Does your morning routine include a movement ritual? Whether it’s a morning walk, jog in the park, a few rounds of sun salutations or an online class, getting the body moving in the morning is something we benefit from physically, mentally and energetically.
There’s an abundance of growing research confirming what ancient traditions like Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine have known for hundreds of years; when we move with the rhythms of the day – being active in the morning and resting at night – our wellbeing increases. Across the world, cultures have traditions of moving upon waking. From the Five Tibetan Rites, to Qigong, the Surya Namaskar sequences of Yoga, the Japanese morning exercise routine of Rajio-Taiso, and even your local ParkRun, it’s evident that moving in the morning is something humans are inclined to do. Take a look at the book Tibetan Yoga For Health And Wellbeing for inspiration from other cultures.
Sunlight plays an important role in helping us feel energised in the morning; the light outside between sunrise and midday contains more ‘blue’ light waves. When we expose our eyes and skin to this morning light, it signals to a light receptor in the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (or SCN for short) that it’s daytime, and time to wake up. Getting outside in the morning light is a natural and powerful way to help us feel more vibrant, boost digestion and brain power, and re-set our circadian rhythms, which all contributes hugely to a good night’s sleep too. As well as this morning light exposure, it helps to add a touch of uplifting scent to your diffuser (try Tisserand’s Happy Vibes oil ) , and simple movements we can adopt to boost circulation and cognitive function, benefit the lymphatic system, and to make morning a little brighter. Read on for five super simple movements you can add to your yoga practice or move through on their own:
1. Full Body Stretch
The Benefits: Yogic texts acknowledge this movement as Urvha Hastasana or ‘raised hands pose’, as well as Talasana or ‘palm tree pose’. It sounds almost too simple, but literally raising your arms in the air and taking a full body stretch can help enhance the flow of blood and nutrients around the body, as well as stretching out adhesions in the fascia. Fascia is a web-like connective tissue that weaves its way throughout the whole body, covering muscles and organs, and literally connects every part of us together. Tightness or dehydration in the fascia can contribute to feeling stiff in the morning, and simply stretching it out and up hydrates and lengthens it. As well as a morning stretch, self-massage in the evening can help keep fascia and muscles supple. Use an oil like Tisserand’s Muscle Ease massage oil to soothe soreness.
How To: Raise your hands in the air and clasp them together. Stretch your arms up as high as you can as you inhale, and relax your arms down as you exhale.
2. Jumping or Heel-Bouncing
The Benefits: Anything resembling rebounding, hopping, jumping or bouncing is great for circulation, but also for the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system serves to filter fluid that has been drained from tissues through ‘lymph nodes’, removing bacteria and microbes, cells that could potentially carry illnesses, and dead cells the body no longer needs. This system is an incredibly important part of the immune system, so caring for it is key. As well as body brushing and consuming foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, we can enhance the health of the lymphatic system by bouncing or jumping on the spot, as lymphatic vessels rely upon this type of movement to ‘pump’ lymph through the body. The calves in particular act as a great ‘pump’ for the lymph and also the heart, which is why ‘heel-bouncing’ is so beneficial.
How To: Standing in one spot, lift your heels up and down quickly so it feels a little like you’re bouncing, but with the balls of the feet remaining on the ground. If you own a skipping rope or rebounder, these are great options too.
The Benefits: Our brain responds to the way we move, and any action that includes opposition such as walking with the arms swinging, swimming, and crawling, can all help improve brain activity. Therapeutically, cross-crawling is any activity in which the limbs are crossing over the midline of the body, effectively enhancing the communication between the left and right brain hemispheres, allowing electrical signals to efficiently pass between them. Crawling throughout infancy stimulates the brain to begin making these connections, encouraging more complex brain and nervous system developments, and is an important part of our overall human development. Regular movements like this help with maintaining coordination, learning, reading, encouraging self-awareness, and can prime the brain for a busy day ahead.
How To: Begin marching on the spot, then use your hands to tap the opposite knee as it rises, so your arms are crossing over the midline of the body as you move. This movement can also be done on all fours.
4. ‘Body Slapping’ or ‘Swinging The Arms’
The Benefits: Derived from Qigong, this action is great for boosting prana, qi and ‘life force energy’, as well as physical circulation. The spine also benefits from this gentle twisting movement, which can help release tension in the fascia and muscles. Allowing your hands to tap or gently ‘slap’ your body as you twist can also help you feel more energised and awake in the morning. Try awakening your brain even more by lighting a candle like Beefayre’s Bee Happy candle, which will waft the uplifting scents of Jasmine and Orange throughout the room, and is made from natural courses of plant wax.
How To: Standing in one place, take your feet a little wider than your hips, and twist your upper body side to side. Let your arms relax and swing as you move, allowing your hands to tap your body with each twist from side to side, without thinking too much about the movement.
The Benefits: All animals (including us!) have an innate ability to shake-off stress and tension. After a stressful ‘fight or flight’ situation, animals intuitively shake, which helps disperse nervous energy, adrenaline, cortisol, and assists in transitioning from a freaked-out state, to a more calm and balanced mode. Over thousands of years, we’ve subconsciously ‘trained’ ourselves not to shake in times of stress, for fear of it being unacceptable socially, and as a way to hide how we really feel. Methods like TRE (trauma release exercises) have re-introduced the awareness of how beneficial shaking is, but you don’t have to be in a state of stress to benefit from it. Shaking your body can help it remember to relax and let go, and encourages us to release tension before beginning the day. As well as the multitude of mental and emotional benefits, it of course also helps boost circulation too.
How To: Start by shaking your legs whilst supporting your back on a bolster. Or simply, without thinking or planning it, shake your body!
Did you like this? Then you might like Moving in to Summer: 5 ways to live more seasonally