Tips for Starting an Early Morning Yoga Routine Without Losing Sleep

An early morning yoga routine can improve your sleep and overall well being. Waking up early for yoga offers an energizing way to start your day, and can help you feel more balanced throughout the day.

The Benefits of Early Morning Yoga

If you have an early morning yoga session to look forward to, you may be more motivated to get out of bed. It can help you wake up, and may help clear out any stiffness you’ve developed overnight.

When you do yoga early in the morning, it’s done and taken care of for the day. You can always do more later, but you don’t have to worry about fitting in a yoga routine later in the day if it’s already done.

Yoga vs. Sleep

It can be tough to wake up early for your yoga routine. If you’re not careful, you might miss out on sleep time to wake up early for yoga. This is a mistake.

Although yoga can be beneficial for sleep, it’s not more important than sleep. You shouldn’t short yourself on sleep time just so you can get up early and do yoga. Yoga won’t make up for missing out on a good night’s sleep.

Early Morning Yoga and Sleep

You can start an early morning yoga routine without losing sleep. You should make sleep a priority and maintain good sleep hygiene. If you plan ahead, you can make time to sleep and practice yoga in the morning.

  • Be consistent. Creating an early morning yoga routine requires consistency, so you should commit to practicing every morning. Once it becomes a regular routine, it will be easier to get up and do it every morning.

  • Make bedtime a priority. Plan ahead of time and remember that you want to do yoga in the morning. If you want to wake up early, you’ll need to go to bed early. Make sleep time a priority in your schedule so that you can get enough sleep at night and still wake up early and ready to enjoy yoga.

  • Establish a bedtime routine. With a good bedtime routine, you can prepare yourself for a healthy night’s sleep. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, keep up with a consistent bedtime routine, and practice healthy sleep hygiene, including creating a comfortable sleep environment.

  • Get ready the night before. Make it easier for you to roll out of bed and start yoga in the morning. Set out your clothes and mat, pack your bag, and get anything else you’ll need together before you go to bed. This will simplify your morning so you can get straight to practicing yoga. It will also help you get in the mindset that you’ll be doing yoga in the morning.

  • Do yoga in bed. Early morning yoga doesn’t have to be a full workout. You can do simple poses in bed before you’re really ready to get up. This is especially helpful if you didn’t get enough sleep. Soft, easy poses can be used when you’re short on sleep so you don’t risk injury.

How To Speed Up Your Metabolism

Did you know there is a personal trainer at work in your body right now? It’s called your metabolism, and unlike a trainer who you coordinate schedules with, your metabolism works around the clock. Each time you eat, enzymes in your body’s cells break down the food and turn it into energy that keeps your heart beating, your mind thinking and your legs churning during an awesome workout. The faster your metabolism runs, the more calories you burn. The more you burn, the easier it is to drop pounds. And get this—you can make your metabolism work harder, a lot harder, 24 hours a day. While we can’t change how many calories it takes to keep our heart beating, we can burn an extra 500 to 600 calories a day by exercising and eating properly.

In the Morning

  1. Eat right out of bed- If you don’t body will go into starvation mode so your body slows to conserve energy.
  2. Drink coffee- It stimulates central nervous system and increases heart rate and breathing.
  3. Drink cold water (or with lemon)- Body burns a few extra calories heating up water to core temperature.

At work

  1. Protein for lunch- Protein helps build and maintain lean muscle (muscle burns more calories than fat).
  2. Drink green tea- Let tea seep for 3 minutes and drink while it’s hot.
  3. Dairy in the after-mooo-n- Calcium helps body metabolize fat more efficiently by increasing the rate at which it gets rid of fat as waste (poop).

At the Market

  1. Go organic as much as possible- You wouldn’t put dirty oil in your car would you?
  2. It’s getting hot in here- Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their mouth-searing quality, can also fire up your metabolism. Think salsa and red pepper flakes for topping pizza, stir fry, and pasta.
  3. Metal head- Women lose iron during their period every month; iron helps carry oxygen to your muscles. If your levels run low, muscles don’t get enough O2, your energy tanks, and your metabolism slows. Stock up on iron (fortified cereals, beans, and dark leafy greens like spinach, bok choy, and broccoli)

Working Out

  1. Intervals- Bursts of speed may stimulate a fat-burning response within the muscles.
  2. Slow down- Count to three as you lower the weight back to the start position. Slowing things down increases the breakdown of muscle tissue. The repair process (building muscle) pumps up your metabolism for as long as 72 hours after your session. Note- use heavy weights if you want this to work 😉
  3. Somethings fishy- Combining regular exercise with fish-oil supplements increases the activity of your fat-burning enzymes.

