The irony of my writing a post on establishing an Ayurvedic morning routine is not lost on me. After the baby was born, my routine devolved into rolling out of bed at the last minute after a night of constant nursing, throwing a sweatshirt over my pajamas, and grabbing an apple (or donut) on my way out the door to get the girls to school. However bit by bit, I've been piecing my dinacharya (Ayurvedic daily routine) back together. It's amazing how taking the time to do a few simple self care steps after waking up can make all the difference in how the day goes. Ayurveda (sanskrit for "the science of life") is the branch of the Vedas that addresses the health of the body and is considered to be the oldest healing science. There are many different potential practices for a dinacharya but they all pretty much fall under three categories: Purification, Yoga andNourishment.
During the night, your body has been busy cleaning toxins from your cells and by morning, these toxins need to be eliminated or will be reabsorbed. This is where the purification rituals come in. Purification rituals include:
Have you ever noticed a white-ish film on your tongue first thing in the morning? This is called “ama” which refers to toxic accumulation in the body. The simple practice of tongue scraping removes this coating as well as the bad-breath causing bacteria housed within it.
I haven’t gotten into this one, but many swear by the effects of swishing organic, virgin coconut oil in your mouth for 10-15 minutes then spitting it out (do not swallow!) to absorb and remove bacteria build-up in the mouth.
Warm Water Upon Waking
You can always tell a yogi by the temperature of the water in his or her water bottle. Warm/hot water brings blood to the digestive system and wakes it up before having breakfast. Lemon is optional as a further detox.
I don’t know how I made it most of my life without knowing about abhyanga. If you have some extra time in the morning, heat some oil (I use coconut oil) and massage it in specific, long strokes towards the heart. Leave the oil on for 10-15 minutes, then wash it off without soap in the shower. The oil is effective for absorbing toxins as well as nourishing the skin. Click here for a video that describes the process in detail.
Yoga doesn not just mean the yoga you do at the gym (some of which can hardly be called yoga, if it's done to Madonna then probably not). By yoga, I mean practices that get you in touch with your bigger Self or your spirit.
Everyone who has taken a yoga class has done a sun salutation, but many don’t realize that particular asana sequence is meant to be done literally as a salutation, or greeting, to the sun as it rises. Most mornings, even if I don’t get up by sunrise, I go into my yard and face the direction of where the sun is coming up though it’s blocked for me by trees and buildings. I sing the Gayantri Mantra and do a couple sun salutations in the grass. My kids will often join me, which endears the practice to me even more.
According to the Vedas, the breath is the source of our prana, or life force. “Ayama” in Sanskrit means extending or stretching so Pranayama translates to controlling life force. A form of yoga all on its own, what may seem like simple breath exercises are incredibly powerful done in isolation or as preparation for meditation.
If I can’t do anything else, I try and at least do my meditation. All my actions of the day first start in my mind. If my mind is cluttered and exhausted, every action suffers.
After getting rid of all that yucky stuff and getting in touch with your inner self, lastly we nourish the body.
Eat a cooked apple
Apparently, the “apple a day” saying was not lost on the Ayurvedic masters. Eating a cooked apple with cloves is a common recommendation and one I almost always partake in. It stimulates the bowels, increases alertness and, in my case, my baby likes them too.
A warm, healthy breakfast
Follow up the apple with a warm, nourishing breakfast. I eat oatmeal with ghee, cinnamon, cardamom, and dried fruit every morning. It's very grounding without feeling heavy.
A word on when to wake up
The body rests most efficiently at night if we are able to get into bed by 10 and wake up by 6. You may have heard about the doshas in Ayurveda. There are three doshas, Pitta, Vata and Kapha which relate to the five elements that comprise our mind and body, and finding balance with our health involves bringing all these into balance: Kapha=water, earth, Pitta=fire, water, Vata=air, space (or ether). Times of day align with these as well. 6 to 10 both am and pm is Kapha time and the easiest window to fall asleep. Also, if you wake during this block, you'll often find yourself groggy and heavy feeling. Between 10 to 2, Pitta is dominant, which is the best time to be produtive and why if you stay up late you can catch a second wind. 2 to 6 is vata dominant time, it's the transitional times from night to day and day to night. This is the best time for being creative and meditation or for dreaming while asleep.
I certainly don't expect anyone to try and do all of these every day, I certainly don't (though in some alternate universe I would love to). But if you add in a couple rituals to your morning and therefore are able to start your day for yourself instead of immediately going into action for others, you'll likely find everything falls into place all day.
The breakfast may not be Ayurvedic, but the joy certainly is!