How you start your morning can have a big impact on the rest of your day. Morning routines are a popular topic, and I find it fun to read about what others do to start their day off on the right foot. I am in a good groove with my current morning routine, so it seemed like a good time to share about it here.
The Open Heart Project and 10/10/5
The core of my morning routine is a practice called 10/10/5. I learned this from Susan Piver, creator of the Open Heart Project, in a course called Invoking Magic: Developing a Morning Routine. The 10/10/5 practice consists of 10 minutes of seated meditation, 10 minutes of free writing, and a writing contemplation of 5 things: 2 things you’re grateful for, 2 things you’re worried or scared about, and 1 thing you plan to offer that day.
Some essential aspects of the 10/10/5 practice are its simplicity and manageability. Susan does a wonderful job of emphasizing how helpful it is to not be ambitious about your practice. I have often experienced the pitfall of becoming ambitious about my meditation practice (such as trying to meditate 30 minutes twice a day) and burning out or becoming less consistent as a result. I have done the same thing with writing practice, such as setting a goal of writing 3 full pages each day (the morning pages practice from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way). With 10/10/5, the practice is short and the timings are crisp (another great tip from Susan).
The ‘5’ part of 10/10/5 is a key part of the “magic.” I find that the 5 things are a nice way to practice getting in touch with my intuition. Rather than over-thinking about what to write, I just write whatever arises, and I feel like that helps me access a more creative and spontaneous part of my consciousness.
Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs)
The next part of my morning routine is a movement practice called Controlled Articular Rotations, or CARs. This is a practice recommended by Dr. Andreo Spina, founder of Functional Anatomy Seminars, Functional Range Conditioning (FRC®), and Kinstretch®. It involves systematically taking your joints through their full range of motion in a controlled manner, without using momentum. (This video by FRC mobility specialist [FRCms] Samantha Faulhaber provides a nice quick introduction to CARs.)
The CARs routine can be done with varying degrees of intensity. When done as a morning routine, it’s recommended that the practice be fairly gentle. The FRC trainer I have been working with online, Dewey Nielsen, described the desired intensity for the morning routine as imagining you are moving through a substance about 30% denser than air.
Some of my favorite features of the CARs routine are that it is quick, easy to remember, thorough, and informative. It gives me a good sense of how my body is feeling and moving on any given day. I also like how gentle and customizable it is; because I control the range and stay in a pain-free zone, the practice is always specifically tailored to the current state of my body.
Coregeous Ball Therapy
The last part of my routine consists of performing a Roll Model® Method technique using the Yoga Tune Up® Coregeous Ball. A grippy, squishy, air-filled ball, the Coregeous Ball is the gentlest, softest Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball. Its effect has been compared to a bear paw (or as YTU trainer Dawn Adams has suggested as an even friendlier metaphor, a “panda paw”). In contrast, the Original YTU Ball is like a thumb, the Plus Ball is like an elbow, and the Alpha Ball is like a fist.
The Coregeous Ball creates less pressure than the others, but its larger grippy surface is able to take hold of and mobilize large sheets of tissue, creating an effect called global shear. It is especially well suited to using on the core and other parts of the torso, and I find it very effective at releasing tension in my shoulders and back. It is also a wonderful tool for working with the breath, providing gentle feedback and resistance.
Each day, I use the information gathered from my 10/10/5 practice and my CARs routine to decide on a particular Coregeous Ball technique. For example, if my shoulders feel tense, I will often choose to perform a pin, spin, and mobilize technique in my upper back area. If my lower back or hips feel tight, I will target my thoracolumbar area. To impact my breathing, which I might want to do if I feel anxious or fatigued, a contract/relax technique with the ball under my abdomen is a frequent favorite. (For more about the pin, spin, and mobilize technique as well as the breath reset, see this article.) Another thing I often practice if I want to optimize my breathing is the breath pinwheel with the Coregeous Ball (see exercise 1 at this link for a demonstration video).
Simplicity and Consistency
I have been consistent, but not perfect, with following this routine for the last couple of months. One extremely beneficial rule is that I do not check my email or anything else on the internet until after my morning routine. (I use the timer on my iPad with it in airplane mode to time my meditation and free writing.) Another thing that has helped me is to decide what is most essential—the 10/10/5—and to view the other 2 parts as “nice to add.” I have only missed the 10/10/5 on 2 days so far in 2018, both in a week following a trip where flight delays resulted in arriving home at 3 am (6 hours past my bedtime!). Sometimes extra rest is what is most needed, and to be consistent with my values, I aim to choose self-compassion over perfectionism these days.
The simplicity and brevity of this routine have allowed me to be more consistent than I have ever managed before. I used to try to add way too many things to my morning routine, making it daunting and unwieldy. Susan Piver’s advice to keep things crisp and simple has been a lifesaver. I have realized that I can’t take all of my goals and stuff them into my morning routine. Although I still have many other goals related to my yoga practice, other exercise, creativity, and work, I now keep them separate from my morning routine. Likewise, I sometimes do longer meditation practices of various kinds, and I can enjoy those knowing that I have also done my daily 10-minute morning sit.
Another important support for my consistent practice is an attitude of unconditional friendliness toward myself. My morning routine is all about welcoming myself just as I am; I don’t have to be in a certain mood or state of mind, and I’m not trying to change or improve myself. It’s about being compassionate and practicing true self-care, and when I do that for myself I find I am better able to support others in doing the same for themselves.
My practices will undoubtedly evolve over time, but for now it feels good to have a consistent morning routine that feels special and nourishing.