At Home

  1. Eat more fish- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines are loaded with hunger-quashing omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help trigger the rapid transfer of “I’m full” signals to your brain.
  2. Limit your alcohol- Did you know that 2 drinks in one sitting slows down your metabolism by 73%?! That’s because your liver converts the alcohol into acetate and starts using that as fuel instead of your fat stores.
  3. Go to bed- early. When you sleep less than you should, you throw off the amounts of leptin and ghrelin (sleep and appetite hormones) that your body produces.

Race Against Time

With each passing decade, a woman’s metabolism slows down by about 5%. Hormones play a role, but mostly it’s because as you get older, you typically become less active. As a result, you lose muscle mass, a major consumer of all those calories you scarf down. So by the time you hit 35, you’ll burn 75 fewer calories a day than you did at 25; by age 65 you’ll burn 500 fewer, etc.

Back In the Flow

Last year for my birthday, my best friend gave me the book Perfectly Imperfect by Byron Baptiste. It’s not one that I read straight through, but I’ll pick it up here and there when I need inspiration. The other night I read about being in ‘the flow’. We can be in the flow of life just like we can be in the flow of yoga. Things feel graceful and effortless when they are moving along the way we’d like. Body, mind, and energy is harmonious.

But we know the next day, in life or our practice, we can hit a wall or plateau. You have flow in your practice when you hit a wall and don’t react with self-hate or dive into a shame spiral. You trust that you are still moving forward (even if slowly) and things will pick up again. Simply being in the process as it is, is being in flow. Sometimes you hit a wall for long time, other times not. On or off the mat, you stay the course knowing it’s part of the flow. You have flow in your practice when you can accept breaks in tempo or achievement and use the slowdowns as learning opportunities.

I had that opportunity this week with my students. Towards the end of Tuesday’s class, I completely blanked and forgot a piece of the pose sequence on the second side. I honestly almost let it derail my teaching right then, which never happens. But my amazing students chimed in and cued for where we needed to go for the next few poses. They’re the best. I played it off, but I was embarrassed and immediately started that shame spiral of questioning if I was even a good teacher, what am I doing here, you know how that goes… My flow was slowing down.

But throughout the day I came back to what I read earlier this week. Being in the flow doesn’t mean doing everything “perfectly” all the time. It means learning from your challenges and obstacles and moving forward with grace and confidence. So I did just that. I intentionally created a class today that had some complex breath to movement cues and I practiced my instructions out loud. The class was physically challenging and I really had to pay attention to what I was saying as I guided my students through. But I didn’t make any mistakes in my instruction and I felt good about myself as a teacher again.

That’s what yoga is about, taking what we learn on the mat and applying it to everyday life. In this case I was able to practice self-love after hitting an obstacle. I learned from it and my students had a good class. I am back in my flow.

Morgan’s Musings on Manifesting, Meditation, and Mindfulness- Part 2

Quite simply, I would not have the quality of life that I do without meditation. It keeps me focused and grounded and at the end, I always know the right thing to do (whether or not I do the right thing or not  is a something I’ll cover in Mindfulness). I think people often have the wrong idea of meditation. They think they need to be sitting with their ankles on their hips, on top of a mountain somewhere, chanting to God. Well, for some people that does the trick, but for me, climbing to the top of Mt. Rose every day doesn’t sound fun. I also don’t understand chanting and I don’t believe in God. But I do believe in my Higher Power (HP) who I call The Universe. For the focus of this blog I won’t dive too deep into higher powers, I do think a little explanation is needed though so you can understand how I meditate.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “Not only are we in the Universe, the Universe is in us. I don’t know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.” That is pretty much the basis of my belief in my HP, the Universe. I pray/meditate/ask/talk to the Universe and it responds through me, then I act upon whatever I’ve received. Here is where you might be thinking, WTF is she talking about. Remember my flood story from the part 1 of this blog? The man prayed to God to save him and God sent boats. Now God isn’t going to physically pick this man up and place him in a boat. That’s levitation and this is not Harry Potter World. God was answering his prayers by sending boats, it was up to that man to act on his own to save himself. You might still be confused, here is a real life example. Right now I’m manifesting making the switch to teaching yoga and personal training fulltime. When I pray/meditate- Preditate? Medipray?- first thing in the morning, I thank my HP for everything coming my way in terms of my intentions and goals. I ask for the motivation, tenacity, and ambition. I pray that I might be an inspiration to someone today to live a better life. I pray for those struggling and ask for my HP to guide the thoughts that I think, the words that I say, and the actions that I do. I pray that I may be of service to my fellows.

