The image above is from a morning sunrise we watched in Coalcliff yesterday.
Waking up early, in the darkness of the morning is hands down one of my most pleasurable times of day. But it wasn’t always so. I’ve had a vast mix of different experiences that have created some crazy routines. I have studied full time, and worked full time simultaneously that saw me barely sleep. I have partied hard, and sometimes not even gotten to bed, or have had hangovers that have seen me lie in bed until midday. I’ve worked decades in hospitality and gone to bed at 1-2am 5 nights a week. I have had a baby that didn’t sleep, sometimes waking 15 times a night. I have had an early morning Astanga yoga practice that saw me practice about 5.30am in a class most days. Clearly, these things haven’t happened simultaneously!
I have researched sleep to within an inch of it’s life. Vedic methods, yogic practices, mono phasic sleeping (one sleep block at night, no napping), bi-phasic sleeping (2 sleep periods in a 24 hour block, think of the European siesta) and even tried polyphasic sleeping (multiple shorter sleeping periods in a 24 hour block), where I trialled Uberman, where you nap for 20 minutes every 4 hours. It’s the model that Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh, and in more recent times Tim Ferriss practiced. I was on fire for two weeks until I skipped a few sleeps and then came down with the worst jet lag for three weeks that I have ever experienced. I would NOT recommend Uberman if you have a family and serious responsibilities!!
And then there is now, where I go to bed early, and I sleep lightly, about 7 hours, and I usually wake between 4.45-5.15am every day feeling fantastic. Here I will share my knowledge, experience and tips that helped me shift my mindset and routine to be a consistently early riser, and a wonderful sleeper.
THE GOLDEN HOURS
In the Vedic tradition the hours before the sun rises are called Brahma Mahurt. It’s the golden time for spiritual practice, the ‘Elixir’ or ‘Ambrosial’ hours. I personally really notice a difference when I do my yoga asanas and practice Vedic meditation at this time. It’s sacred and truly beautiful time for a daily practice. Notice the changes and shifts that nature presents, the colours, the temperature, the energy in the environment. I’ve written in a little more detail about this HERE.
GET STRAIGHT UP
Now I don’t like being cold, and it’s generally chilly in Summer and freezing in Winter at this time, so my motivation has to be huge to get me out of bed this early. I wish deeply that I simply woke at the same time every day, but it’s just not me. I will however wake 2 minutes before my alarm, no matter what time I set it, go figure!! I set my alarm way before Arran gets up, so I can’t have it too loud to startle him or worse, wake our daughter or the dog up, as once they are awake, its game on and my meditation and yoga are seriously compromised. I choose a really beautiful song that I love, something by Nils Fram, or Phillip Glass so that when I wake, it’s to something that makes my heart sing. Then I get straight out of bed. I admit I usually hate this bit. I want to stay warm in bed, but I know full well that if I keep hitting snooze on my alarm, or turn it right off, then I will never get up.
“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!”
A DAILY MEDITATION PRACTICE
After trying so many different types, I am dedicated to my Vedic meditation practice. It’s the only type that allows the mind to naturally transcend thought and dive into a state of pure consciousness and not just dance on the surface. I cannot recommend this life changing practice enough, and it’s what I choose to teach. You can read more HERE and find teachers in most cities around the world. I host free introductory talks around the world also, where you can find our more. That said, there are many many practices and starting anywhere is better than nowhere! Just be regular with your practice, whatever practice it is.
I have stopped saying things to myself like ‘argh, I am so tired’ or ‘I wish I could just sleep in a little longer’ as this sets my brain up for fatigue. Be sure to cut any negative language/self talk from your morning routine, I can’t tell you how big a difference this makes!! Sometimes if it’s seriously cold, or I’m achy, and I can’t get out right away, I’ll hit the snooze for 9 minutes, and I will lie in bed and think about all that I am grateful for, to put me in a positive mindset. I think about all the is abundant in my life and then that motivates me to get stuck into the day ahead, as I feel so freaking happy by now!
