Morning Routine of Peace & Chocolatey Bliss
I've had a morning meditation and pranayama (breathing technique) practice for a while now. With my busy life, taking the time in the morning to ground, center, and calm myself is the best way to get my day off to a peaceful start. It's something that I've really enjoyed off and on through the years. And then entered Cacao...
Back in May, Sundara held a Cacao Ceremony at our studio, led by Cyntia of LaChocotia. I had never been to a ceremony of this type, never actually even sipped a warm cup of pure, raw cacao. After that day, I was under her spell. Her chocolatey goodness is like the warm hug I was longing for in the morning -- yet settling for the stand-in of my usual cup of decaf. But not anymore.
The health benefits of meditation, pranayama, and raw cacao are too numerous to list here. But suffice it to say that since I've been incorporating these elements into my life, my blood pressure, once high and needing medication, has lowered to a very happy number.
That is why I'm sharing my morning ritual with you here, in the the hopes that maybe your body will find the peace and calm mine has with these ancient practices.
My first step is making the cacao -- AKA nectar of the gods
I begin by putting eight raw cacao discs into the small cup for my Nutribullet. A blender would be fine as well. Eight discs makes the consistency not too thick or too thin for my taste, but that amount is entirely up to you. Ten discs makes it pretty thick and rich.
I'll add about two ounces of hot water to this cup, just to the max fill line on the NutriBullet cup.
After the water has been added, I'll put in some spices and honey to flavor the cacao. I use organic cinnamon, cayenne, and turmeric. The cinnamon and cayenne are both great to lower blood pressure, and they give the cacao a more traditional flavor. On days where I feel I need to be a little less firey, I decrease the amount of these herbs. This keeps with the Ayurvedic principles of maintaining my Pitta at a manageable level (read: no road rage, more level-headedness).
The turmeric is something I started putting into the mix in an effort to reduce the amount of inflammation my body has been currently experiencing. If you have any inflammation in your body, you might consider adding a few dashes of this incredible plant to the cup as well. It does change the flavor a bit, so keep that in mind.
I also add honey to taste, as the cacao by itself is quite bitter. The bitter flavor is something that we tend to avoid in our foods; however, it is a taste that is very beneficial for our digestion. Some days I feel like having the cup a bit sweeter than others, so I adjust the amount of honey accordingly. It usually hovers in the 1-2 teaspoon range.
All of these ingredients are what I like to put into my cup of cacao. Have fun creating your own perfect cup by adding what you feel is needed for your body. You can research different herbal properties or use your intuition with your kitchen spices.
Now comes the blending. This only takes about 30 seconds or so.
Just enough time to mix everything around and melt the cacao.
So much yum right here. And see those bubbles? That's part of the natural fat that sits atop the glass as you drink it. It's so good for you, but kind of unexpected when you first try it.
And here it is, the most incredible cup of chocolate you've ever had the pleasure of swirling in your mouth. Not only does it taste gorgeous, it's gooooooood for you. A dream come true.
And now for the ritual...
I begin the meditation session by clearing the energy of the room. I use dried Yerba Santa that I've picked in the mountains of Arrowhead. However, you can use incense or Palo Santo if that's what you have on hand. Let your intention be one of getting rid of any negativity accumulated throughout the night.
I also take this time to say a prayer to my ancestors and guides. Because this is a very personal exchange, I won't go into the details here. If this is something that resonates with you, just say what comes to mind -- maybe taking the moment to share what you're grateful for, what you could use some help with, or anything else that comes to mind. It doesn't have to be anything religious, if that doesn't float your boat. This is your practice, so it can look any way you want it to.
Next I sit down with my beautiful cup of warm cacao. Before I begin to sip its goodness, I take a moment to acknowledge the ancients who brought forth this tradition and to thank the plant itself for its healing properties. I say it a little more heartfelt than that, but you get the gist.
Again, this is just something that I do, and isn't necessary if it doesn't resonate with you. But I feel that we so often pass up the opportunity to acknowledge those before us, and the plants themselves, for bringing their wisdom into our bodies. This is a way to further enhance the medicine we're about to take in on a cellular level.
After having this moment of gratitude, I take my time sipping the luscious cacao. I savor each sip, each passing of the warm liquid from cup to mouth. It's beautiful, it's relaxing, and it's sexy as hell. It's also very heart-opening, so don't be surprised if you float out of the room when you're all done. As this is the beginnings of my meditation, I try to keep my mind focused solely on the experience of savoring the cacao.
Then I perform my favorite pranayama of Nadi Shodhana. There are many different breathing techniques, but this one makes my body/mind very relaxed. No pics for this one, just a how-to from the Sundara Yoga Shala Teacher Training manual:
"This pranayama technique is very calming to the mind. It distributes prana to both hemispheres of the brain, purifying the nadis (energy channels) as it balances the flow of energy (prana) through the ida (left, moon, side) and pingala (right, sun, side).
"Nadi Shodhana is beneficial for ailments of the nervous system, lungs, and hypertension as it provides a greater supply of oxygen to the blood. The mind becomes clear and quiet. Performing this pranayama is appropriate for all doshas, especially with regard to relieving excess Pitta.
"To begin Nadi Shodhana, sit in a comfortable seated position with the left hand resting on the left knee. Take the right hand up towards the face, bending the index and middle fingers down toward the palm. Take a normal inhalation and exhalation prior to beginning.
"After exhaling, place the right thumb on the right nostril, closing the nostril off completely. Inhale gently through the left nostril. At the peak of the inhalation, press the tips of the ring finger and little finger of the right hand into the left nostril, closing that nostril completely. Release the thumb from the right nostril and gently exhale from the right nostril. With the left nostril remaining closed off, inhale through the right nostril. At the peak of the inhalation, close off the right nostril with the right thumb and release the closure of the left nostril, exhaling completely through the left nostril. This completes one full round. Keep the breath soft, without force, as it flows in and out of the nostrils. If the neck becomes strained, gently tilt the head down so the chin is a little closer to the chest (without resting on the chest).
"This is one example of Nadi Shodhana. As we began the inhalation on the left side, it has a subtle cooling effect, and as such is appropriate for warmer months. For a more warming practice, begin the inhalation on the right side, which is appropriate during cooler months."
I will do ten rounds or so of this technique, taking my time with each breath. You can see the theme here -- there is no rushing through any of this.
The final component to my morning practice is japa meditation. Here I silently recite a mantra, using my mala beads to keep track of the 108 repetitions. Mantras can be any word or phrase that's positive, in English or in another language. The mantra I'm working with is in Sanskrit, which is a language with high vibrational qualities.
Once again, this doesn't have to look a certain way. If you want to sit in silence without a mantra recitation, that's a fine meditation. Want to keep your focal point on a candle flame? Great, that works, too, as does petting your cat with intention and awareness. Just because my practice involves a mantra and mala beads doesn't mean yours has to.
So there you have it, my morning meditation practice of peace and happiness. It is honestly something I look forward to every day, and I feel off when I don't do it. I leave enough time in my morning to savor each step of the process -- which says something, as I'm not really what you'd call a morning person.
Thank you for reading along and being a part of my mornings. May your days begin with much peace and happiness, and may you find the path that works for you.