So now you know how I meditate, I’m sure you want some tips on how you can do that too; especially if you’re not sold on the idea of a HP yet. Fair enough. But before we learn how to meditate, let’s consider why we meditate. Meditation teaches you how to respond in a constructive way, rather than impulsively react. It’s organized around the concept that you are naturally whole, you are capable of well-being, and your thoughts are messengers. That awareness is key. Along with awareness as a key concept of meditation, so is receiving and using every opportunity as a learning experience. Receiving is your ability to accept and respond gracefully to every experience as opposed to having a dismissive, reactive, f*ck you attitude. Receiving and welcoming keeps you connected to the experience instead of lashing out with knee-jerk reactions. Receiving allows you to step back, take the moment in, and gain perspective. In this moment you are more than the experience, you are aware of your awareness. When you are aware that you are aware, the emphasis now becomes on what you are aware of. Make sense? Try this, say hello to yourself in your head. You “heard” that, you recognize that thought. You are aware of your awareness. You are awareness. And once you are awareness, you become mindful of judgment, resisting, refusing, and trying to change situations. How often has that happened to you, your thoughts are running wild in your head how much you dislike someone. You replay everything they’ve ever done or said that hasn’t set well with you. Then suddenly you catch yourself and think, ‘wow I’m being really bitchy right now’. That is you becoming aware. You are awareness. And you learned this from the focus you created in your meditation.

Sometimes you don’t want to receive “negative” emotions though. Let’s call them ‘scratchy’. Sometimes you just want to feel irritated or mad. That’s natural. Over time you’ll learn to welcome and receive these scratchy feelings uncomfortable as it may be. Think of the scratchy feelings as a messenger to help you live a better life. By receiving them you’ll learn there are healthier ways to live in that moment instead of what you’re currently doing. The scratchy feelings are your body’s way of getting your attention; they are disharmonies way of getting your attention to take action and reconsider what you could be doing instead to be happy and healthy.

Still with me? If so, now let’s talk about to how to meditate. You might say, Morgs I don’t know about that HP thing and I don’t understand awareness. Or maybe you think, this sounds like a lot, I don’t have time. You might even be thinking, ‘my thoughts run wild, there’s no way I can slow them down’. My answers to those, do you want to feel more connected to life around you? Do you want to be a part of this life on a deeper and more meaningful level? Do you have 5 minutes to yourself every day? Can you make 5 minutes to yourself every day? Even in the bathroom? If your answer to all those questions is no, then maybe meditating isn’t for you yet. And that’s ok. But if you think there is something out there bigger than you, even if you don’t know what it is, and you can make 5 minutes for yourself- yes even in the bathroom- then you are ready to meditate.

The purpose of meditation is to create focus and become aware. It is about focusing your attention on your experience. The reason for focus: it allows you to be here now. Your only reality is This Moment, right here, right now. Peace is found in such awareness. First you must find quiet. A space free from distraction where you can tune out any external stimuli. This might be in bed in the morning pretending to still be asleep. It might be in the bathroom. I meditate in the morning in my car before I head off to teach yoga. The radio is off and I simply start talking to my HP, an intentional conversation. I’m a master at multi-tasking, so to sit still like this and focus on nothing but this conversation takes a lot of focus for me.

An exercise to get you started, once you’ve found your quiet place, sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed (less glittery squirrels to catch your attention that way) and try to focus on something else other than your thoughts. Intentionally clear your mind, try to disengage from all the thoughts that are used to running rampant in your head. In yoga, we call that the ‘monkey mind’. As a monkey jumps from tree to tree, our thoughts come in one after another. So basically, stop thinking. If a thought comes into your mind (because that’s what the mind is for, it’s human nature), acknowledge it and let it go. Imagine you place the thought on a cloud and watch it float by. It takes effort and patience. The more you practice dis-attaching from your thoughts, the easier it becomes, until it’s effortless. You can listen for sounds around you and identify them: that is a car going by, that is the clock ticking, that is the faucet dripping. Suddenly you aren’t thinking anymore about picking kids up from cheerleading and football or dinner you need to make, you are simply listening and your mind is still.

Another meditation exercise is counting your breaths. I like to use the square breathing technique- all through your nose, inhale to a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold at the bottom for 4. It might take some getting used to; it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re going to suffocate holding at the bottom of the exhale. You get used to it, I promise, and it doesn’t feel so panicky. Repeat that a 5-7 times then let your breath return to normal.

You might also try a mantra. On the inhale you think to yourself ‘I am’ on the exhale consider what you are. I am… love. I am… patient. I am… forgiving. You can think about things you want to be as well to set an intention of something as well as a way to manifest it in your life.

Meditation is a journey and the fact that you’ve even been considering it means you’re on the right track. Be gentle with yourself. Be patient, curious, and persistent. Know that this awareness and focus is possible when you nourish your practice and give it a chance.

