There’s something about fall that beckons us back to routine and comfort in our mornings. Oats, nuts, seeds, and cooked fruits are all foods that build and nourish our bodily tissues, and should therefore be favored this time of year. Below is a recipe for my current iteration of oatmeal that is guaranteed to get me out of bed...Read more
The following post was written by TaraMarie Perri, the Founder/Director of The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Her professional work is dedicated to yoga education and research, holistic health therapeutics, and the integration of mind/body practices with the arts and sciences. TaraMarie holds an MFA and serves on Faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She maintains private practices in New York City and Brooklyn.
I have always had a proclivity for the early-to-bed-early-to-rise lifestyle. Perhaps it was the physical demands of days spent dancing or my over-functioning brain needing to reset, but sleep would often overwhelm me, sometimes at most inconvenient times. Pulling an all-nighter to write a paper in college or grad school was virtually impossible. I rarely made it to the bitter end of 90s NYC nightclubbing excursions, concerts, and other assorted gatherings with friends. Clearly rock star status was not in my future. It is difficult as a New Yorker of 22 years not to feel a small pang of failure when I realize I will never be one of the city’s dark, sexy set of night owls.
Most nights I go to bed by 10pm and rise, without an alarm and well-rested, at 6am. Friends who witness my eyes getting sleepier by the minute can sometimes misunderstand my intentions. I do want to stay up and spend time with them. I am not anti-social, and my days are filled with adventures and encounters to prove this. But my body is telling me to go to bed—sending me the signal. I can’t argue with its internal clock…
The confession: I genuinely prefer being a morning person. I love the morning—the light, the quiet, the clarity of mind. I feel better too. To prepare for the work I do, I cannot afford to show up feeling less than optimal. My students and clients depend on me to be sharp and focused and grounded. The other gain is that I do not feel rushed when I wake without an obligation to immediately step into the pace of the workday. When I wake at 6am, the morning is mine. No one is expecting an email response or texting to distract me at that hour. I paint; I think; I read; I write; I meditate and stretch; I pack my bag for the day; I sit in silence, and I eat breakfast. I slowly move about my morning doing the activities I am inspired to do, so that I can honor my needs before I honor the needs of others. The most welcome result of the early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine? I end my days with a sense of unwinding, relaxing, and processing, and begin my days with calm, presence, and focus.
As I dive deeper into studies of Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine under the tutelage of my mentors, I’ve discovered that what my body already knew is also supported by ancient wisdom. One of my lamas, Cary Twomey, recently shared the following explanation:
In Ayurvedic & Tibetan Medicine we know 10 PM is the time to have our head down on the pillow. At 10 PM, the fire element begins to rise and the body kicks into a deep and gentle detoxification while we are sleeping. There are several important metabolic actions going on during this time, and if we are not asleep when fire element rises, these rejuvenating actions don't occur and we miss out on a natural balancing and revitalizing process that happens each night between 10 PM and 2 AM.
Secondly, if you are up past 10 PM, you will surely get a second wind as fire rises, because fire is stimulating. You'll likely stay up until around 2 AM, when the fire finally begins to wane. When we stay up instead of getting to bed, we are likely to commit what Ayurveda calls Prajnaparadha—crimes against wisdom. Prajnaparadha are actions that generate imbalances rather than balanced health.
Crimes against wisdom? Well, now I have yet another reason to stick with my routine! I take the pursuit of wisdom very seriously.
Even if you are a proud night owl, I encourage you to try this earlier bedtime routine for a couple weeks during spring, while your body needs the most support for digestion, healing, and cleansing as it prepares the body for the entire year ahead. To join the early morning revolution, here are some tips to help you hit the sack by 10pm:
1. Turn It Down
Lower the lights and sounds in your home space and begin to lower the brightness ratio on your computer and devices around 8pm. Not only will the light changes coax you into a less-stimulating environment, it will allow your brain and body to notice the darkness outside which lures you into a natural desire to rest. You will get to bed on time and be ready to fall asleep!
