Visions of days like today are my “happy places” on dark, icy nights in January, when I’m sitting in yoga class, not really 100% sure if I’m actually there for the yoga or just the 95-degree-plus-humidity climate. During opening meditation, when the teacher tells us to imagine ourselves in a place where we feel at ease, relaxed, happy, I ditch her suggested visualization of a tropical beach, hammock, and ocean and instead envision a more realistic scene that includes our kitchen, with the sun streaming through the open windows, ceiling fan making the wispy white curtains dance; our bedroom, where I wake up at 5 a.m. in nothing but a t-shirt and underpants; my car, where the windows are down, my legs are bare under my flowing skirt, my feet sockless. I imagine driving down the main road in town, the path ahead of me a clear stretch of blacktop lined with flourishing green plants and canopied with flowering trees, no longer an obstacle course of snow piles and ice patches and bare tree limbs looming over me like giant skeleton hands ready to crack and tumble onto the roof of my car.

THAT’s my happy place, and I’m there right now, folks. April has been kind enough to bless South Jersey with a little preview of summer, a preview during which the digital clock outside the bank flashes 88, the shower dial isn’t turned all the way to the left, and the frozen yogurt Bryan and I dish ourselves for dessert starts softening just a little quicker.

Mornings like this make it more difficult to decide how to best wake myself up—it feels like the opportunities are endless! Do I do sun salutations synchronized to the sunrise? Do I put on my sneakers and walk around the neighborhood as the sky transitions from dark blue to turquoise? Do I bike? Dance? Swim in the sunny, salty waters of my gym?

This is the time of year when routines are broken, when just because I planned to do such-and-such this morning, you know what? It’s so beautiful out, I’m inspired, and I’m going to do THIS instead. I went to bed with every intention of waking up at 5, doing my meditation challenge, and heading outside for a 2-mile walk, but after assessing the way my body was feeling, I decided to dance instead of walk. I had just gone on a nice walk the evening before, and I was reluctant to change out of my comfy pajamas. Meg from Spirit Moves Dance recently posted a great 5Rhythms playlist that I have been itching to try out, so this morning my way of waking up included a little bit of Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. Forty minutes later, my pajamas were saturated in sweat, my heart rate quicker than any walk could have given me. I felt like I was partially responsible for helping the sun rise, like my 7 minutes of thrashing around in Chaos shook the earth just enough to pop the sun from under the horizon.

Although I changed my planned routine this morning, I do have morning rituals that are very hard to break. Aside from the basics (brushing teeth, getting dressed), my morning essentials include:

  • Drinking a big cup of warm water. Apparently warm/hot water gets the digestion tract going, and I also believe everyone wakes up dehydrated, so it’s important to get liquids in the system ASAP!
  • Rolling around and stretching on the living room floor like a cat, which usually involves some kind of yoga moves (downdogs, supta matsyendrasana), as well as using my foam roller to knead out muscle kinks.
  •  Standing warm-ups, such as Breath of Joy or Empty Coatsleeves…something with a hara breath.
  • All or some of my physical therapy exercises. Doing the entire set takes about half an hour, so usually I’ll abbreviate each exercise or do only a few.
  • Showering. Even if I shower the night before and do nothing in between then and leaving for work, I still need to stand under warm water for a few minutes. My muscles aren’t the same otherwise!
  • Finally, meditation. This is relatively new, but I’m trying to get it to stick. I started the Chopra Center’s 21-Day Spring Meditation Challenge 10 days ago, and I’ve actually been looking forward to the 10 to 15 minutes of quiet reflection each morning. I’m hoping that one day meditating in the morning will be as easy as drinking a glass of water!

QUESTION: What are your morning rituals?