Morgan’s Musings on Manifesting, Meditation, and Mindfulness- Part 1

I’ve been getting some questions lately on Manifesting, Meditation, and Mindfulness. People want to know how to use those concepts, collectively or individually, in their own life. I get it. Those three M words, Manifesting, Meditation, Mindfulness, can seem confusing if you don’t understand what they are. They seem even more confusing when you hear and witness other people using them. You understand they are useful, but you don’t know how to go about using them in your own life. So I’ve decided to do a 3-part blog series, each blog exploring a different M. Keep in mind, this M trifecta is not an exact science. There are studies and research to show they work, but take everything with a grain of salt. What I’m writing about is how I apply them in my life and what has worked for me. it may very well work differently for you. This time around I’m going to start with Manifesting.

For me, the concept of manifesting can be summed up in this story: The town is flooding. A man is standing on his roof, the rest of his house is underwater. The water is up to his feet and he starts to pray, “Please God, please save me from this flood.” Well no sooner did he say ‘amen’ that a group of people paddle up in a canoe. “Hey Pal, hop in! There’s room!” “No thanks!” said the man, “God will save me.” “Suit yourself,” said the people, and they paddled off.

Some time went by, it was still pouring rain and the water was up to the man’s knees. A large boat floated by. “Hop in Pal, there’s room!” the people on the boat cried. “No thanks!” said the man, “God will save me.” “Suit yourself,” said the people, and the boat floated away.

The rain was coming down even heavier now and the water was up to the man’s neck. Suddenly a basket dropped down from a helicopter. “Hey Pal, hop in! We will save you!” said the people in the helicopter. “No thanks!” said the man, “God will save me.” “Suit yourself,” said the people, and the helicopter flew away.

Well the man drowned and went to Heaven. When he got there he asked God, “God, why didn’t you save me? I prayed and asked you to save me and I still died.” “I did try to save you,” God replied. “I tried to save you three times, I sent a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter!”

That’s how manifesting works to me, you tell the Universe what it is that you want. (I try to keep it pretty basic, not too many specifics. The more to try to control outcome, the less you will recognize when the manifestation comes into fruition.) After you ask, sit back and let the Universe do the rest. That’s not to say though that you don’t need to work for it. Quite the opposite in fact. You need to work really hard and put a lot of energy and attention into what it is you want. It’s your life right, you can’t expect everything to be done for you. If you really want something, you need to do the leg work. But the Universe is there in the background, pulling the strings, moving mountains, planning the moves in the chess game of your life, to make sure that what you want happens. That’s your first step to manifesting, ask for it. Tell the Universe what it is that you want and the Universe will immediately start conspiring on your behalf to make it happen. I like to say, everything is within your reach, you just need to reach for it.

Here is the story of how I manifested moving to Reno, Nevada: After I graduated college in 2010 I worked for the Boy Scouts of America near Chicago. The way the organization works is after 3 years, if you’re promoted, you have the option to move anywhere in the country you want as long as they have a position open for you to be promoted into. I had been going to Burning Man for a few years at this point and it completely changed my life. I had my heart set on moving to Colorado so I could be a little free-spirit hippy. Well my three year anniversary rolled around and none of the Colorado councils had any positions open for me to move into. I was disappointed, but at this point I had an understanding of how manifesting worked. I knew that the Universe had something better in store for me and if I continued to be disappointed about Colorado, I might miss this better thing coming. About two weeks later my boss called me. “The Boy Scout council in Reno called about you. Would you be interested in moving to Nevada?” Being closer to Burning Man and the amazing friends that I already had in Reno who I met at Burning Man two years prior? Yes please and thank you! (That’s right. The Universe had been planning this for me since 2012 when my sister and I met the craziest/weirdest/funnest/best group of people on the Playa. Who happened to be from Reno. And we happened to keep in touch with them over the next two years…) As they say, the rest is history. My sister and I moved to Reno where we started to build our lives. Within 3 months of living there I met the man who would become my fiancé. We are engaged to be married this summer. Awesome right? Thank you Universe.

Consider something big you want in your life right now that hasn’t happened yet. Now ask for it. Yes, just ask. Don’t be fearful, you are not limited by logic or perceived constraints.  Next, take a moment to close your eyes and feel what you want. Imagine what it will feel like when this thing/moment/event presents itself to you. Say thank you in advance, then sit back and trust that it’s going to happen. In the meantime, get out there and start doing the ground work. Anything you want the Universe to do for you is something you can start working on today, on your own, to make the process happen even quicker (if you’re in a hurry).

Currently I am manifesting making the switch from my full time job at a non-profit to teaching yoga/personal training/ fitness/health/wellness full time. I practice and teach yoga every day, I talk to people about my goals, and I work on acquiring more certifications to make myself even more marketable. Whatever it is you want, work on it a little bit every day. That’s the trick, you must put energy into this thing you that you want. You must believe. If you imagine it, you can have it. (I am so full of these little mantras.) You must visualize and life your life like this thing you want has actually happened.