Surya means sun in Sanskrit and Jai means with glory to. Watching the sunrise is one of my favourite things to do. Ideally you want to be up 40 minutes prior at the location where you can see the sun rise over the horizon, as the colours are truly wonderful. Watching the sunrise is something I try do from the beach a few days a week, and this is a true motivator to rise early and be out of bed.
WISE INVESTMENTS OF TIME
“To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner. To waste time is to expend it it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to either spend or waste, and it is our decision what to do with it. Once passed it is gone forever” says Bruce Lee in Striking Thoughts. The passing of time is a huge motivator for me. Once gone, it can never be retrieved. I set everything against time with my family or my own education and evolution and spiritual growth. Everything I do is either adding to this or taking me away from it. It becomes very clear what I will and won’t engage with based on these two factors. Lying in bed checking Instagram, then tossing and turning around and agonising over what I have to do that day while trying to calculate down to the last minute how long I can stay in bed for makes me feel agitated and nervous and sets the tone for the rest of the day. I’ve done that enough to not desire doing that anymore! My morning practice of yoga asanas and Vedic meditation however not only grows my connection to myself and a state of Pure Consciousness, it also places me in a more engaged state to be present and graceful with Marley and Arran when they both wake up. It’s a win win. Defining what you want out of life, and then taking action is incredibly powerful.
THE HEALING HOURS
The body seriously repairs and nourishes from 10pm – 2am, and we all really want to be asleep in this time to take advantage of this time for better health. Ensuring we are asleep and haven’t engaged in things that will disturb this (caffeine too late, too much alcohol) are really important. This time is the liver repair time also, and to ensure it can do its work properly, we want to have our food digested. So no late night eating and snacking before bed. We eat ridiculously early for dinner, and I have to use a lot of strength not to eat a tonne of chocolate before bed. Most of the time though, you’ll find me haunting the kitchen about 9pm! Not a great idea. Ensuring our body has had enough time to repair through the night, means it’s easier to wake in the morning. Also 2am – 6am are Vata times, light and more dynamic and therefore easier to get up. 6am – 10am are Kapha hours, and are more sluggish. Have you ever woken before 6am, and felt so alert, then fallen back asleep to wake after 6am to feel worse than before? That’s due to these Ayurvedic cycles. Working with them and being in bed pre 10pm and up pre 6am makes a huge difference to our circadian rhythms.
BATHE IN THE POSITIVE
After I complete my meditation, I usually make a french press coffee and drink it in on our balcony or in our garden and listen to the birds going crazy. It’s such a beautiful moment for me, being in the stillness as the sun rises, with all the scents and sensations and visuals, it feels very creative. I also started doing this as a way to absorb the good feelings created from my yoga and meditation practice. I previously would just charge into the shower, make school lunches etc. Now I realise that the more happy hormones I can charge myself up with in the morning the better off I am for the rest of the day, so I allow a little more time for luxuriating and presence and the more motivation I then have to repeat this the following day, rather than sleep in!
POWER DOWN HOUR
I can’t recommend this more! For an hour before sleeping and an hour on waking, don’t engage with digital technology. I know, it’s so tempting to just quickly check social media or emails, but it frazzles your mind and disturbs your emotional peace. Be ultra disciplined. It’s worth it, and the world can definitely wait.
EASY DOES IT
If you currently get up at 8am, don’t start setting your alarm for 6am, you’ll never get up. 15 minute increments work best, 2-3 days at a time. Set yourself a two week target to ease back your body clock. The same goes for going to bed. If you go to bed at midnight, tucking yourself in at 9pm straight off the bat won’t do much. Ease into 15 minutes at a time.
Please note, my daily schedule shifts depending on my travel and teaching schedule. It is not this blissful every day. Sometime days I am up at 4am to leave the house by 4.45am to drive into Paddington to teach. My meditation practice falls in and around my teaching schedule and on these days my yoga asanas are non existent!
Being gentle and compassionate with yourself as you transition, learn and shift, and not being attached to the outcomes are vital. Remember, we are practicing all of this to be more graceful and frictionless, not to create more friction. So don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go to plan right away.
Another article relevant to this, that you might be interested that I have written in is ‘Living A Sattvic Life’ found HERE.