What we do on a daily, consistent basis is the greatest determiner of our health. According to Ayurveda, there is nothing more important to our health and overall well-being than our daily living practices. If we live a balanced life in which we are kind to ourselves and adhere to the rhythms of nature, we stand the greatest chance of being healthy. When we abuse our bodies and minds, either intentionally or unintentionally, ill health often results.
Establishing healthful daily practices that are performed with conscious awareness is one of the best ways to nourish ourselves on the subtlest levels (the levels of the mind, emotions and spirit). And since ill health usually begins on the subtle levels, by nourishing ourselves in this way we are most able to withstand and prevent illness while instilling ourselves with a sense of peace and harmony. In essence, healthful daily living practices is a practice of self-love.
Through improper lifestyle, most of us have lost touch with natural rhythms and healthy patterns for living. Ayurveda provides us with a roadmap in the form of routines to guide us on our journey to optimal health and wellness.
General Daily Routine
- Awaken at the correct time to give the body a chance to harmonize with the rhythms of the sun. Vata: Awaken with the sun. Pitta: Awaken 1/2 hour before the sun. Kapha: Awaken one hour before the sun. Offer gratitude or say a prayer before leaving the bed to set the tone for the day, beginning the day with reverence and appreciation.
- Evacuate the bowels and bladder, if you can, shortly after arising to keep the body free of impurities. This is aided by drinking a full glass of room temperature or warm water, which also rehydrates the body and flushes the kidneys. Following ingestion, sit on the toilet. Even if this does not produce a bowel movement, the practice of sitting will support a healthy alignment with natural rhythms. Continue until the movements are regular.
- Scrape your tongue, back to front, 5-10 times to stimulate the digestive system and aid in the removal of toxins. Begin by inspecting your tongue for a yellow, green, white or brown coating. This coating indicates toxins in your digestive tract and is a good indicator of your digestive health.
- Once per week, wash the eyes with pure, quality rose water (rose hydrosol) mixed with warm water (50/50 ratio), using an eye cup.
- Cleanse the nasal passages with slightly salted water using a neti pot. Following this, place a drop of oil or ghee in each nostril with the tip of the little finger. This maximizes the absorption of prana, clears toxins and aids in respiratory health. The choice of oil is based on your dosha (see below for oil suggestions based on your dosha).
- Massage the body with oil that is balanced for your constitution (dosha). Leave the oil on at least 20 minutes.
- Meditate and practice constitutionally correct yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises) for half an hour (or more) before breakfast. Meditation calms and cleanses the mind and brings enormous benefits to body, mind and soul.
- Shower or bathe. If you have a vata imbalance, a warm bath with some sesame oil in the water is deeply nourishing and calming.
- Brush your teeth after meals. Always use a soft toothbrush and a toothpaste that does not contain sweeteners. Sweeteners increase kapha, and kapha is what you are trying to remove from your teeth and mouth.
- Floss one or more times per day to prevent gum disease. Ayurvedic gum powders or sesame oil can be massaged into the gums as well.
- Dress for the day. Consider wearing colors that will be pacifying to your dosha. Warm, soft colors pacify vata; cool colors are good for pitta; bright, bold colors balance kapha. Gold is good for all doshas.
- Meals: Always consider your dosha when choosing appropriate foods. It is best to eat according to your imbalance (vikruti) when out of balance, and eat according to your natural constitution (prakruti) when in balance.
In the evening it is important to establish a healthy bedtime ritual. This will help you to fall asleep with ease and ensure a proper night’s rest. It is important to go to bed before 10:00 pm. For at least one hour before bedtime, avoid stimulating activity such as working on the computer or watching television, especially if you tend to have sleep issues. Instead, dim the lights or light candles, and engage in soothing, calming activities such as taking a warm bath, meditating, sitting in the moonlight or gazing at a fire in the fireplace.
Note: The best oil choices per dosha include sesame, ghee or almond oil for vata, sunflower, ghee or coconut oil for pitta, and safflower, corn or sesame for kapha. If you are unsure of your dosha, consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner. At CCA, we offer consultations with both graduate and intern practitioners. Feel free to contact our office to learn more.
The above routine suggestion is ideal. OK, maybe you can’t do all of it everyday. Just be as consistent as you can, creating healthy patterns that incorporate as much of this as possible.You can also vary from the above in order to accommodate personal preferences. For instance, perhaps you always begin your day with a brief spiritual reading or tending to pets or kids. Just remember that you are creating health, and for optimal benefit, stay focused on the practice, bringing conscious awareness to it. In this way, everyday routines become a sacred, healing practice. By bringing sacredness to your daily routines, you nourish your body, mind, and soul and help further you on your spiritual path.
Image: Summer Morning (at Spardavet) by Carl Larsson, 1853-1919