But Morgan, you say, I’ve been working really hard, for a long time on this thing I want and nothing is happening. I get it. Sometimes it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels. You’re doing the legwork so to speak, but whatever it is you want isn’t happening (yet). You might start to doubt, you might become frustrated and question the process. Stop it right there. You needn’t worry, there is time. All the time in the world in fact. There is no dream you cannot manifest, there is no challenge you can’t crush. There is no point in spending one more second of your already awesome life thinking anything of the contrary. When you doubt the Universe, you are actually saying you don’t trust the plan. You don’t even know what the behind the scenes plan is, yet you don’t trust it. By doing that you are taking energy out of moving forward and you’re moving yourself backwards. Don’t become the reason you don’t succeed. The Universe knows what it’s doing, I promise. Sometimes it happens quickly, other times not so much. You might not understand, but everything is always playing to the greater good. Things will continue to get better and you will become the person you’ve always dreamed. There is time, you are in no rush. You must always believe and know that your success is inevitable. Ok?

Finally, while you’re waiting for this thing to show up in your life, continue to say thank you. Say thank you for that beautiful sunset, thank you for the convenient parking spot, thank you for the $1.00 you found on the ground. The more you give thanks the more the Universe will put in your life to be thankful for.

So that’s it. That’s how you live the life of your dream. Easy peasy! That being said, if you are looking for private yoga, group yoga, personal training at your home or in the gym, let me know. Let me help you manifest better health in your life.

Lessons From Buffalos

Sunday mornings I attend an hour and a half meditation. I try my best to make this meditation a priority in my weekly appointments and it’s rare that I miss one, ever rarer that I miss two in a row. The meditation is sobriety focused, but it’s an open meeting and I believe everyone would benefit from the energy/positivity/wisdom/hope/open-mindedness/honesty/love that fills this room every week. This week was no different and as ‘V’ opened with our regular prayer, the phrase that came into my head was ‘heavy peace. V is a Lakota Native American and grew up on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The style of meditation varies from week to week and this week V used his singing bowls as he guided us ‘out there’. I try to remember what he says but I rarely do. (That’s the irony or catch-22 of meditating. If you’re doing it right you will be too far gone in your own place to remember everything. Kind of like a dream. A lot like a dream.)

One thing I do remember V talking about today was comparing buffalos to cows in a storm and the lesson we can learn. Imagine a dark storm rolling in. The sky is black as the rain and hail roll in from the mountains. There is thunder and lightning. What cows do is very natural. Cows sense the storm coming, so they turn and run away. However cows aren’t very fast and the storm catches up quickly. Instead of outrunning the storm they actually run right along with the storm. Then consider the buffalo. Buffalos can run up to 40mph, and instead of running away from the storm, they turn and run into it. Instead of facing the blizzard or rain solo, they tackle it together. They charge the storm and get through it quicker. It’s a powerful image isn’t it?  A herd of bison steadfastly and slowly progressing in the face of a storm rather than running in the other direction. So not only do they face this test as a team, facing down the storm makes their hair thicker and their bones are stronger. Facing the fierce weather elements literally makes them stronger.

So which one are you, the cow or the buffalo? When confronted with a problem, do you try to avoid it, or do you put your head down and find a way through?

I get it. Life can seem overwhelming and you don’t know where to start. Student debt, job insecurities, marriage problems, health issues, financial pressures, work, bills, the list is endless. Working through tough times isn’t easy and a lot of times it seems more comfortable to turn the other way and try to outrun the storm. But more often than not, the problem doesn’t go away. It just lasts longer and gets worse. About 4 years ago when I was still living in Illinois, I once racked up over $3,000 in unpaid tolls and was sent to collections. Instead of just paying them (like a normal, responsible human) I kept throwing the notices away, thinking the problem would just take care of itself and Illinois Tollway would forget. They didn’t forget (Illinois is super broke, of course they aren’t going to forget about $3,000 of unpaid tolls.) and I had to pay so that I wouldn’t do any further damage to my credit.

Moral of the story- turn and face the problem head on. Be the buffalo.

Pre-Show Testimony

As this training session comes to and end with our show tomorrow, our coach asked all the women to write a journal entry on how we feel. That’s one of the many things I love about her program. It’s not just, come to the gym, do these sets, track your sit-ups and go home. She has built a team, a tribe, a squad. The point of this program is about growth and self-discovery. The fact that we get in great physical shape as a result of our personal transformations is an added bonus.

