What would constitute good routine after you get up in the morning to make your body more acclimated for hard lessons later in the day? I'm talking not just about muscle exercises, but stretching and meditation as well. Is there some common knowledge that I should know in this regard?
Varies much depending on your Aikido practice.
Meditation, for instance, is not practiced at all in many dojo, and rightly so. Do you need it ? Depends.
This is a typical novice question, as novices don't know what is best for them. And the real difference between a novice and a expert is just that experts do know what they need.
In order to become expert and progress, you need to do what is really required, to understand what you need to progress.
Your solo time is only yours. It's the time you can take for yourself to experiment, without having seniors and even the teacher to interfere with your experiments. One of the things novices miss most in aikido is time to think about it and experiment.
There are many things to do. Choose by yourself, you don't even need to stick with a particular exercise.
As for me the only thing I've been constantly doing for years is solo movements: tai sabaki and shadow techniques (that's to say: mimic a ikkyo/iriminage etc without a real partner).
Here are a few things that any level of student should be able to do on their own:
All of these things can help keep you in a constant mindset of Aikido.
In The Secret Teachings of Aikido O'Sensei said that Aikido is a pathway to enlightenment. When asked how long it would take to reach enlightenment by practicing Aikido the founder said that it would take someone training everyday at least 10 years.
In many [Japanese] arts, there are a series of techniques called (with some minor variation in naming convention) hojo undo, or supplementary exercises. They may also be called taiso, which implies an awakening of the body.
While studying Aikido, I took notes on the various warmups we did at the beginning, which I'll post for you here:
These were the ones I recall doing daily, though we had occasional exercise-heavy classes in which most of the time was spent going over some 40-odd warm ups. Ukemi is always a great exercise when free space allows.
While not precisely relevant, performing these sorts of body-awakening exercises can offer you a few moments of peace before a busy day, which can be a perfect time to ponder brain teasers or zen koans as an exercise for the mind; these sorts of exercises provide new insight into the way we approach our daily lives, and create new neural pathways which can result in faster threat assessment and problem solving in simpler problems.
Some things I've pondered, based on various teachings, that may be of use to you are:
Lateral Thinking Puzzles If you're unfamiliar, these are a portion of a much larger story. There may be multiple scenarios which will lead to the conclusion offered by the story, but only one is generally wholly satisfying. The point is to consider what you know, and determine what would have caused it.
I do not encourage people to meditate while stretching or as part of their morning ritual; this tends to lead to the false assumption that meditation is an activity that must take place under a prescribed set of circumstances. Instead, meditation should happen in every moment; problem solving however can lead to the ability to naturally and instinctually clear your mind of external thoughts.
The only thing I do is to hydrate a lot during the day. A two hour class is exhausting enough without having to run to get water all the time. But do drink during exercise, as it is better for you and your performance.
On days without a class, I tend to visualise techniques while waiting for coffee or the kettle. But do not over do it. Your brain needs time to think about other things if you are to learn effectively.
As tacone said, tai sabaki and basic movement are always useful to do if you are doing them right. Do not reinforce bad habits.
In the morning I used kokyu (breathing) and some warm-up excercises:
And then we did many warm-up excercises:
I had very good experience with a short (under 10 minutes) routine based on the Five Tibetan Rites:
N.B.: The Sixth Rite is "optional" and should not be practiced (according to the original source) unless you decide to abstain from sexual activity. YMMV - I don't practice it, for example
Another thing that is important to know is that this system includes a specific "progression" scale. You are supposed to start by performing each Rite exactly 3 times. I.e. in the case of First Rite, you spin around 3 times, then move to 3 repetition of the Second Rite etc. When you feel like you can move up a bit you add two more repetitions, and therefore you perform all 5 rites 5 times. Then, again when you feel like it, you add 2 and are now at 7... you self-regulate your progress until you hit 21 repetitions. And that's it.
I talk a bit more of this here.
I am 50, have been practicing Aikido (Iwama Style) for 24 years, and since I started doing this I don't get any sore muscles after seminars or when I start practicing again after the summer/Xmas breaks.
Note that I practice it in the evening instead of in the morning (it just works better for me like this, but I practiced it in the morning for a few months, when I was experimenting) and that I do this as a purely physical routine, but you may incorporate some meditation along with it (in fact, I am probably doing it wrong precisely because I just do this as physical work).