When I get up at 6 a.m., the day works. Guaranteed. And when I do that, it’s also easy to check off my to-do list those practices that further ensure that this will be a day I’ll be proud to have lived. In my experience, here’s what it takes:
- A great night’s sleep.
- Yoga, cardio, and the 5 Tibetan rites
- Journaling and meditation
Sleep 101: To get up at 6, I have to be in bed by 10. And I have to start getting ready for bed at 9. Going straight from Real Time to sleepy time does’t work very well. That hour before sleep can comprise whatever rituals make you feel that you’re closing out the day in efficient and classy style, i.e., golden milk (your favorite non-dairy milk with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, a twist of ground black pepper, and a little maple or date syrup); your skin care regimen (a double-cleanse — oil cleanser first, then gel, works wonders); and reading something soothing (from paper, not a screen: the blue light from electronic devices can interfere with your falling asleep).
Even with all bedtime ducks in a row, sleep can be illusive — or you can fall asleep just fine and awaken at 2 a.m. — if your melatonin production is off. Melatonin production slows with age, but we can boost it by being exposed to bright sunlight early in the day. If this isn’t possible, get one of those lamps made for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. They’re quite inexpensive and sitting about fifteen inches from one for twenty minutes in the early part of the day — you can do it while you’re eating or reading or at your computer — can make a measurable difference in your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Magical movement: All exercise is great, but I often come in at “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I have to get some kind of exericse first thing in the morning or it’s likely not to happen. I find that getting up at 6 is a godsend in this regard since it’s too early for any of my excuses to hold water. The flesh says: “I have to tend the emails, I have to get to an appointment, I can’t work out before I eat something.” The spirit says: “Okay, but it’s a 6 in the morning; you don’t have to do anything except work out.”
Yoga is my favorite kind of movement because I learned early on that it lets me bring my soul along. The way I get myself moving is, first, with yoga, about twenty minutes. Then I move to the bike or the treadmill (and an audiobook or podcast, of course) for thirty to forty-five minutes. Then I do the 5 Tibetan Rites, another fifteen minutes, a series of yoga-like-but-not-exactly movement brought to the world by one Peter Kelder in the late 1940s. His book, Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth, has been a cult classic ever since. The moves supposedly come from from Shangri-la-esque monstery in Tibet before the invasion of the Chinese in 1964. Although the moves certainly affect strength and flexibility, their purported raison d’etre is to work on the endocrine system, the body’s glands and hormone balance, by affecting the seven chakras, alluded to in yoga.
I recommend Kelder’s book, and it also contains a chapter from a yoga-savvy medical doctor recommending variations for people with certain health complaints (neck, shoulder, or knee issues, vertigo, heart problems, etc.) but if you want to start with the rites tomorrow morning, and you’re willing to listen to your own body to keep yourself safe, there are twenty of more YouTube demos to work from. Here are a couple that I like:
5 Tibetan Rites, the RIGHT Way, from aging expert Ellen Wood,
Basically, rite #1 is spinning around (or simply turning around), clockwise, arms outstreched; #2 is raising the head and straightened legs from a supine position; #3 is kneeling, supporting the low back, and bending backward, looking up; #4 is making a table-top with your chest toward the ceiling, weight on hands and feet; and #5 is moving from downward to upward dog. You can start as slowly as three per day, adding one repetition of each weekly until you’re up to twenty-one. You stay at twenty-one reps for the rest of your (maybe lengthened) life. (If you’re wondering if I do any weigh training: Yes, twice a week, but not in the morning. I know the length of time I can spend in a gym before making the subconscious decision never to appear there again.)
Tapping the wisdom within: The ways to do this that work best for me are journal-writing and meditation. The former lets me write out the mental gunk that can block my wellbeing, and allows me to map out the day. I keep appointments and the like on an electronic calendar but writing in my journal lets me make sense of what’s ahead, see that I probably have more to-do’s than a day on earth can accommodate, and that I have to pare it down some.
With all that out of the way, I’m ready to meditate. I light a candle, and use the Insight Timer — not the fancy app stuff like guided meditations, music, and chat groups, just the timer. When I think of going into the silence, I take that literally: silence. Nothing else but a candle, my dog (dogs and cats love meditation), and twenty minutes.
After that, I really do need to eat. And raise the shades, hit the shower, go into active mode. And have a pretty good idea this particular day is going to work out pretty darned fine.
Victoria Moran is the author of books including Creating a Charmed Life, Shelter for the Spirit, Younger by the Day, The Love-Powered Diet, and Main Street Vegan. She hosts the Main Street Vegan podcast and loves mornings.
Note: The 5 Tibetan Rites are contraindicated for some people with some conditions. If you have any doubts, consult a healthcare provider before attempting these exercises.