She asked us to be real and raw in these journals, to leave no stone upturned and no emotion unexplored. Below is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed training for it the last month and a half.

Dear (Coach),

You asked us to write a recap of our personal experiences training with CCF. You asked us to write it now as we finish the last physical assessments, complete the final dexascan, and pose in the final progress photoshoot. You said it’s Peak Week, we’ve made it. Our journey is complete, we’ve already won. For many the women I’ve been training with that might be the case; those who had goals of weight loss, tightening up, and body acceptance. They have all worked very, very hard, look amazing, and should be so proud of themselves. I on the other hand, will not have ‘won’ or ‘completed my journey’ until after I step off stage.

For me personally, competing in this show wasn’t about a number on a scale or inches lost from my waist. I don’t care so much about how many sit-ups I can do in a minute. I’ve always had a very strong positive body image (Ask any of my best friends, in high school I was always the first one to suggest skinny-dipping.), and the fact that I worked out harder in these past 6 weeks than I ever have in my life reinforced that self-love. Hard work comes naturally to me. You tell me that this is the workout we are doing and this is what we are eating, I will do it. I know hard exercise and diet are expected and necessary to achieve the desired result. I accept this and I rise to the occasion. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not discounting the work that we did. Like I said, it was intense, and I am proud of myself for giving it my all and being witness to the changes my body has made. I’ve always wondered what my body was physically able to look like, and I’m starting to find out.

I wanted to do this training program, and ultimately the show, because I am not comfortable being the intentional center of attention (yet). And honestly up until writing down these thoughts now, I hadn’t thought out 100% why not.    If I tell any of my friends that statement, they’ll object in disbelief and recount stories of me amusing large groups of people, times where I would approach complete strangers, of times where I acted super “silly” in front of large crowds. They tell me this and I cringe a little inside. Most of the times they’re referring to I was drunk and therefore not as in control of my words and actions as if I had been sober. This doesn’t mean I’m afraid of crowds now. If I’m telling a story, doing “my thing” at Burning Man or anywhere, dancing at a club, whatever, and more people join in, great. I am super extroverted and feed off the energy of people and large groups. I’m also very inclusive and want people to join in the fun I’m having.

What is uncomfortable for me is standing up in front of a group of people and saying, “look at me”. When I got sober (and I didn’t realize how much of an impact that event played on this show until I started writing, these thoughts are coming to me as I type.) I completely rediscovered who I was. What would I say and do now that I didn’t have the liquid courage of however many mixed drinks? What would I talk about with people now that I am consciously aware of what I’m saying? At first it was terrifying discovering who I really was. The good news is it got easier, and easier, and easier. I started to learn who Morgan actually was, and I liked her a lot. She still liked to party and go dancing. She could still easily talk to strangers and she was still fun. But that insecurity of being center-stage is still alive. During my drinking days I would get up on stage anytime anywhere and think I was absolutely hysterical. Looking back now, I was making a fool of myself. My mom would tell me how I was an embarrassment. Now, tomorrow, I am going to get on stage, more than half naked, and be judged on how I’m presenting myself. If that’s not the final test of courage, I don’t know what is.

What’s different though this time is as I write this I am 1,221 days sober, I have the strength of my Higher Power behind me, and countless tools in my belt from the hundreds of AA meetings I’ve gone to over the last three-and-something years. I also have the support and encouragement from my fiancé, friends, family, you (Coach), and the other women I’ve been training with the last 6 weeks. Not to mention, my body shows the results of long hours working out and following a strict diet (minus a few sips of the Unicorn Frappuccino).

Three years ago, I did not feel this great. I didn’t realize how bored and discontent I was. I thought I had high self-esteem, but really I just had a high BAC. Now, I look amazing, I feel amazing, and Saturday after I step off stage I will finally prove to myself that I’m as confident as I believe I am. I will prove to myself that I can intentionally put myself out there, and it’s ok because I’m in a healthy frame of mind. I deserve to be the center of attention because I’ve worked hard for it. I will trust myself that I have earned this and I am not making a fool of myself. I am not embarrassing myself.  I’ve forgiven myself for the stupid things that I did while drunk, it’s time to put my best foot, or hip, forward and move on.

Love,

Morgan

FINDING YOUR YOGA MAT SOUL MATE- IT’S OUT THERE!

If you’re like me, you think of your yoga mat as your best friend. It encourages you through challenges, it’s there to celebrate and share your victories, and it’s that safe space you can come to at any time. It should feel like a little island you want to call home for every practice. Like your practice, your yoga mat should be one that you invest in, one that you keep coming back to, and one that supports you through every inhale and exhale.

The most important features in a good mat includes:

Durability and longevity — A yoga mat’s ability to withstand even the toughest of practices over time.

