A morning movement routine

Published 8. September 2016.

I've always had trouble sticking to positive morning routines. I've experimented with many different ideas for morning habits and how to structure that first hour or so of the day, but rarely stuck to them for more than two weeks. The one habit that has stuck and cemented over the past two years, is to wake up, make a cup of tea (usually), and sit down with my journal. I love how writing helps me process my thoughts, setting the track and tone for the rest of the day. It also tends to lift my mood, especially now that the first task I set for myself is to write out three things I'm grateful for from yesterday—a good way to stack the habits of journaling and gratitude together, especially when I don't have much time.

But on the physical side of things, that means a lot of my mornings have been looking like this: wake up, roll out bed and amble into the kitchen for tea (or just stay in bed), grab my pen and notebook, then sit down on the bed to write, sometimes for quite a while. Not a whole lot of movement going on.

About two months ago, I listened to an excellent interview with Shawn Stevenson about sleep. One point that caught my attention was his mention of how spending time in movement soon after waking up, teamed with exposure to outdoor light, could improve sleep and the physical recovery processes during it. It was then time for an experiment. The movement didn't have to be strenuous, and walking was suggested, but I wanted to create a habit that develops some skill or capacity I haven't worked on near as much as I'd prefer—as nice as it'd be to walk in the nearby forest every morning.

After more pondering, I realized I could combine a low-impact morning movement routine with meditation, an elusive habit I've never got to stick. I chose a movement from t'ai chi called silk reeling, which I'd been practicing off-and-on for the past year. It's proving to be a wonderful choice, as it's a meditative breath-focused movement that grows with me—I'm by no means an expert at it, and it's a deep and nuanced skill that teaches me more every time I practice.

I began the habit by heading out to the secluded deck just outside my bedroom and doing one to three minutes of silk reeling before heading back inside for tea and journaling. After several months, that time has lengthened to average over five minutes, sometimes stretching past ten (about twelve in the video below). I'd like to get to a point where I can maintain this practice without fatigue for about twenty minutes.

In addition to the possible benefits to sleep and recovery, it's simply something I enjoy doing. It starts me off with movement and breathing, and puts me into a more meditative mindset before attending to the day ahead. It's also low impact and brief enough (if I choose) that I can easily stack it with more movement, whether that's mobility, light conditioning, or otherwise. I may refine this routine in the future, but for now this beginning suits me well.