It’s so easy to get excited about a new lifestyle change at the beginning of the year. But once February hits, that bright fire of desire may start to burn out, leaving our new life goals a bit cold.
Ayurveda understands this, and encourages us to work slowly and consistently with our life changes. Its better to throw a little stone into a pond daily than try to heft a huge rock once! With little daily-routine pebbles, waves of consistency will ripple out and create a new set point for your life choices.
This slow, steady path is achieved through daily routine (or dinacharya in Sanskrit), and it is essential for real, lasting change. Here are some of the steps in Ayurveda for a bright awakening, that can help set your day on course. Print this list up. Post it in your bathroom or refrigerator until it becomes second nature.
The night before Try to be in bed by 10 or 10:30pm (it can be a little later in the summer). The body renews and detoxifies itself between the hours of 10pm and 2am.
Rise and shine! Generally, waking around sunrise is ideal. People who need a little more sleep are children, pregnant women, folks who feel exhausted or burned out, the elderly, or anyone who is sick. Upon waking, try not get out of bed right away. Try to be aware of your body, your breath, and a connection to gratitude. Ayurveda understands everyday as a diamond opportunity inspiring thanksgiving.
Scrape your tongue One of my favorite Ayurvedic health tools! Buy a silver tongue scraper and scrape from back to front 10-12 times. The tongue is a mirror of your intestines. If you notice a thick coating, it may mean you may want to eat a more cleansing diet, as toxins may be present. Tongue scraping has been shown to help prevent diseases of the oral cavity, improves our ability to taste, gets rids of old food debris and prevents bad odor in the mouth. Plus, if you dont get rid of that gunk first thing in the morning, it will end up back in the body.
Brush your teeth Check out an herbal/Ayurvedic toothpaste at your local health food store. Look for ones containing neem, triphala and/or peelu.
Washing the face, mouth, teeth and eyes Splash some cool water on your face, or cleanse with a nice Ayurvedic soap containing neem or sandalwood. If your eyes feel dry or red, you can splash them with a little rose water. Massage your gums with warm sesame oil. This improves oral hygiene, prevents bad breath, boosts circulation in the gums and helps us maintain strong healthy teeth.
Drink warm lemon water Squeezing half a fresh lemon into some warm water will help to wash the GI tract, flush out the kidneys and stimulates good bowel health. If your digestion feels slow, add a splash of cayenne or 1/2 tsp. of ginger root powder.
Nature calls Going to the bathroom upon waking will help clear your digestive system. A healthy “motion” will have a soft brown log quality, little odor, and will be well-formed (like a banana). Undigested food, foul smell, mucous, blood, excessive dryness or “pellet-like” quality, as well as “sinkage” indicates digestive imbalance. Altering diet, lifestyle and using herbs will help better this.
Get oily Self-massage, or abhyanga, is one of our best allies for radiance. In fact, the old texts say its better to pay the “oil man” today than the doctor tomorrow. Massaging your skin daily nourishes and soothes the nervous system, stimulates lymphatic flow and aids in detoxification. It also improves circulation, boosts your vitality, and makes you feel more balanced emotionally and mentally. Use a high-quality organic oil such as sesame, sunflower, or coconut. Warm the oil in your hands, then rub down, making sure not to skip any parts. Let the oil soak in for at least 20 minutes and then shower.
Meditation, prayer, devotion I like to meditate after I’m drenched out in my warm oil.
Get your body moving Do some exercise that suits your mood and the season. When done regularly, exercise grounds us, boosts the digestive fire, and burns up any extra fat and toxicity. Adding yoga to your routine will open and clear your energy channels, as well as your physical body.
Bathe Use non-toxic, all-natural soaps without chemicals. Look for soaps with sandalwood, neem, and other skin-friendly herbs.
Nourish your belly Eat a healthy, seasonally appropriate breakfast. The best time? Eating around 8-8:30 in the morning will give your agni (metabolic fire) time to be strong for lunchtime.
This article originally appeared on the Yoga Journal Blog on February 1, 2013.