Comfort and support — Just enough cushioning for your joints can reduce squirming in kneeling postures and provide padding for impact, but not so much that it compromises support.

Stability — A firm, dense mat can help you feel stable throughout standing and balancing poses.

Portability — Consider how much travel you will be doing with your mat. A mat’s weight and size will dictate whether or not it is toteable. Since most people walk, bike, and travel to class, an easy-to-carry mat is an important feature.

Traction and stickiness — It’s important for a mat to provide traction both to keep you from slipping and in staying connected to the ground. The last thing you want is for your mat to function as a Slip N’ Slide.

Texture — Mats have different surfaces, but most yogis agree that it’s best to have a mat that feels most natural.

Environmental consideration — Buying an eco-friendly yoga mat is important to many practitioners. If this holds true to you, consider purchasing a mat made from all-natural materials.

Size — Your yoga mat should cover the length and width of your entire body. Not every yoga mat comes in various widths and sizes, so make sure to check measurements before purchasing.

Reviews.com recently compiled a study on mats that you can see here. Don’t be afraid to test a few mats on your own and ask around before making a purchase—because when a yoga mat feels just right for you, it can make all the difference in your practice, and thus your life. Happy practicing!

Crazy Sober People

Intentional sobriety in our society is still weirder than it should be. Some people unfortunately think there is something wrong with you if you don’t drink. Like they are confused that you can be sober and still have a good time. Or they automatically assume you’re an alcoholic and therefore a bad person.

I know it’s a crazy concept that someone can still go out and party, start up and hold conversations with strangers, or put themselves outside of their comfort zone intentionally. So if you come across a wacky person like that, here are some suggestions on how you can respond so you’re not caught off gourd and don’t accidentally say something insensitive.

What not to say (and these are all responses that have been said to me at some point):

“I don’t drink.” 

  1. Ya it’s probably better that way.
  2. Congratulations (if someone doesn’t drink because of their religion, you wouldn’t congratulate them on being that religion…)
  3. Not even just a little?
  4. Wow that sucks.
  5. Why not? (We will come back to this)
  6. How do you still have fun?
  7. Are you, like, an alcoholic or something?
  8. Oh I’ve tried being sober too. It lasted 14 hours and… (then they launch into some version of a pointless story where they drank too much tequila one night on spring break and woke up with *the worst* hangover and they swore they were never ever going to drink ever again. Until that night when they did it again. Or whatever.)
  9. I’m sorry

So as you can see, I’ve received responses that were clueless, insensitive, and downright rude. However, sometimes people truly don’t know what to say, and in that case, it’s ok. Whether the non-drinker in question is sober, just taking a break, or just doesn’t like the taste or effect of alcohol (you don’t have to be an alcoholic to not drink) there is nothing wrong with them. You don’t need to walk on eggshells, but be cautious. Each non-drinker is different and you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable about their non-drinking. I am very open about my sobriety, others are not and that’s ok. That’s why you should be careful if you ask ‘why’. If someone would prefer to not share why they choose to not drink, don’t press it. They could be very new in their sobriety and not be ready to share and now you’ve unintentionally put them on the spot. If they choose to share with you, they will on their time.

So what do you say then when someone tells you they don’t drink? How about, ‘oh, ok’. (Depending on how well you know the person or how the conversation flows, you could follow up with ‘can I ask why not?’)

The moral of the story is that alcoholics are normal people. We are actually tend to be happier because we have recovered and have been given the power to help people. “We aren’t a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life.” (Big Book pg. 132). Cheers to that!

1144 Days

I always thought I was just a nice person who drank a lot. Back in high school if I got too drunk it was laughed at because that was part of being young and rebellious. In college if I got too drunk it wasn’t a big deal because I was in a sorority and drinking was part of our social environment. I was always friends with people who liked to drink and party just as much as I did. However, unlike my friends, I never quite got the hang of drinking and since the beginning of my drinking days at 16, I would always get waaay more intoxicated than everyone else. I still remember being at a party and the look on a classmate’s face when I told her I blacked out every single time I drank. We were seniors in high school. I was 17.

A “normal” drinker knows their limits. They can tell when they’ve had too much and they know what it takes to put them over the edge. A “normal” drinker can take alcohol or leave it and they are responsible about it. Taking a Gatorade bottle full of mixed vodka to the library or the gym or to class just because it’s “sneaky” and therefore “cool” is not normal. I missed out on a lot in college because I was too drunk to make it out to the event. Or I would blackout halfway through the event and have no recollection of the evening. Besides a few stories in my mind that particularly stand out, I made it through my drinking days in college relatively unscathed. I graduated with a 3.7 GPA and an internship with Walt Disney World.

