Taming the Morning Monster

It’s one thing to not be a morning person, but some of us can turn into a real monster when it’s time to get up. And the effects on our life can be just as ugly. This Axis Yoga Teacher Training student tells how addressing one’s dosha can tame the monster within.

 

Morning Monster: One Eye Open

During the course of our studying Ayurveda I found I had an overwhelming identification with Kapha. I came to find that what I had been told before, that my Dosha was primarily Kapha, turned out to be true. I have made many changes to my lifestyle in the past that have addressed these Kapha tendencies unbeknownst to myself as measures of self discovery in my yoga journey thus far, and now here I was presented with the opportunity to address another layer in my experiment! I found that some little habits I held near and dear after giving up so many other things on my journey thus far fell squarely into the category of creature comforts in my mind, even though they did not benefit me. Things like cheese before bed for example (oh and did I mention late at night?). Since I was experiencing a bit of self-improvement fatigue at the time of devising our experiment, I was very reluctant to rock the boat too much. Therefore I designed an experiment that I thought would “softly” address my Kapha imbalance.

I have historically had a hard time waking up, and am quite frankly a bit of a monster in the morning. There have been short periods of time when this has not been true, but overall it has been a widely known and accepted fact among those nearest and dearest to me. It’s really kind of embarrassing and has caused quite a bit of unnecessary stress in my life for all the obvious reasons. I hypothesized that if I could address my Kapha imbalance in some manner, I would wake up with more ease and experience less stress and shame around my sleeping in tendencies. I thought that a Kapha reducing diet would probably help but I tend to have a real problem with the framing of “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do that” specifically around food and diet. So instead of instituting a Kapha reducing diet and focusing on what I could or could not eat, I decided to institute a mindful eating approach so as to let my body intuitively tell me what it wanted and how much it wanted. I set an intention of not eating late at night and to have my meals in peace and quiet (not in front of the computer or tv) and to slow down while eating. In theory I guessed that this would help address some of my Kapha like cravings and my diet would self correct. I also was interested in trying some self care Ayurveda actions out so I added a few routine items like drinking water first thing in the morning instead of coffee, oil pulling because I was curious about it, and last but not least foot massage with oil at night to help me get to sleep earlier.

Morning Monster: A Little Movement

My first week with the concentration on eating mindfully was a great success! I put a little more thought and energy into planning my meals so I would want to enjoy them in peace and quiet. I intentionally slowed down while eating which produced the results I thought it would, I ate only as much as I needed and discovered that my body would let me know what it needed. Instead of craving dairy or Kapha increasing foods, I found I instinctively wanted more fresh fruits and vegetables. A couple of mornings I found myself getting up with my alarm the first time it went off, having my water first thing and starting my morning routine with a lot more energy and vigor. I also noticed that I had a more sustained energy throughout the day and didn’t crave as much snack like junk food during working hours.

Morning Monster: Hit the Snooze

During the second week of the experiment I became disheartened when I realized that I was starting to quantify my mindful eating efforts by whether or not there was a physical difference in my body shape and weight. During this time I continued to be more mindful about preparing my meals, but started to fall back into patterns of eating in front the computer at work, which I judged myself unnecessarily for. I also noticed that I was shutting down around the mindful eating practice as a perfectionistic response and experienced some resistance to the negative emotional charge it brought up in terms of quantifying it’s effects on my body. In order to allow myself some gentleness and space I switched my tactic to observing mode. Here is where I learned the most. I let myself eat what I wanted when I wanted, but this time it was driven more by stressful habits and my normal routine than by mindfulness and restraint. I refrained from judgement however and tried to shift into observation mode when I noticed these things.

 

Morning Monster: Trying Again

I noted that when I indulged in my creature comfort of snacking on cheese late at night for example, it did make it harder than normal to get up the next morning, in addition I would have more congestion and allergy symptoms. Also when I checked my tongue the following morning it did have residue indicating it wasn’t digested completely. I took note that when I ate spicy foods, my congestion and allergy symptoms were alleviated, or when I didn’t eat late at night it was easier to get up in the morning and my allergy symptoms would be better. I checked my tongue periodically and noticed that I could indeed see a correlation between Kapha reducing foods and Kapha increasing foods. I tried various times to reframe the food types I should moderate or avoid by looking at the chart in the book and only reading the things that were Kapha reducing and thinking “Okay I can have all this great food!” for future reference to give my brain some good associations with foods that are good for my Dosha. I also determined during this observation time that a Kapha reducing flow in the morning would really serve me well. I tried it at night and found it to be too energizing but it would be a great way to start my day. I have not implemented that yet on a regular basis, but I plan to try.

I really enjoyed the oil pulling, and though I was suspicious of it at first, my curiosity got the better of me. I quickly saw the benefits to my teeth and gums. It was a great success for me in that it was the one consistent part of my experiment and routine that had only positive associations and something I will carry forward. It felt like such a nice intentional form of self-care. I also loved the foot massage at night. I did it probably a couple of times a week and used almond oil, sometimes with a few drops of lavender essential oil. I find my mind is usually racing before bed and keeps me up quite late (which is usually when I want a snack), the foot massage really helped to calm that down and bring me into a sweet relaxation. It is something I will definitely use again in the future. Drinking water first thing in the morning was very helpful and something that started my days off on a better wavelength than having coffee the first thing.

