December 15, 2021

How Tiny, Meaningful Daily Rituals can Change our Lives—& What Happens when we Don’t Have Them. {Partner}



This article is written in partnership with Yoga Wake Up—a mindful app that replaces your usual alarm with easy, audio-guided yoga and meditation from bed. Result? A relaxed, happier version of you…and who couldn’t use that every damn day? ~ ed.


“Good morning, Beautiful! The world is such a better place already, because you’re awake.”

That’s how my favorite Yoga Wake Up, “Motivational Morning” by Samora Suber, begins (did you press play above and groove to its background tunes?). And it’s honestly kind of perfect considering that slowly stimulating our bodies and brains in the morning is one of the best ways to ease into our days and create rather than deplete energy as soon as we rise (says the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)).

Of all the mindful things we get to try here at Elephant, this is the one steady thing I’ve kept locked in my arsenal of morning motivations. I’ve skipped around five states and four time zones in the past month and have used Yoga Wake Up in every single one—both to wake up and to fall asleep.

How regularly, you ask? Regularly enough that when I was tired enough to pass out before turning on my Yoga Wake Up sleepy-time meditation last night, my partner rolled over to ask if I was going to. It’s official, folks; it’s a routine!

Yoga Wake Up is an app full of short, guided audio yoga and meditation sessions for our mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Each session has its own unique focus and vibe, so we can choose exactly how we want to wake up, refresh, and go to sleep from day to day throughout the week.

I’d say it’s an alarm clock, but there is no “alarm” when the session sounds off—unlike the sudden eruption of a booming iPhone sound effect.

The musical fades that melt into an instructor’s call to a state of wakefulness quickly but gently take us to the energetic space we’ve selected the night before, or programmed to re-occur throughout the week.

Perhaps we know our mornings tend to start off hectic and stressful. We might choose to schedule a few different Yoga Wake Ups throughout the week geared to calming our senses at the start of our day.

What morning routine is best for you? Take Yoga Wake Up’s Quiz to find out (& get a FREE guided meditation) >>

Perhaps we know that we’re sluggish and need a little kick in the PJs to get out of bed—we need something more energizing to spring us forth into our day and put a little pep into our step. So, we look through the app for a few “energizing” sessions—and definitely schedule one for (ugh!) Mondays.

Or, maybe we’re so frequently under-stimulated in our desk job that we need a physical challenge to start us off right from the moment our feet hit the ground. Something to help us feel, in the first 15 minutes of our day, like we’ve conquered something worthwhile—something that requires some perseverance.

There’s truly a juicy option for everybody.

Truth be told? Yoga Wake Up has kinda turned me into a morning person—and that’s probably a good thing since research shows that morning people may be at a lower risk of depression than night owls (1) and that dialing bedtime back by about an hour is a safe intervention that might be helpful for the mental health of evening people like myself.

How a morning routine can improve our quality of life.

Broadly speaking, routines can help us cope with change, create healthy habits, improve relationships, and reduce stress levels. (2) When implemented daily, studies show they even have the potential to alleviate bipolar disorder and help prevent substance abuse (3).

But when it comes to daily rituals, some are more impactful than others. This is the case with morning routines. After all, it’s often that first impression that counts bigly.

Look, mornings are hard. We often go from zero mental energy utilization to full-throttle thinking. Do I snooze? What will be impacted if I do? What am I doing for breakfast? What am I wearing? Do I have time to shower?

Alarm!? Who wants that in the mornings? Ease into the day with Yoga Wake Up & try a week FREE  >>

The list of sudden decisions hurled at us when we lack a routine goes on and on. And the more we struggle to make those decisions, the more energy we deplete right off the bat.

So, when first starting the day, it’s especially important to avoid “decision fatigue.” We do that by having a set morning routine where gently waking turns into positivity, which turns into energy, which in turn helps us to be more productive (4).

5 ways to stretch into a rewarding morning routine you’ll actually want to stick with:

1. Find a way to ease into your morning

It’s easier to pull ourselves out of our sleepiness when we’re not rushing into our day.

So, set your Yoga Wake Up to begin about 15 minutes or so before you’d like to begin all other portions of your routine. This is “you time,” and it’s important to honor it.

To help you stick to your Yoga Wake Up routine, set a regular alarm that will gently wake you about 5 minutes earlier than your scheduled Yoga Wake Up, and let yourself turn it off. Lounge for those 5 minutes with intention rather than avoidance, then stretch into your day with your yoga or meditation wake up.

