I will admit it – I am decidedly not a morning person, which flies in the face of the yoga stereotype. Sleeping in, for me, is a happy place, though I’m hoping that my ongoing quest for personal evolution will slowly make six a.m. more appealing.
There are a number of religious traditions that advocate getting up in the wee hours – i.e. four to five a.m. – to meditate and to pray. I have attempted this once, and even I have to acknowledge the salutary effect that it had on my state of mind. It is undeniably peaceful to rise before anyone else is awake, before the chaos begins (which you will ultimately float above like a lotus skimming muddy waters, yes?), and while all the world is quiet. A number of Buddhist lineages advise those beginning meditation practices to select artificially quiet environments at first; afterward, when a certain level of development is reached, bustle and activity will have little impact on concentration. In this way, early morning ritual seems analogous – it is a time to “begin” again.
For those of us who haven’t yet become adept at leaping out of bed before the alarm goes off, it can be helpful to have a point of definite focus. I’d mentioned mudras a while ago, and I’ve found them very useful in meditation. The word mudra can refer to any of a number of positions, while hasta mudras refer specifically to positions or gestures of the hands. A common mudra for morning altertness is ushas mudra, which can be performed by clasping the hands at your abdomen or chest. Your fingers will be interlaced; think of a person celebrating a win at the end of a race – a common gesture is to interlace the fingers, creating a large “fist,” and shaking it at either side of the head. That’s what your hands are going to look like, but we’ll leave the shaking for after the first cup of strong coffee.
For men, once your fingers are interlaced, ensure that your right thumb is on top of your left thumb. For women, slip your right thumb under your left thumb; you’ll find that it rests at the base of your left index finger.
From here, you can hold the mudra and meditate on a sensation of fresh beginnings, alertness, and energy. Five minutes may be plenty of time to feel refreshed, though don’t be discouraged if you’re still groggy – meditative practice, like all other worthwhile endeavours, takes time to develop.