2. Soak it In
Warning: Once you start doing these luxurious self-care rituals, you may never want to skip them again! Before bedtime, soak in a bath and sip calming tea. Light a candle, unwind your mind, and soothe your body. I also give myself a sandalwood/sesame oil massage (Abhyanga) on most nights before I get into the tub. Again, the environment of warmth and water allow us to call upon our natural sleep cycles.
3. Gear Down
I know this one is tough because modern world habits are in place, but give it a go. Browsing Instagram or Facebook during your last hours before bed is not really the best use of your time (nor is it the first thing you should be doing when waking…but that is another topic entirely!). Not only will the light keep you over-stimulated, it causes the mind to be restless. We all speak of wanting more time to relax or to feel less busy. Instead of Netflix nights, snuggle up on the sofa with a pet, good friend, or loved one and enjoy time alone or together in conversation. Maintaining in-person means of connecting with yourself or those around you will give you real grounding in this fast-paced world where we often feel unsupported and alone.
4. Gear Up
Make sleeping fun. Choose materials for bedding that allow you to breathe and regulate temperature for your personal sleeping comfort. Pick pajamas you like to put on with layers that allow for ample movement as you sleep (yes, sleeping in your birthday suit counts!). If you like the environment you create in your bedroom around sleep, you will want to go there.
5. Go “Old School”
Get an alarm clock that is not your cell phone. Ideally you should not have a TV or computer or phone device in your bedroom at all. By nature of your dwelling situation you may have to keep those items in your bedroom. If so, turn them OFF (sleep mode doesn’t count) and put them away in a drawer or closet or cover them with a beautiful tapestry. These devices are always sending out unfavorable electromagnetic frequencies that radically disrupt your Prana, your healthy life force energy. The result is dried-out body tissues and immunity depletion. I think we can all agree that we already live too many hours led by computers and devices. Use bedtime to balance.
When you wake from a good night of sleep and rise early, you are given a rare gift every day—a quiet, spacious morning all to yourself. You may even notice you no longer say you have “no time” to yourself. You’ll discover plenty of time to think, dream, wander, wonder, and be.
One of the city’s night owls I will never be. I hope you’ll take my contemporary advice, supported by ancient wisdom, and try out the 10pm – 6am sleep cycle this spring (and maybe forever). Early riser rewards are real and yours for the taking!
As a lover of learning, September has always been a favorite month of mine, for connecting to new studies or moving forward with a new mindset. My days of waiting to be picked up by the yellow school bus are long over, but the wirings of the “back-to-school” spirit are hard-coded. The signals to sharpen my pencils and crack open the books clearly stand the test of time.
I spent the summer beginning my studies in two topics: contemplative psychology and Reiki, which included dipping my toes into primary principles of quantum physics. This Fall I am eager to organically blend the new material into my personal life, teaching, and private client practice. When asked about it by a fellow teacher, I shared the following image – “You know how trees show their age in rings that are etched inside their trunks across their lifespan? I feel like I was just given a new ring to expand into.”
The image just came out in the moment and did not really have much certainty in my knowledge of tree rings. I felt it was only fair to our mighty trees that I learn more about the process before appropriating their natural life experience as synonymous with my own. It was time for a little light research.
Dendrochronology is the scientific method of dating based on analysis of tree rings, also known as growth rings. The rings grow in speed relationships along with the seasons of the year, so typically one new growth ring appears annually. The inner and outer ring segments are defined by natural elements during different times of the year. In fact, if all the elements of the seasons are not in balance during a full year, a ring could be incomplete or even missing. For instance, in 1816, many oak trees in a particular region were missing a growth ring; it was named “Year Without a Summer”. Ayurveda, the Vedic science of health and life, teaches how humans also require natural elements from our surroundings to maintain balance in health; this illustrates our own dependence on nature. Could it be that our cycle of September learning is not only a cultural impulse but also a natural one? It would seem so.
When trying to express myself to that fellow teacher, I was primarily trying to express the physical and psychological expansion of personal growth, and specifically from an internal and external point of view. My heart and mind were expanding as I acquired new gifts of knowledge. It seems as if my tree ring image was not without reason after all.
