rituals

LIFE has a way of spinning out of control. Even when you have organised your calendar and allocated clear spaces of time to dedicate to your practice, work and family duties can multiply and compete for your attention until every day feels like a race to get things done. Your practice and rituals get postponed for a day or two – and then indefinitely – because your schedule is so packed and you just don’t have the time.

But you do. Instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed a few times today, pause to reconnect with yourself with one of these seven simple rituals to reset. The result?
A calmer, more content you.

Morning Rituals

Adopt morning rituals that allow you to celebrate yesterday’s successes and set a positive intention for today. “I’ve found that if I don’t do my rituals first thing in the morning, my day consumes me,” says Amy Ippoliti, a Boulder, Colorado-based yoga teacher. “If I do it, I remember that the point is to love my life. I can approach the day and its stresses with a positive attitude.”

Ippoliti’s morning rituals: Sit on a meditation cushion or even at the kitchen table with a pen, notebook, and a deck of inspiring cards. Be still for a minute and imagine breathing through your heart. With every inhalation, call to mind something you’re deeply appreciative of. It could be anything – your cat, your car, your job, your family. After a few breaths, write down in your journal what came to mind. Then, choose a card and take in the image or message. Finally, close with a few minutes of meditation. “I do some Ujjayi Pranayama and think about the kind of day I want to have,” says Ippoliti.

Crack a smile

Most of us think of asanas as poses that involve the precise placement of limbs, spine, head, and torso. What we don’t typically consider in the practice is our faces, or how one simple exercise – the smile – can be highly effective off the mat. “Smiling is one of the most powerful things you can do for personal transformation,” says Mirka Kraftsow, co-founder of the American Viniyoga Institute. “Choose to smile and bring the same awareness to your smile that you would to any other pose.

Even if you’re not feeling particularly happy, this practice will pick you up because the brain doesn’t know the difference between a spontaneous smile and an intentional one.” Several studies back up Kraftsow’s advice, with research citing an expression-emotion feedback loop that produces feelings of calm and pleasure when triggered by a smile. Try it, and notice how you begin to cultivate friendliness toward everyone around you, says Kraftsow. “You’ll begin to notice all the sources of happiness that surround you, even on your worst days,” she says.

Chant away your cares

At any point in the day when things feel overwhelming, try practicing this simple
vinyasa taught by A.G. Mohan, a longtime student of Krishnamacharya and the author
of Yoga for Body, Breath, and Mind:

Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with your hands in prayer position in front of your heart. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute), silently chanting Om as you move. As you exhale, bring your hands to the earth in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), silently chanting Namaha (roughly translated to “It is not about me”). Repeat this movement and message 10 times, breathing deeply throughout.

“When you chant Om, imagine connecting with your highest self and your ability to face any challenge or solve any problem,” says Mohan. “When you chant Namaha, allow yourself to surrender to a higher power, realising that it’s not up to you to take care of everything.” When you’re done, take a moment to commit to being fully present for whatever life dishes up next.

Turn on some tunes

“Music is medicine,” says Frank Lipman, an integrative physician in New York City. “I prescribe it all the time.” Your body responds to the rhythms of your environment which is
a good thing if you live at the beach or in the country. But it can work against you if you’re
in a city surrounded by sirens, screeches, and honking horns or, for example, if you’re dealing with the frenetic buzz of a crowded shopping centre. “Internal and external rhythms are linked,” says Lipman. To synch up with a more relaxing rhythm, put on music that plays at about 60 beats per minute (Lipman suggests Bob Marley). “Close your eyes and stay very conscious of your listening, and the music will begin to affect the rhythms of your bodily processes,” he says. Expect your breathing to slow, your heart rate to come down, and a sense of calm to take hold.

Brew a little bliss

In contrast to the high-octane coffee break, a cup of freshly brewed tea offers a more mellow pick-me-up, and the Kundalini Yoga tradition offers a ritual for mindfully brewing a cup of spiced black tea that begins even before you gather your ingredients. When you approach this tea-making task with focused attention, it becomes meditation in motion, says Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, a neuroscientist and author of Food as Medicine.

To a pot filled with a little over one cup of water, add four black peppercorns, four whole green cardamom pods, a 2.5cm slice of fresh ginger, half a cinnamon stick, and three whole cloves. Boil the mixture for 10 minutes, then add half a cup of almond or cow’s milk, along with one bag of black tea; steep for five minutes. Take a moment to enjoy the aroma and meditate on your breath or repeat a simple mantra such as Sat Nam, which means, “Truth is my identity.” When the tea is ready, sit and enjoy sipping it with your full attention.

Let the world in

To reap the benefits of meditation – which include improved health, better focus, and inner calm – you don’t have to commit to a rigid 5 am date with your meditation cushion. Instead, simply try paying more attention to what’s around you, says Vasant Lad, founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Pay attention to anything your ears are hearing and listen completely,” says Lad, whether it’s a barking dog, a crying child, or the wind rustling the leaves.

Rather than blocking out this noise, Lad says, “Allow these sounds and sights to penetrate you, and you’ll begin to experience true inner peace and silence.”

Pamper yourself to sleep

A short, soothing routine at bedtime can signal to your body and mind that it’s time to let go of the day and rest. Renée Loux, yogi, organic chef, and author of Easy Green Living, suggests giving yourself a nightly facial massage with a homemade blend of organic oils, to end your day on a nurturing note.

To a small bottle containing 60ml of almond oil, add two drops each of lavender, chamomile, and rose essential oils. Shake gently and put six or eight drops in your palm. Rub your hands together to warm the oil, breathe in the relaxing scent, then apply it to your neck and face using gentle, upward strokes. Use your thumbs to draw the skin on your cheeks and forehead up toward your hairline, and to gently pull apart any visible facial lines, especially on your forehead, at the bridge of your nose, and around your
mouth.

Do this for 5 minutes (or longer, if you like), and finish by placing your palms over your eyes for a few seconds. “There is something profoundly healing about making the commitment to show up every day for self-care,” says Loux.