A YOGI CHA BLOG
The importance of ROUTINE
Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞
Every time I repeat something that I have already done, I do it faster because the pattern of this exists already inside of me. Like your computer or phone that recognises words that you commonly use and suggests them to you when typing. It is an economical question for the brain, to become familiar with something you tend to do, in order to not loose unnecessary energy each time you repeat. This is of course also why it’s so easy to fall into old habits, to just do what we always do. When it comes to destructive behaviour such as negative thoughts about ourselves, addiction to toxins or fear based actions in situations that seem threatening, the mind becomes our enemy. However, if we can use this knowledge to create positive habits, we can alter our reality in a rather effective way. With MRI machines, scientists have been able to see these changing habits inside the brain. They have come to call it neuroplasticity because it shows how flexible the brain and that it’s not static/unchangeable like they thought before. Of course, if they would have asked yogis from the start… they would have found out that it’s been known for a very long time already. In a way, the idea behind a sadhana, a practice, is to decondition ourselves from the samskaras, the impressions from the past, that we carry on our back. The more we stick to our practice, the more used we become to doing it and after some time, it’s like brushing our teeth. We can’t really start the activities of the day without it. Sleep is essential for our organism to function and be healthy, so it would seem natural to create a routine that will help us to restore in the most effective way possible each night before going to bed. Every morning when we wake up, we have a blank sheet in front of us. We have a whole new day to fill exactly how we want it. If we wake up after a good night’s sleep, we are receptive to all kinds of impressions because we have not yet been influenced by all the information of the outside world. Therefore, creating a routine to start the day in the best possible way sets the brain on the vibrational frequency of our choice.
When we have a goal, when we want to challenge ourselves to reach for that goal, we use morning and evening routines to recondition ourselves to succeed.
EVERY MORNING DO THIS
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This is essential to stay balanced for the physical, mental and emotional parts.
Wake up before the sunrise, somewhere between 5 – 6.30 am depending on where in the world you are and your constitution (Ayurvedic constitution: kapha, pitta, vata). Before even getting out of bed: set your mindset of the day. Observe your current state, feel into the physical body, pay attention to the ways of your thoughts, maybe there’s traces of what you have dreamt there? The actively decide on your mood for the day.
Once out of bed, take 20 minutes to do oil pulling with either coconut or sesame oil. Oil pulling consists of swishing about a table spoon of oil in your mouth and tests have shown that you need 20 minutes to have the desired effect: cleaning the gum and teeth from toxins and healing beginning problems. Make sure that you are using an unrefined, organic and preferable cold pressed oil. Once finished, spit it out and rinse your mouth with warm water. Now it’s time for the rest of the digestive system to get clean.
One big cup (or even make a tea pot depending on your needs) of warm water with half a lemon squeezed. A variation of this (and I recommend the bigger version in this case), especially if you feel low on energy, an illness coming on or simply when your daily routine is out of order (and in winter time!!) is the following:
1 tsp black pepper
Hot water, let simmer like any tea preparation.
Another wonderful part of this routine is dry brushing. It has been proved very beneficial for the lymphatic system and blood circulation, not to mention the soothing sensation of self care. We dry brush from bottom towards the heart, insisting where our lymphatic glands are and end the whole procedure with a self massage using either coconut or sesame oil.
Now we are ready to move!
I recommend to any beginner of yoga or simply to practitioners who haven’t really had a routine before, to start easy. Don’t decide to practice an hour every morning or you will not stick to your plan. Begin with 20 minutes (that’s what you will find in the morning classes to practice this with!)
We end our practice with a nice and long enough savasana every day (it’s essential for your nervous system to balance back to being calm). Depending on the length and intensity of the practice, the duration of your savasana can vary. I would say that for a 60 minutes practice, you should take 15-20 minutes savasana. For the 20 minutes practice, I could therefore recommend 5 minutes but I tend to find that too short to really relax so I will stay on 10 or even 15 depending on the intensity.
After moving meditation we take enough time to sit in meditation. Now there can be different ways of structuring your sadhana. We can also choose to meditate before our practice. In that case, I would recommend to at least add on 5 or even 10 minutes of pranayama after savasana to really register the state you brought yourself into, let it sink into your being and find even more focus with breathing exercises.
A short (and maybe cold) shower after this and the activities can begin!
EVERY EVENING DO THIS
There’s a reason they say that we get the best sleep before midnight and that has to do with our internal biochemistry. The stress hormone cortisol drops real low towards the end of the evening but the starts to rise again around 2 am. Therefore, the more sleep you can get before midnight, the deeper you will sleep during the awakening of the cortisol and you can stay asleep for longer. The first part of the night then gives a deeper sleep in general because once the cortisol starts to rise, the sleep gets lighter so that we naturally wake up feeling fresh in the morning. Quite naturally, before electricity we would take rest as the sun set and wake up again when it started to rise.
I always found it difficult to fall asleep at night when I was younger and it took me long time to realise that I needed to calm my energy down first. I needed a routine that would not only prepare me by calming myself but also to ground me (habitual pattern) so that I’d fall asleep feeling safe, feeling secure.
Start your routine when the sun is setting. When the light dims on the outside, do so inside as well. This includes screens with strong white light like computers, pads and mobiles. I would even go as far as to suggest only candle light at this time. There is a beautiful yogic kryia, a practice, called Trataka. It is a meditation, staring into a flame without closing the eyes. Not only does this calm the mind but it also has benefits for the quality of your vision. To improve your eyesight, it’s necessary to practice this at least 5 minutes every day.
It’s important to remember that the vibrational state you are in when you go to bed will accompany you as you wake up as well. Basically, if you go to bed in a good mood, you are more likely to wake up feeling good too. So any worry that we might have should be left behind us as we start our evening routine. There is really nothing we can do about it at this time of the day anyway. Reading something interesting or listening to something that we enjoy can be a good way to go.
Then journal about the day that passed. What are the 10 things that you are grateful for today?
It seems hard when we start with this routine, but it will become easier as the days pass. Remember that the simple fact of waking up healthy under a roof that protects you and in a warm bed, is not obvious for everyone.
An Ayurvedic recommendation is to rub your feet with sesame oil and sleep with socks, especially if you are experiencing difficulties to fall asleep. But the full body oil massage that we do in the morning can be repeated at night as a part of this routine. It can be done just before the last part before going to bed, for instance.
Take 5 or 10 minutes before laying down, once you’ve finished journaling about your gratitude of the day. Sit in meditation and then finalise with 5 full rounds of alternate nostril breathing, Nadi shodana. The lay down, feet on the ground or already in bed, knees bent and leaning into one another. Place one hand on the belly and the other beside you for 10 deep belly breaths, abdominal breathing. Imagine that your abdomen is a ballon that you fill with air each time you inhale and let the belly button sink to the ground on the exhale.
Then lay in your bed, savasana for as long as it feels comfortable or even until you fall asleep.
Enjoy the blog?
I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on social media. Register for free access to online classes, courses, meditations and a whole lot more.