In 2003, after three semesters of caffeine-deranged all-nighters, I collected my M.A. diploma and kicked my coffee habit. I managed to forgo the energy elixir for eight whole years, until that fateful Sunday in 2011 when a housemate left a nearly full pot marinating on our kitchen sink while I was on lockdown doing my taxes. Of course, one sip led to the vat, and I flew through a year of receipts exclaiming, “PRAISE THIS NECTAR OF THE GODS! HOW DID I EVER GET ANYTHING DONE WITHOUT COFFEE???” I didn’t sleep that night (natch) so refueled on the steamy stuff the next morning, and thus my habit was reborn. But as negative side-effects started to surface, I got the sinking feeling that unabashed, unchecked addiction was a smidge out of alignment with my own integrity. And didn’t I used to like green tea?
To reduce your reliance on caffeine, try these three yoga practices today:
1. Kapalabhati (Skull-Shining Breath)
One of my favorite things about this powerful breath practice is that it is simultaneously energizing, focusing, and calming. Try it before tossing yourself up into a handstand, before sitting to meditate, or straight outta bed. Good morning, Sunshine!
Sit comfortably on a folded blanket, pillow, or bolster. Take your arms up into a “V” shape (V for VICTORIOUSLY trying this practice BEFORE running for the joe!). Give yourself two thumbs up. Take a full breath in through your nose, completely exhale through your nose, then take in a medium-sized breath to prepare, and begin short, strong exhales out your nose. You don’t have to think much about the inhale…it will come in naturally as a reflex. Just pretend your feather earring is tickling your upper lip and you’re going to blow it away with the excited puff of your exhale. Try 54 times, or if you’re considering a quad macchiato, may I suggest 108 rounds! Finish with a few quiet moments enjoying the alert stillness of this yogic espresso.
2. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
After kapalabhati breath, walk yourself over to a wall or a tree (or, “Honey, get up and spot me!”) and do a downward facing dog. Walk your feet in a little so your shoulders come over your wrists, hug the ground with your fingertips like crazytown, and lift your favorite leg up like a 3-legged doggie. With an inhale give a little kick and squeeze everything in and up into a handstand. Woo-hoo!!! Not getting it up this a.m.? Don’t fret or French press–turn your dog away from the wall and walk your legs up the wall into a friendly inversion. It’s difficult to drink an iced grande soy white mocha (six pumps, no whip) while you’re upside down! And your brain and heart will be pulsing with aliveness. Take a few moments to sit back on your heels and come back down to earth. Bring on the day!
3. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel)
Now that you’re flying high and your spine got a nice stretch, go ahead and lie on your back, plant your feet on the floor and lift your heart into an invigorating backbend. Half wheel is great, rolling your shoulders underneath you and clasping your hands. The especially frisky might slide their hands up alongside their ears and gussy up into a full wheel. The wildly enthusiastic (and well warmed-up) might walk their wheeling and dealing feet up the wall and kick over through a handstand. Just make sure you throw your arms up and yell “Nadia Comaneci!” Ok? Then lie on your back again and take a spinal twist right and left.
Try these practices to get UP without the downside, either in the morning or as a midday pick-me-up. And let me know how this brews for you in the comments below 🙂