2. Stimulate your body

Research supports that exercise increases production of serotonin and norepinephrine, which help us better interact with our stress. It also shows that we’re more creative and productive for the two hours following exercise. (4) Hel-lo, motivation!

When we make that physical activity something like yoga, the health benefits go deep.

Studies show that as we take different asanas (poses) and partake in pranayama (breathwork), we constrict and release both muscles and vital internal organs like our pancreas and lungs, which trigger physiological responses in our nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune systems (5) for a full bodymind balancing.

To continue that theme of easing into the day, NAMI recommends turning on some upbeat music and doing some light stretching. With Yoga Wake Up, you’ll already have both of those covered.

You’ll wake up with tunes that your instructor selected to match your desired morning vibe. Both music and instructor will guide you through the movement or meditation you desire, bringing you happily from snug as a bug to feet on the floor.

And when you’re done, open your curtains to let the natural light boost your serotonin even more, and give yourself a little more lifeforce before fully plunging into the day.

Pro tip: To reinforce the tone of your day, download and listen to the tracks listed in your selected yoga or meditation session, and play them in their full, unadulterated beauty.

Good tunes, good flow, good vibes, good days—get it all in one spot with Yoga Wake Up >>

3. Eat breakfast

Research shows that those who eat breakfast have more energy than those who wait until lunch to eat. I personally prefer intermittent fasting. To each their own!

4. Read

We know that old saying, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Reading an interesting book or a how-to stops the brain from multi-tasking and allows it to slowly stretch into focusing rather than slamming into it like a crash test vehicle to a wall. (Scrolling down Instagram and your to-do list doesn’t count).

5. Begin work with a proactive mindset

When we start our day with what psychologist Ron Friedman calls “cognitively expensive” tasks like responding to work emails “real quick” before even starting our workday, or jumping into our professional to-do list immediately upon our arrival at our desks, we set off a chain of reactive mental events that can set the mood for our entire day.

So, be proactive; make a to-do list that lets your brain ease into your strategy for the day before jumping in to execute and tackle it all.

The tried-and-true beauty of a Yoga Wake Up

Before being introduced to Yoga Wake Up, my morning routine was a major fail that looked something like this:

>> 7:30ish—Wake up and stress about work. Snooze in avoidance.
>> Whenever—Wake up fast.
>> Quickly—Make bed.
>> Maybe—Get “dressed.”
>> Definitely—Brew coffee.
>> While the coffee brews—Throw self into work while still wearing pajamas.

And while I’m still working on getting other morning routine components steadily flowing within my life, here’s roughly what my routine looks like, now:

>> 5:30— Yoga Wake Up
>> 5:45— Make bed, open the curtains, or sit in front of bright light therapy lamp, and journal.
>> 6:15— Breakfast, coffee, and text catch up with friends far and wide.
>> 7:15— Shower, shampoo, and shine.
>> 7:45— Goodbye time with the honey.
>> 7:50— Make my to-do list for work.
>> 8:00— Conquer.

So, I wasn’t kidding when I said Yoga Wake Up has made me a morning person. I’ve added a couple of hours to my morning routine and have begun implementing an earlier bedtime routine just to make room for some of that je ne sais quoi I’ve noticed showing up in my life.

To bring things full circle, the world really does seem like such a better place already, now that I’m awake earlier, and easing into routine.

A good morning lends more balance and flow to my day. That balance transitions into an earlier and more naturally relaxed bedtime that’s more restful due to evening Yoga Wake Up wind-down meditations. It’s a gloriously delicious circle, to be honest—one that’s well worth the Hulu no-ad-range monthly subscription fee.

And I mean, can you really even put a price tag on balance?

Stretch into wakefulness, rejuvenation, and sleep with the Yoga Wake Up app >>


A Yoga Wake Up for Morning, Noon, & Night.

Morning Yoga

1. Flow Gracefully into the Morning.

A gentle awakening for those of us who tend to wake up with a little grogginess, stress, or anxiety. Slowly get your blood flowing from the comfort of your bed? Yes, please!
1 FREE Week of Morning Bliss—on us!
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1. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/21/well/mind/morning-person-depression.html
2. https://nyctherapy.com/therapists-nyc-blog/the-mental-health-benefits-of-having-a-daily-routine/
3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-gen-y-psy/201810/the-power-routines-in-your-mental-health
4. https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/august-2017/the-power-of-a-morning-routine
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482773/




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