Although I’m pretty bad at mornings and prefer to start the day as slowly as possible, I know I should make the most of that magical time of day. Or at least I’ve heard it’s magical from those who don’t have a love affair with their bed or their snooze button. Early mornings are the perfect time to devote to self-care, our spiritual practice as well as our health. I just really wish I was better at waking up (and functioning) that early. Ayurveda―Indian science of life―says that time of day is ideal for multiple Ayurvedic practices to keep our mind and body healthy as well as happy.
Rising with the sun
We’ve probably all heard before how going to bed and rising with the sun―in rhythm with the sun’s cycles―has its power and if you haven’t heard that from Ayurveda, you’ve probably heard it from your grandma. But what is it all about? According to Ayurveda, waking up with the sun, ideally before 6 a.m., helps us start the day on the right foot. Vata, dosha combined of air and space, governs those early mornings and is the one responsible for movement, increasing the likelihood of this time of day being perfect for physical movement as well as spiritual practice. Now if only I could stop hitting the snooze button…
Have you ever looked at your tongue just after waking up and noticed a white or yellow film on your tongue? Those are toxins, dead cells, and bacteria that get deposited on your tongue during your body’s cleanse at night. Jihwa Prakshalana or tongue scraping is an Ayurvedic ritual that removes all of that, making sure they’re not re-ingested and keeping respiratory difficulties, digestive problems, and a compromised immune system far away. It also keeps your breath fresh and improves your digestion by enlivening your taste buds as taste is the first step in your digestive process. Tongue scraping should be done first thing in the morning, before brushing your teeth. I know, just the sound of it makes it seem like something only hardcore hippies would do but it just takes a few minutes out of your day and can have a big effect on your overall health.
Oil pulling is basically a practice of using coconut or sesame oil as a mouthwash. Simply take a tablespoon of oil and start rinsing your mouth with it for 10 to 20 minutes, making sure you don’t swallow the oil. When you’re done, just spit it out and brush your teeth as usual. The ritual is best done before drinking any liquids and if you find it hard to do one 10-minute round of swooshing, try doing 5 minutes two times. I have yet to try it myself but they say that makes it a bit easier as it keeps that gag reflex at bay. And if you are (like me) always in a rush in the morning, use this time to (un)load the dishwasher or put the washing on or anything else you usually run out of time for.
Abhyanga or oil massage
Finally, my favorite routine. Although I don’t normally do this in the mornings, in the evenings, after a shower, I love it nonetheless (maybe it just makes it a tiny bit less Ayurvedic?). Abhyanga is the loveliest Ayurvedic ritual of self-massaging oneself with warm oil all over the body. Depending on your body type or dosha, you can use different kinds of oils: sesame oil in early spring then almond oil if you have cold hands and feet, while coconut oil is best if you have excessive heat in your body. Slightly heated oil should be massaged into the body from head to toe in circular movements and always towards the heart. Abhyanga is said to enhance circulation and stimulate the lymphatic system while making sure the biggest organ of your body―your skin―is well hydrated and soft.
Jala Neti is done by salty lukewarm water being poured out of a neti pot―that thing that looks like a perfect home for a genie―into one nostril and out through the other. It is used in India and South Asia as an effective way of clearing nasal passages, relieving allergies as well as asthma, common cold, nasal congestion, and respiratory ailments. While I’m a bit wary of pouring things into my nose, I do think it would be worth a try if it means I’d have fewer issues breathing (and getting my nose unblocked) in the winter.
Are these just for Nag Champa incense loving, crystals charging, hummus devouring hippies? Or can they actually be implemented in everyone’s life? If you ask me, the latter.