It was also clear that this experience was universal.
During recent conversations with teachers in our sangha, it was thrilling to hear about so many of them going into additional study paths in related fields. Medical school residencies, social work, physical therapy, modalities in bodywork and therapeutics, careers in higher education, and other such cycles of learning were calling to them. And with our new training class just beginning their foundation course last week, we can all be inspired by their new and brave pursuit in becoming teachers.
Trees often inform our human existence. Their roots and branches depict strength and flexibility, while simultaneously touching earth and sky. This time, however, we look deep within the tree structures to find the lessons we need to embark on our Fall studies ahead. Personally, I find there is no greater reward as a teacher than to see your students and colleagues discover their own voices and independently carry out knowledge quests. I wish for each of you to recognize your own growth ring during the upcoming year. And perhaps you too are naturally supported to begin this September.
Yellow school bus not required.
- TaraMarie Perri
"It is necessary for a man to go away by himself, to sit on a rock and ask, 'Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?" - Carl Sandburg
Last Thursday we entered into a time called Yama Damstra, a juncture period before Winter when it is said that all beings who are low on lifeforce need to take extra good care. In the ancient texts, Yama is the Lord of Death, and he would sweep in and take away the dying or unwell souls that were not healthy or would not make it through a tough winter (just some "light" material on the Brew to kick off a Monday morning!).
Without creating panic due to the origin of its name, realize instead that Yama Damstra might be the perfect time for the self-reflection that Carl Sandburg encourages. You might want to find a rock somewhere, but you do not have to do that to start the process. Practice deep nourishment with good food and rest, and spend energy only on your healthy relationships. Of course, it is extra challenging for many to practice this particular wellness regimen as it intersects with the holiday season of extravagant food, parties, and celebrations.
Still, Yama Damstra is an excellent time to start a yoga and/or meditation practice. Even finding a few minutes for deep breathing once or twice a day is beneficial and can lead to self-reflective thoughts. Take good care of yourself and go easy as we navigate this strange and unsettled period. The effects of this juncture vary for each person, so be patient with whatever comes up.
Always good to know we are in it together!
- TaraMarie Perri
Drinking Vinegars are perhaps the trendiest drink of the summer, but not without excellent reason. Sweet, sour, and refreshing, they fit the flavor profile of popular farm-to-table cocktails but without the alcohol. I’ve been drinking apple cider vinegar cut with seltzer for years to aid my digestion, and additional benefits include lower blood pressure and prevention of heat stroke. I was looking for appetizing ways to share the benefits I’ve felt with others when I stumbled upon this recipe. Feel free to experiment as we come into berry and tree fruit season here in the northeast!
Strawberry Rhubarb Balsamic Drinking Vinegar
½ cup strawberries
½ cup rhubarb
¾ cup good balsamic vinegar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup sugar*
*most recipes call for a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit to vinegar to sugar; I personally feel that too much sugar detracts from the digestive benefits of the vinegar but the choice is yours!
In a nonreactive pitcher or bowl (glass or ceramic) combine fruit with sugar. Stir to coat and let macerate 1 hour. Mash fruit mixture with a wooden spoon and then cover and place in the fridge overnight.
Remove fruit mixture from fridge. Stir and mash fruit (the mix should be significantly more liquid by now). Add vinegars, stir, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let sit out on counter 7-9 days.
Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Add drinking vinegar to sparkling water in 1:1 ratio and serve with ice. Store excess in fridge.
Yum! If you’re not already convinced, here are some more great things about drinking vinegars:
-You can use “second pick” of any fruit for this recipe; bruised and soft fruit is actually best. As long as the vinegar completely covers the fruit mixture, spoilage is a non issue because of the high level of acidity.
-One of the benefits I listed above is that this is a non-alcoholic beverage… but it does make for a killer mixer!
One word of caution: vinegar is popular amongst people practicing wholesome diets, but like anything “cleansing”, they should be ingested sparingly. Certain Ayurvedic types can be aggravated by too much sour food. For pretty much everyone, one glass a day is enough to stimulate digestion, but stops short of being excessive.
- Liz Montgomery