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Mindfulness Habits to Cultivate This Fall

Mindfulness Habits to Cultivate This Fall

by Rakhee Bhatt

Yoga Therapist Missy Kai Hoffman on the Mindfulness Habits to Cultivate This Fall

How you start your mornings can impact your entire day and by extension your whole life. “Most women are seeking to cultivate a sacred connection with their bodies,” says Los Angeles-based yoga therapist Missy Kai Hoffman. “By doing certain activities first thing in the morning, you’re essentially saying that I’m going to take care of myself. By doing that over time, I really feel that anybody can improve their self-confidence, discipline, and boundaries.”

Here, Hoffman shares the best mindful morning habits to develop this fall season.

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Hoffman recommends drinking a glass of warm lemon water first thing in the morning. “You can also add a little bit of ginger,” says Hoffman. “What that does is the lemon helps to cleanse out your digestive system and the ginger helps to stimulate your digestion and metabolism for the day. By the time you go to eat breakfast, your digestion is more prepared for that.”

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Breathwork in the morning can be balancing and centering, says Hoffman. “Drawing your awareness to your breath is the most foundational practice and that’s where most yoga students will start,” she says. “There’s different techniques like Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, which can help balance and center your energy. It’s really good for people who get panic attacks or anxiety. There’s also Kapalbhati, or breath of fire, which is good for depression or people who have brain fogginess.”

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“Bhavana, or visualization, is a yogic skill and practice that helps bring focus on the qualities we want to cultivate,” says Hoffman. “In yoga, we say that it’s easier to replace a certain thought pattern or habit once the positive habit is already there than to strip away the negative habit and then train somebody in the positive habit. By doing these practices you may naturally become less and less interested in doing those old things. It’s a healing journey; it’s not a linear path. If you find yourself obsessing on negative thoughts that are not desirable and moving you forward in the direction you need to go, then we’ll use visualization to help you feel in your body what the opposite experience could be like. The extent you feel one thing means you have the capacity to feel the opposite of that emotion. So if it’s anger, you have the same capacity to feel peace. It’s not that those two are in conflict with each other, but it’s that your consciousness, your awareness, is large enough to hold both experiences—and that is part of being human. Yoga doesn’t take away the anger and the sadness and the depression, which is what I think a lot of people make it out to be, it just changes your relationship to it so that you remain the master of your own body and experience.”

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Hoffman encourages people to keep movement in the morning fun and explore poses that are the opposite of what they do in their everyday life. “Generally in the morning we want to get our bodies up and moving,” she says. “It’s a good time to stretch out and open your body so when you go to work later, your body is already warmed up. If you spend a lot of time sitting, do some standing postures. Morning twists are great.” For those looking to start their yoga journey or improve upon their experience, Hoffman has a free online course that spans six weeks to educate people and provide the necessary tools to foster a home practice.

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Even if you live in a big city and are not necessarily around nature, Hoffman says it’s important to find some way to get grounded within yourself. “Grounding is affiliated with the root chakra and it’s at the base of your spine,” she says. “It’s associated with your tailbone, hips, and your sense of security. When this is imbalanced, it can lead to feelings of anxiety and not feeling settled—like you can’t plant your roots anywhere. So spending time around trees with big roots can be helpful physically.” If you can’t get outside, Hoffman suggests doing forward folds or any pose where your head is below your heart. “I also like having people lay with their backs on the ground and their legs on the wall. It’s called Viparita Karani. A lot of us are bent at a 90-degree angle for most of the day, and this literally takes that and flips it so your outward moving energy is now coming in and back down. While people are in this pose they are saturating themselves with their own presence and energy.”

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When it comes to structuring your mornings, Hoffman says to gear those early hours towards what works best for you. “I encourage what I call a flexible schedule for people,” says Hoffman. “If you have young children or a really busy job, mornings can be hectic. Maybe you grab one of these practices and rotate it throughout the week to hit everything, or you can break it up and do a little bit of each just to touch on the different aspects. What I really try to encourage in people is to energetically draw from what feels good for your body, take what resonates, and leave the rest. It’s less about what is the right thing to do and more what can be simple, easy, convenient, and consistent, because that consistency is really where people are going to see the benefits over the long term.”


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