As we come into Winter, it might be a little harder for us to wake up and have that ‘get up and go’ feeling we had during the Summer.
As a yogi having studied Ayurveda, I have become accustomed to a little ritual in the morning that really helps me to get up and go.. especially now the mornings are getting darker and it’s a little harder to get up and teach yoga.
According to Ayurveda, if we stick to morning rituals that align our body with nature’s rhythms, we will have more energy throughout the day and feel great! [Catherine Guthrie (Yoga Journal)]
So here are some rituals to incorporate into your day…
Ok, so you might just want to start with 1 or 2 as I am sure you are wondering how to fit them all in to the morning. Once you start, you will realise how productive you can be on waking, and how much better your day will be if you just take time for yourself and to be thankful and ground before running into the day.. and it really doesn’t take much time.
Time to wake up….
Setting the clock for the same time everyday is important and a great way to get into a daily ritual, making it easier to get up and face the day.
According to the Ayurvedic doshas, 6am – 10am is the time of the Kapha aggravation. Thus, if we don’t get up before sunrise and wake up the body, we enter into the Kapha time period which is characterised by sluggishness and lethargy, making it even harder to get out of bed the later you leave it!
Traditionally, families always just woke up with the sun. Sunrise is an auspicious time and means it’s time to get moving, according to Michael Sullivan [Riverview Ayurvedic Spa, Virginia]
Once up, it is also the perfect time to sit and meditate even if briefly, since the energy is still and the mind is still quiet. More on that below.
Wash the night away….
Yogis and Ayurveda always say to splash your face and eyes with water as soon you wake to feel refreshed. I do this daily now and it feels great! But as well as feeling refreshing, it also helps to disperse heat, or leftover pitta energy, and prepare the skin for the day’s challenges, namely heat, stress, and pollution. It also rehydrates the skin.
Ayurveda recommends splashing the face seven times with cool, preferably non-chlorinated water. (An auspicious number in Ayurveda, seven represents the body’s chakras, or energy centers.)
Lightly splashing cool water into opened eyes helps balance the doshas since eyes are viewed as “the seat of the fire,” meaning they are pitta in nature and overheat easily. If your eyes are extra puffy or irritated, cover them with either slices of cucumber or cotton balls soaked in aloe vera, cooled fennel tea, or milk. (Goat’s milk is cooler and therefore preferable, but cow’s milk is also fine.) For bloodshot eyes, try a few drops of pure rose water in each eye.
Strengthen neglected eye muscles and stimulate the optic nerve with a few simple eye movements. Roll the eyes up and down, side to side, and diagonally. Then rotate them in a clockwise and counterclockwise direction. Finish by tightly squeezing the eyes shut and then releasing. Do this several times. [Guthrie]
Before even taking a sip of water, Ayurveda recommends we scrape away any white coating on the tongue, which is known as accumulated undigested ama (toxins) lurking in the digestive tract.This is to avoid ingesting this ama. A lot of white coating may suggest Candida, however we all generally have a little first thing in the morning since our bodies detox overnight.
Plastic and metal tongue scrapers are available at most health shops, and definitely at the lovely Health Emporium where I work in Bondi. Scrape from back to front and rinse the scraper every time.
To get rid of any further lurking toxins, oil pulling is a great Ayurvedic ancient ritual that has numerous benefits, given the fat enzymes grab bad bacteria, congestion, mucus and expel it from the body, thus having a detoxifying effect.
It can help reduce gum disease and inflammation, reduce the dryness in the mouth and skin, stop bad breath as well as helping with more systemic benefits such as enhancing the senses, increasing clarity, invigorating the mind, reducing exhaustion, anorexia and kapha imbalances as well as soothing a sore throat.
Cold pressed sesame oil is traditionally used, however, no surprises, Coconut oil is my preferred choice, since it is yummy and more palatable than sesame oil, but is also antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and has enzymatic properties and oil pulling has even been linked to fighting Strep bacteria. [Ncbi] [Jisppd]
“The oil acts like a cleanser. When you put it in your mouth and work it around your teeth and gums it “pulls” out bacteria, toxins and other debris,” says Bruce Fife. Thus it can really help to enhance our immune system and reduce chronic disease, such as arthritis and heart disease, that is caused by these very bacteria. [Fife] [Coconut Magic]
Oil pulling is best to do first thing on an empty stomach when the body is still in its natural detox mode. Simply pop a teaspoon of oil into your mouth upon rising and swish it around the mouth for at least 3 minutes if not up to 10-20 minutes, just like a mouthwash.
I know.. you wonder how you are going to fit all of this into your morning.. but once you are in a routine it really doesn’t take much time. Multi-task.. get ready or prepare your breakfast or iron a shirt while swishing! 🙂 Or, go onto my next point about oiling your body. A great thing to do while swishing.
Don’t swallow as you are pulling toxins out of the body and mouth so you don’t want to put these back into the body. Spit it out into the bin ideally (as coconut oil can solidify and apparently clog drains!)
At first it can feel quite hard as it aches a little but keep at it as it strengthens the teeth, gums and jaws and pulls any toxins from the mouth, which are expelled when you spit the oil out.
You can even add oregano oil if you’re game and this really helps to fight colds and flus as it’s very antibacterial. Add only a drop or two though as it’s pretty strong tasting.
After oil pulling, rinse with warm water and optionally a bit of rock salt, then it’s time to scrape your tongue (if you haven’t already done so as in the above point) and clean your teeth for an extra sparkly and fresh mouth.