 

Morning Monster: Both Eyes Open

Overall I learned so much from observing my mind’s struggle with the mere idea of implementing more Kapha reducing practices in my diet and lifestyle. I came to appreciate in a whole new way my struggles with body image and how that is connected to feeding myself. I don’t think I have ever given space to that topic to air those complexities and so I am very grateful for the new awareness and for my intuitive wisdom to take it easy and observe. From that departure I learned so much about how judgment, shame and perfectionism are wrapped up in my struggles with food and body image. I truly believe in the beneficial effects of mindful eating and I know that approaching it from a non-judgemental framework would benefit me in the future. In the future I would like to implement a morning routine for myself that includes a Kapha reducing flow, and to try adding some Kapha reducing foods in my diet.

 

Get Rid of Road Rage with Ayurveda!

Who doesn’t have road rage from time to time? This Axis Yoga Teacher Training student noticed anger on the road was becoming just too common and decided to use lessons from the Ayurveda segment of the training to reduce these negative feelings. Read how changes in daily habits helped this yogi find some zen on the road!

Road Rage: Making a Plan

After taking the Ayurvedic quiz and speaking with Susan, I determined my prakruti to be V3P3K2. Recently I’ve been experiencing symptoms of excess pitta: frustration, and anger-specifically when I’m driving. I explained to class that I feel quite happy and peaceful for the most part, but when I step behind the wheel I develop quite a short fuse. In addition, I’ve been struggling to manage my daily stressors since I started my own business. The inability to manage my stress response in a healthy way has definitely affected my attitude and it seems to all come out when I’m driving!!

In an effort to manage my stress and become a more peaceful driver, I have implemented a number of practices designed to balance/reduce my excess pitta. Because I have many food sensitivities, I chose not to change my diet. Instead, I adopted personal care rituals each morning including: oil pulling, massaging pre-shower with almond oil and tongue scraping. I also wanted to implement a yoga routine in the morning including: specific asana, pranayama and meditation. Susan also suggested I practice deep belly breathing while driving to calm myself down and get centered.

Road Rage: Taking Action

I initially thought that this new routine would be a piece of cake. I quickly learned how foolish that was! I considered myself to be a morning person until I was forcing myself to wake up early to do sun salutations and grease my body up with oil. The asana, pranayama and meditation was extremely difficult for me to do in the morning. My morning meditation went something like this:

Om. I’m hungry. And uncomfortable. Om. And still really tired. I should just go back to sleep for a couple of minutes. Om. I have so much to do today. In fact, I should be getting organized for the day right now. Om. I have to figure out how I’m going to make it to three different appointments on opposite sides of town. Om.

After week one, I decided to try this routine later in the evening. At night, I was already done with all of my tasks for the day so I wasn’t constantly creating to-do lists in my mind. It also helped me go to sleep better, which sometimes I struggle with. I found that I woke up feeling better rested and in a better mood on days that I did my full routine. I continued with my personal care routine in the morning. I loved the oil pulling and quickly made this into a new habit! I liked the idea of massaging myself with oil but quickly started to break out from the almond oil. I decided to only use the oil on my feet, arms and legs and that seemed okay. I wasn’t crazy about the tongue scrapping so I stopped doing that when this experiment was over.

I really enjoyed doing deep breathing exercises while driving. It totally calmed me down and gave me something else to focus on besides the other drivers on the road. I also found myself doing breathing exercises randomly throughout my day whenever I found myself in a stressful situation; it almost came automatically.

Road Rage: Success!

If I were to summarize my experience, I can’t say that I believe the personal care routine reduced my pitta and helped my road rage or stress in any kind of direct way. I do think that it’s a nice way to practice self care as part of a daily routine. I have noticed a difference in my stress management abilities since I have been practicing more asana, pranayama and meditation. I’ve gotten to the point where I look forward to deep breathing and chanting, instead of viewing it as a chore. To summarize how my experiment has affected my road rage specifically, I want to tell a story:

I left class last Tuesday evening and was headed home down Colorado Blvd. I was about ten minutes into my drive when I saw a police car parked in the median monitoring speeds. I immediately panicked and prepared to slam on my breaks when I glanced at my speedometer and saw that I was going the speed limit. This may not sound all that interesting except for the fact that it was 9:30 PM on a Tuesday night and I was practically all alone on the road. Normally, I would be going a good 10-20 mph over the speed limit to rush home as quickly as possible. Instead, I was driving at the exact speed limit…not rushing, just enjoying the drive home!

Suffice it to say, I have no doubt that practicing deep breathing and incorporating meditation into my daily life has impacted my temperament in a huge way. I don’t know about the way that it has affected my dosha in particular, but I do know that I will carry this into my life beyond this experiment and beyond this training program. I’m grateful to have been given this opportunity to discover new healthy ways to relieve stress and become a more peaceful, patient person.