, or scan the flood of emails that came in during the night. These kind of activities, though at times necessary, can have a dulling effect on the mind.
Try refraining from these activities for at least 15 minutes upon waking. Use those quiet moments of alone time in a mindful, constructive way. It may be as simple as writing 10 words concerning your intention for the day. I once read a book called The Artist’s Way where the author, an artist, advocated writing three full pages of stream-of-consciousness blabber in your journal before doing anything else. She said you should routinely empty your mind of all its residual junk in order to make room for new information and fresh ideas. My friend said he usually sketches or writes something. I have experienced the same therapeutic , mind-cleansing effect when I run or do yoga first thing in the morning.
Before you go to bed tonight, think about how you would like to begin your day when you wake up tomorrow. Then, lay out physical reminders that you’ll won’t be able to see past. Turn your laptop face down. Set your journal or sketch pad out on the kitchen table. Place your running shoes in front of your bedroom door. Roll our your yoga mat at the foot of your bed.
Don’t let yourself begin your daily routine until you have engaged in your creative activity. Or more specifically, identify one aspect of your routine that you enjoy doing. Personally, I hate the feeling of having not showered yet. Because working out is a priority for me, I don’t allow myself to shower until I have done some kind of physical activity (running, yoga, etc.). For you, if you derive satisfaction from checking your email, don’t allow yourself to do so until you have completed your “creative” action for the morning.
I challenge you to try this for several days in a row, and see if it alters your mindset upon waking up. In my experience, doing so allows me to approach my day with a clear, focused mind.
There are many benefits to practicing yoga in a studio: the teacher is knowledgeable enough to correct your mistakes and prevent injuries, the atmosphere is focused and distractions are reduced to a minimum, and you are guided in your flow as opposed to having to construct it yourself. At the same time, there are days when we simply don’t have the time to get into a studio for a class, or times when we can’t afford to pay the premium costs of most studios. Or perhaps you aren’t looking for a terribly strenuous practice, maybe just a few minutes of quick stretches at the beginning or end of your day.
In this series, I’ll offer a few suggestions to boost your home practice – everything from equipment, flow routines, playlists, recommended reading and more.
Let’s start with the essential equipment. If you’re new to yoga, I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of money on equipment up front. You should explore whether yoga is right for you first before committing to all the expensive add-ons.
The only item that is truly necessary is a good yoga mat. They can vary widely in price so it’s important to think about what exactly you’re looking to get out of it. Are you hoping to travel with it? If so, prioritize thinness and weight. Do you know that your mat will be going through a lot of wear and tear? Invest in durability. Check out the helpful chart from About.com below to compare technical specifications of five very popular mats.
|Gaiam||Kulae tpECOmat||Jade Harmony||Lululemon
|weight||light (2.2 lbs)||light (2 lbs)||mid (4 lbs)||mid (5.5 lbs)||heavy (7 pounds)|
|length||68″||72″||68″ or 74″||71″||71″ or 85″|
|odor||no||no||yes (rubber)||slight (rubber)||no|
I first began my practice out with a $10 mat from Target, and it wasn’t long before I grew frustrated with its thin cushion and poor grip. I ended up buying two more mats until I finally decided to just make the investment and buy a mat I wouldn’t have to keep replacing. Though the Manduka mat is expensive, it is built to last and may be the last mat you buy for many years.
Clothing. I’ve seen people practice in everything from spandex shorts to loose linen clothing. The main objective with your clothing is that you are comfortable and able to move about freely. In a class, the instructor often prefers that you wear tighter clothing so they can see your form and make corrections if necessary, though if you are simply practicing in your home, this is not essential. And men, when practicing in a studio, please no loose-fitting shorts. No one needs to see your junk during a down-dog…
That’s it for the essentials, but if you’re ready to deepen and enhance your practice, here are some other things to consider:
- To absorb all that sweat, I recommend buying a yoga towel for your mat. Especially in Hot Yoga, it can get pretty slippery. I own the Gaiam Yoga Thirsty Towel and that has worked well for me. It will protect your mat both from sweat and dirt, thus enabling you to go longer periods without having to wash your mat.
- To keep your mat smelling clean and fresh, I would recommend Manduka’s Yoga Mat Spray. Nobody likes to smell a week’s worth of practice during their child’s pose. (I’ve also heard that you can also put your mat in the washing machine by itself with a tiny bit of detergent on a low setting.)
- To deepen your stretches, the Manduka Cotton Yoga Strap is useful, especially for those hard to reach places. If your hands can’t quite lock behind your back, or your fingers can’t yet stretch past your toes, this strap can provide that extra leverage.
- To facilitate your poses, I would recommend the Iyengar block. The block functions as an extension of your body, allowing you to reach more difficult poses. In place of, or even in addition to the block, I would recommend a Traditional Mexican blanket. They can be very affordable and in many instances can take the place of your block in providing support. They are also commonly folded up and sat on for meditation because they elevate the booty just a couple inches off the floor, allowing blood to flow to your legs so they don’t fall asleep. If you’re practicing Restorative Yoga, you can also the blanket for warmth.
And that’s it. Namaste!