Although the latest sartorial influence in an everyday athletic wear comprises of part-nulu and part-lycra pants, a short sleeve cotton top, and brightly coloured two-tone sport shoes paired with barely there white ankle socks, my idea of athletic comfort is cut from a very different cloth. Just imagine a lazy, semi-urbanite style accented by Goth and Polynesian influences along with disheveled black hair and wrinkled black sleepwear. If you can envision that, then perhaps you have a sense of how I like to roll. My style is: unconventional. Although it’s Beetlejuice meets street-smart beach bum in a pair of oversized pajamas, I am indeed a faithful devotee of my morning ritual.
Following the end of a 15 year relationship, I began to look through the numerous and clearly neglected Barnes and Noble “Special Sale” books I had collected over the years on subjects like mindfulness, stress-relief, and difficult to pronounce styles of yoga.
The end of a relationship can enforce an immediate “time-out” often in a very dark and very emotional place and so I needed some wisdom to hold onto. In fact, I am pretty sure I needed hope and enlightenment as soon as spiritually possible. If I remember correctly, it felt like my world was falling apart due to the collateral damage that resulted from things like having to move to a new home, dividing assets, faking smiles and a feel good attitude, and all the other impractical but inevitable ups and downs that replace a former partner… even a bad one. Therefore, anything that proved to help me center my thoughts, rebuild my faith and trust in intimacy, and heck — maybe even shed a few unwanted pounds, was exactly what I searching for.
Fast-forward ten years and one of the key practices that has remained with me during that time is the Sun Salutation, also known as surya namaskar. For me, it’s a small but incredibly powerful start to each day. As soon as I roll out of bed, I roll out my yoga mat, and quietly remind myself that although I am ready to go straight back to bed, these five fluid cycles of elongated yogic form will undoubtedly ignite the start of my day.
Regardless of a head cold or a dense chill in the morning air terminating every temptation to crawl out of bed, five Sun Salutations somehow always feels manageable. It neither takes up too much time nor requires too much energy but within this simple ritual is a profound and ongoing reward. It is the embodiment of the ever-evolving wisdom and strength which I desperately sought after when I first began reading through all my books .
These are three life lessons that I am reminded of at the start of each day.
Life Lesson #1: Breathe
Life is about inhaling and exhaling. We inhale the good. We exhale the bad. We breathe life through our lungs and breathe life into each other. This fundamental life practice never ceases to amaze me because when we are deliberate about deep breathing, we are often deliberate about the way we think and the choices we make. Breathing enables us to slow down, to hear our seemingly silent thoughts, and to offer a safe space for a moment of pause, regardless of what time it is or where we are in the world.
Breathing is the equivalent of a day spa for the soul.
Even though many people around us might be racing full speed ahead with high-energy activity, as we slow our breathing down, the world begins to slow down with it. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Then try to slowly inhale and exhale while gazing at a fixed point in the distance. In my experience, this releases an outstanding sensation of calm and control.
Life Lesson #2: Stretch
Stretching is all about testing our current limits while taking note of ourselves. It is all about recognising our limitations and gently pushing beyond them. It is also about protecting against life’s future injuries by increasing our resilience as we expand ourselves.
Stretching my arms behind my back and joining my hands together loosens up the tension in the neck and shoulders. Wrapping one leg around the other while reaching down to the ground loosens the muscles in the legs and the lower back. In that position, if you then place your hands on the ground and slowly let your head fall toward the earth, again the neck and shoulders release all the tension stored up from throughout the day.
It feels amazing!
How often is that we can do something that takes just a few seconds and leaves us feeling completely relaxed and physically liberated at no extra-cost?
Life Lesson #3: Observe
If a morning stretch can highlight where tension is stored, where we feel most uncomfortable, or even illuminate where we have strengthened ourselves over time, observation is the key to helping us figure out what to do next. Slowly breathing and stretching creates the perfect time to observe how we feel and to consider a new direction based on where we are.
We live in a time when continuous noise has become the undisputed norm. We walk and talk to each other or on phones. Or when we walk alone, we often cover our ears with sound producing megaphones. With volume turned up high we can shut the world out, at least until it is time to finally time for us start talking again.
However, silence is vital in the practice of observation.
While I was certainly searching for wisdom throughout my collection of books, I have also come to learn that many of those life-changing epiphanies that transform our outlook on life often simply surface during a quiet moment as we observe others, our environment, and our own thoughts amidst it all.
Observation is a cornerstone of wisdom. In our increasingly accelerated and anxiety impacted existence, it has never been more crucial to schedule some much needed time for our breathing, stretching, and observing in silence.
Originally published at medium.com