Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today.
Touring the United States as an ambassador for Live Be Yoga has been a whirlwind, filled with the full spectrum of feelings – from joy to exhaustion and beyond. Brandon and I are driving across the country, landing in a new city every week, living out of our suitcases and doing everything we can to create a sense of home in each new place.
At this point, we have established a rhythm and know the things we need to do individually to ground ourselves throughout this journey. I am continually reminded of my own humanity and the ways I occasionally react too quickly to less-than-ideal situations.
See also 3 Tips to Bounce Back from Burnout.
One of the main conversations we keep hearing on the road is this idea of taking our yoga “off the mat". We heard this in our very first meeting with Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor, and it has continued to be an anchor throughout the tour thus far. When I initially agreed to the tour, I knew it would test me and my practice. It’s important to remember that we can only live our practice if we actually do our practice. This is a fundamental teaching shared in The Yoga Sutras: to reap the undeniable benefits of the practice, we must stay committed and consistent with our practice every day
My yoga mat has always been a place of refuge. I sometimes think of my mat as my mirror, reflecting the truth of who I am, what matters most, and what I’m here to do. While I have always stayed committed to my personal practice, I’ve never had a consistent morning practice that genuinely worked for me, day in and day out.
Often, I find myself caught in stories of what my morning practice “should” look like, based on what my teachers have suggested or what friends and colleagues are doing. So much of this practice is about releasing our attachments, and this is no exception. Since embarking on this tour, I’ve found that I have to cultivate a morning ritual that truly works for me – one that grounds and nourishes me, rather than one that feels forced or is coming from all of the “shoulds” wrapped around my ego.
My practice is different every morning, but I now feel inspired to wake up and make myself a priority. Being on the road has actually enhanced my personal practice because I am making it more of a priority than ever before. I ask myself when I wake up: what do I need to do this morning? Sit still and to drop into meditation? Asana and/or pranayama? Do I need to go for a walk or put my legs up the wall? There is one non-negotiable: I make the time to sit for at least 15 minutes in meditation, no matter what. I give myself enough time to ease into my day, quietly and gently.
As part of this journey, we take several yoga classes every week, and, in a literal sense, we “practice” yoga all the time. Yet, cultivating a regular and committed personal practice offers us a beautiful opportunity to tune into the intuitive wisdom of our bodies. It teaches us to pay attention to subtleties that, more often than not, will not be cued by another teacher. It sets the tone for the day and helps us remember our worth and our value. It helps us remember why we actually practice and how to share the practice with others.
5 Ways to Create an Inspiring Morning Practice
1. Set up an inviting, warm space.
Whether your space includes an altar, candles, gentle music, or dim lighting, create an environment that makes you feel comfortable and at ease. When I arrive in a new city, I do whatever I can to set up my practice space – to make it feel like home. I set up my personal altar in a new bedroom each week, but it always carries the same energy regardless of location.
2. Check in with yourself upon waking up.
How is your body feeling? Where is your mind wandering? Do you need movement, stillness, or a combination of both? Ask yourself: what do I need right here, right now?
3. Hold yourself accountable.
For example, I know that my meditations are much more powerful after I’ve moved through an asana practice. I also know that I feel and function better when I meditate, so I commit to at least 12 minutes of meditation in the morning, no matter what.
4. Turn your phone off or set to "do not disturb."
It’s very easy to jump right into work mode upon waking. This one can be a struggle for me. But, when I do this, I am able to show up much more intentionally both in work and relationships.
5. Remember that your practice doesn't have to "look" a certain way.
So much about yoga is learning about ourselves and our needs. There is no “right” way to do this. There is only what feels right for you. The work is to honor those needs, and stay consistent in your efforts to nurture them.
Suggestions for a Morning Sequence
- Take a few grounding breaths in Child’s Pose before making your way to hands and knees.
- Begin to link simple movements with the breath, moving through 5-10 rounds of cat/cow. If it feels desirable, add in some hip and neck circles before pressing back into Downward Dog.
- Explore down dog by peddling out the legs and shifting the gaze from side to side.
- Walk your hands to the back of the mat and take an easy Ragdoll Pose to release any tension in the neck.
- Slowly make your way back to the top of the mat to prepare for 3-5 rounds of Sun Salutations (choice of half salutations and full salutations).
- After moving through any variation of salutations make your way onto your back for Happy baby.
- Take a variation of a Spinal Twist in both directions, preparing for Savasana.
- Spend 5-20 minutes in seated meditation.