Due to the many chemicals in commercial toothpastes it is best to use a natural one without SLS and fluoride. You can simply use just baking soda for a really fresh mouth or Vicco is a good brand of Ayurvedic toothpaste using herbs such as neem and licorice. Or, you can make your own:
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons baking soda
10 drops pure essential oil (this is where you can choose your flavour, I like peppermint or lemon)
1 teaspoon stevia (if you like it sweet)
Blend all the ingredients together and pop into a jar. [Coconut Magic]
Oiling the body…
In Ayurveda they think us Westerners are strange to apply moisturiser onto our skins after the shower…
A shower can be very drying to the skin especially with the quality of our water these days. Therefore, giving ourselves an oil massage before showering not only stimulates the nerves, relaxes the muscles and lubricates the joints, but the oil also acts as a protective barrier against the dryness of the water and any toxins and prevents dry skin, hair and nails.
Warm sesame oil is great for Vata types especially in Winter as it’s a beautiful warming oil. Coconut is more cooling but great for Pitta types or in the summer to disperse some of the Pitta heat from sleeping. (You can read more about the Ayurvedic doshas a little more in my last blog).
While swishing your oil around your mouth, lather the oil onto your body, paying particular attention to the joints to help avoid arthritis. According to Ayurvedic Medicine, massaging oil into the body helps to release toxins deep in our tissues and bones into the circulation for elimination.
You can also apply oil to the face and the top of the head which is really calming, especially Brahmi oil and is known to help stimulate the brain and bring more mental clarity. Include the ear and massage the lobe and rim helping to prevent dryness as well as popping a little oil inside the nostril. This helps to clean the sinus and also prevents germs and toxins sticking to the little hairs inside the nose, preventing catching a virus.
You can also add some aromatic oils, according to your dosha. To balance vata use ginger, cardamom, or orange; pitta prefers the cool, sweet scents of sandalwood or lavender; kaphas respond best to eucalyptus, rosemary, or sage. [Yoga Journal]
You can do this on dry skin but I sometimes get my brush after my oil massage and do light, quick brushes all over the body to get my circulation going.. your skin might go a little red so don’t press too hard..
Get a nice brush with a long handle and do light brushes upwards towards the heart, starting with the legs, torso, arms, very lightly on the face and then the back.
It spreads the beautiful oils that you have just massaged into your skin. Skin brushing is great for the lymphatic system helping to get the blood circulation going and moves the lymph and wastes moving around the body for excretion. Great for detoxification of the body. The lymph is very close to the surface of the skin hence only brushing very lightly to stimulate the lymph.
Once all oiled and brushed and your mouth is sparkly fresh, it’s a lovely time to take 10-15 minutes to just sit and meditate. You’ll be amazed at the benefits as you feel more relaxed and calm throughout the day, even when faced with challenges.
It helps to allow any anxieties or unconscious negative emotions arise before they cause some negative reactions or words. It also helps to ground you and make you feel more centred as you go into your day.
Simply sit for a minimum of ten minutes. Set an alarm and sit comfortably using a cushion if your knees are higher than your hips, allowing your spine to sit nice and upright. You might have a mantra you can repeat to yourself, or simply watch the breath at the tip of the nose, coming in and out.
You can also bring a count to the breath and simply count each inhale and exhale. Deep breathing and focusing the mind on one thing, helps the nervous system to relax, the mind to quieten and the space between thoughts to increase. Thoughts will still inevitably arise so simply allow them to come up, don’t suppress them. Allow any negative thoughts or anxiety to arise and feel into it. Surrender the desire to push it away even if it feels uncomfortable. Kindly watch what is coming up for you, and feel into it, then simply allow the thoughts to drift away, bringing your focus back to the breath. In this way, you are not directing energy to the thoughts, or getting involved. Simply allowing thoughts and emotions to come up helps them to dissolve so you are more centred throughout your day.
Keep deepening the breath and just feel your body dissolve into the ground and your mind start to quieten down. Bliss!
Meditating after oiling your body also allows all that yummy oil and its great nutritious anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral properties to soak into your skin before your shower.
Now oiled, calm and collected, a bath or shower in the morning is great to help reduce fatigue. Pitta constitutions benefit from cool water, while lukewarm water is ideal for vatas, and even warmer temperatures are best for balancing cool-natured kaphas.
Remember that the skin absorbs anything you put onto it, so lower the body’s toxicity by avoiding products full of perfumes and synthetic chemicals such as parabens and SLS, using natural goat’s milk soaps, Ayurvedic soaps and shampoos or Dr Bronner’s liquid soaps instead.
I will post a blog soon on DIY haircare and some great natural products for moisturising the hair and scalp.
Now you are ready to go to work or do some yoga or whatever you love to do with your day.. 🙂
Phew!!! It sounds exhausting but you really will feel great. Even if you start by just getting up, washing your face and scraping your tongue before sitting for ten minutes, you will feel great!
We all too often just get up and rush into our day without any time to give thanks for the beautiful day ahead. Starting with a positive thank you will make your day a beautiful one for you and all those you come into contact with throughout the day.
As the Dalai Lama says:
Happy Morning Rituals… 🙂
- Amita Banerjee
- Coconut Magic http://www.coconutmagic.com/coconut-magic/
- Michael Sullivan, Riverside Ayurvedic Spa
- Catherine Guthrie Yoga Journal
- Ncbi – Toothbrushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration; J Ayurveda Integr Med 2011 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131773/]
- Jisspd http://www.jisppd.com/article.asp?issn=0970-4388;year=2008;volume=26;issue=1;spage=12;epage=17;aulast=Asokan
- So many, in fact, that we bought a whole book on the topic called Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing by naturopathic physician Bruce Fife.
- Holistic Health – The Benefits Of Oil Pulling | Free People [http://blog.freepeople.com/2014/03/benefits-oil-pulling/#ixzz31y2IDDUf]