If you’re like me, you try to do it all, but it’s darn near impossible! How on earth can one run a business, work out regularly, meal prep, nurture your relationships, take care of 4 spoiled brats, keep your legs shaved, AND have a spiritual practice?! I have been experimenting with my morning routine and I think I’m on to something…..
I’ve heard Buddhist teachers say: “You can meditate while walking, brushing your teeth, or even doing housework.” So, I’m totally running with it!
Lately my morning exercise has been paddle boarding. Summer in Florida is hardly tolerable unless you’re in, near, or around water. So for an hour in the morning I go out on the lake and paddle my little heart out, shower, and slide into work 2 minutes before my first patient is scheduled. I started experimenting with mindfulness, affirmations, and breath work all while breaking a sweat! I’ll be referencing to paddle boarding in the tips below…..however you can insert your activity of choice because it works for any.
1. Integrate mantra or affirmations
Any exercise can become rhythmic, especially cardio. Whether it’s a stroke of the paddle, walking pace, bike cadence, or reps at the gym, using these tempos can be a perfect time for mantra practice. So, with each stroke of my paddle I mentally repeat “Om Mani Padme Hum” over and over and over again. Using this mantra on a 4 step walking count works really well too! “Om [right foot] Mani [left foot] Padme [right foot] Hum [left foot]” and on and on and on.
If you’re not into the sanskrit, how about this: “I am graceful. I am powerful. I am beautiful. I am strong.” You can use any affirmation that resonates with you. Perhaps you wake up feeling sluggish…..”Every day in every way, I’m feeling more and more energized.” That’s 7 steps or 4 paddle strokes right there!
2. Plan your route/routine ahead of time
There’s nothing that squashes present moment awareness quicker than to having to think about what’s next. Whether you’re at the gym, cycling around your neighborhood, or even doing your yoga practice, take a moment and jot down or mentally acknowledge your plan of attack! It’s one less thing to distract you from your intention. Major key!
3. Be acutely aware of your surroundings
Ok. So this sounds elementary, but how many times have you gone on a walk, or taken a yoga class only to look back and not even remembered half of what the heck happened?! That’s what I’m talking about…! When I paddle board, I am looking at the water around me, but with the approach of mindfulness, I begin to notice the water textures created by my board, seagrass and minnows, how the sunlight reflects on the surface of the lake, the various colors and depths of the water, and all that jazz. You can go from mundane to mind-blown REAL FAST!
4. Ditch the squad
Ok. Exercise is way more fun when you can snapchat your way through your workout with your squad, however, for all upgrade-your-spiritual-practice purposes, you must go at this alone! In order to get quiet upstairs, drawing the attention inward is important. It’s near impossible when you have your amigos gossiping in one ear, while you’re doing affirmations in the other.
Allow me to clarify that “solo” means no iphone either. I’m as basic as they come when it comes to instagramming (that’s a verb now, right?) the perfect angle of a flower or the single best of 45 photos I took at every phase of the sun setting. C’mon. It’s fun. However, when I’m in the zone, the iphone is not invited to the party. So, um….sorry. Not sorry.
5. Integrate breath work
The day your breath leaves you will be the the second most important day of your life. Until then, it’s without-a-doubt your primary source of energy and the most precious gift. Known as “pranayama,” Breath awareness has a direct effect in calming your nervous system. Whether I’m paddle boarding or doing bicep hammers at the gym, you can bet my breath is along for the ride. Matching the breath to the movements is a sure way to find a meditation in what you’re doing. It’s truly a game changer that will take your physical activity from zero to hero fast!
6. Make it not-about-you
Can your exercise activity and routine integrate some way of helping, sharing, giving, uplifting, supporting, etc? “Seva” is a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service” or doing something without expecting reward or repayment. In yogic philosophy seva is a practice to help one’s spiritual growth.
The more time I spend on my board, the more noticeable it has become that there’s way too much trash in our waterways. So, I’ve begun to use this approach as part of my exercise. Let me explain the amount of core stability that is necessary maneuver close enough to the floating styrofoam coffee cup some idiot didn’t secure to his cup-holder, sumo-squat down, and scoop that puppy up all without ending up wet! Win. win.
7. Get outside the box
Do your exercise in, around, or near nature. Get out. No really. Get. Out. One of my favorite quotes is “The earth speaks much to those who listen.” There’s nothing more incredible than the call of an Osprey, the splash of a spooked turtle, or the rustle of the breeze through the petals of a water lily. There’s also this little thing called: sunshine. We’ve been conditioned to be afraid of the sun, however there are studies that show some sun is really important for uplifting the mood and of course good ol’ vitamin D (which most of the population is now severely depleted of this fat-soluble vitamin).
8. Savasana is a must
Who said corpse pose is only for yogis? Final relaxation at the end of any activity is an opportunity for your body to reacclimatize to a state of homeostasis (say that fast 5 times). When the physical body becomes still, the mind will soon follow suit. After a few minutes savanna, you’ll feel like you can conquer the world! Try it.