The internship lasted less than 3 months, I was fired for being drunk on the job. I moved back to Chicago where I landed an amazing job doing fundraising and recruitment for a non-profit. Over the next couple of years things went great professionally at least. I met my numbers and my volunteers adored me. There were a handful of times though that my boss sent me home for smelling like booze and a couple of times where I blew off meetings or appointments because I was drinking, drunk, or hungover.

So while work was, for the most part, great, in my personal life my level of drinking was becoming serious. I was drinking daily, mostly by myself at home. I had gained a lot of weight and I didn’t really care about social activities like I once had. My sister and mom had a few talks with me over the years about my drinking habits and how they were concerned for me, but the talks didn’t sink in. I didn’t think that my drinking affected them because it was my choice and I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was blind to the disappointment and pain that I was causing people as a result of my actions while drunk. More accurately my actions not taken because I was already blacked out/passed out. I was ruining relationships with boyfriends, my best friends, and family members. All I could think about was drinking and as long as I had that, my life was more interesting and full.

Back tracking a little bit, I had a normal childhood. There were boating vacations to the lake every summer, summer camps, I had a cell phone. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I don’t come from a rough background, my life was not “hard”. But I still felt empty and that’s why I drank. I was bored and discontent with my life and drinking was a way to pass the time and make life seem more exciting. I don’t know how drinking to the point of blackout (almost daily), eating and watching movies that I would pass out during, or having whole conversations on the phone that I wouldn’t remember, makes life seem more interesting, but it did.

Then Friday, December 13, 2013 I hit my bottom. I won’t go into the story here (although I am happy to share it with anyone over a plate of nachos), but that Saturday morning I “came to” and knew that things weren’t right. Whatever had happened the night before could not be fixed with an apology and promise to buy the next handle of vodka. Much to the utter disbelief and disgust of everyone close to me who knew was happened that Friday, I kept drinking for the rest of the weekend. I knew in my heart that when the weekend was over my drinking days were as well.

My last drink of alcohol was December 15th, 2013. That Monday the 16th, at 25 years old, I went to my first AA meeting and have been sober ever since. Fast forward to today (937 days sober), I am a sober alcoholic and ecstatic with the life I live. I recognize my Higher Power as The Universe and I give thanks every day to my HP that I’m an alcoholic and for blessing me with this life and everything yet to come. Getting sober was scary at first. In social situations I didn’t know how to act, what would I say? Who would I talk to? Who am I now as a person without the liquid courage of a cocktail (or 9)? But through prayer and meditation it gets easier and then one day you realize it’s not an issue anymore and you are living a life better than you could have imagined.

Burning Man 2014 was an eye opening experience. It was my 4th burn and at the time I was 8 months sober. It had the potential to be overwhelming, but I brought my 24 hour chip with me, kept my journal with me at all times (journaling is a huge part of my sobriety toolbox), and I made it a point to find all of the sober camps in case I felt overwhelmed.  At first I was outside my comfort zone A LOT, but just like how I’m comfortable in my own skin in life now, it was the same way at Burning Man. That was one of my most notable burns because I remembered more of it and everything that I did was based on me making the conscience decision, not the booze-induced judgement. The experiences meant more because I could soak it all in.

If you work the 12 Steps (and really work them), you will find that you don’t move on to the next phase of your recovery until you’re totally ready. With your sponsor, you work on building a working relationship with your Higher Power (whether it be God or like me, The Universe), learn how to live at peace with yourself, then figure out how to live a meaningful life with others and continue a program of recovery every day, for the rest of your life. There are these statements in AA called ‘The Promises’ which basically outline how your life is going to get better. They include knowing a new freedom and happiness, feelings of uselessness and self-pity will disappear, and fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. And the promises do come true, they materialize if you work for them.

As far as my yoga practice and how that is connected, my yoga journey began at the same time I got sober because I used my practice as a way to connect with my Higher Power. The connection I felt to my HP through my moving meditation helped release me from the turmoil going on inside my brain as I came to terms with my alcoholism. As I progressed in my initial recovery, I progressed in my practice as well. The week that I started AA was when I decided to take my first class. As I celebrated 90 days, I achieved Crow pose. As I reached 5 months, I accomplished my head stand. December 2015 I celebrated 2 years sober. I also started my 200-hour yoga teacher training so that I could get my certification and use yoga to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.  To this day, I sit and meditate and move and mediate through my yoga practice every day. For me the two go hand in hand because in both sitting mediation and practicing yoga as a moving mediation, my mind is clear.
As I write this I am 1144 days sober. Together, sobriety and yoga saved my life. Life is a beautiful journey and I’m blessed to be able to experience it the way I do.

Today, I am One with my Higher Power, and I am at peace with myself.

Cheers to the good life.

Morgan

https://bendyoga.org/

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