Ayurveda and Self Care
Taking Care of The Self
The word health in Ayurveda is Swastha. It means to be situated in the self. In order to establish a sense of self we must strengthen our awareness of our bodies and minds and the way Ayurveda suggests this happens is through daily routine or regimen called dinacharya. Dinacharya is a powerful tool and a great way to bring the doshas back into balance, and begin to settle into the day by slowly welcoming the morning, getting a little exercise in, cleansing the body and mind, and having nourishing food to start the day off right. There is a traditional routine for the morning, but you don't want to incorporate everything all at once. That might be too much to begin with. See if you can incorporate one or two things to your morning routine and make those things a part of your life for a few weeks creating a new pattern in your mind. Then slowly adding what you feel comfortable with over time.
Early Morning Wake up
Ayurveda suggests waking up early. Most people are not very fond of the early morning. The time before sunrise is a very auspicious time day. An hour and a half before sunrise is called Brahma Muhurta. Its the time of day that is the most peaceful. Its a great time for meditation and yoga, journaling or just sitting and enjoying the quiet before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. This peace of mind is said to last throughout the day. Waking late causes lethargy and fogginess. A good time for Vata to wake is 6 am. Pitta time is 5:30 and Kapha is 4:30. Of course this depends on the time zone you are in and may also depend on your lifestyle. You might be wondering what you are going to be doing at such an early hour. When you open your eyes you first want to give thanks for the day before even leaving the bed and placing your feet on the floor. Sending positive thoughts into the atmosphere and creating positive energy for the day.
Next you want to scrape your tongue. Scraping the tongue removes what Ayurveda calls ama. Ama is the residue from undigested food that appears on the tongue as a white coating. There is also bacteria on the tongue from the night before that you want to remove before eating or drinking anything. Be sure to use a stainless steal scraper or better yet a copper scraper as copper has beneficial properties for the body. Now you want to brush your teeth and maybe swish some oil in your mouth. You may have heard of oil pulling. Now I'm going to be honest with you. This might be a tough one. First you want to use a teaspoon of an organic oil like coconut or sesame oil. Try swishing the oil around in your mouth for 5-7 minutes to start. Gradually making your way up to 10 -15 minutes. You will notice you mouth fills up with saliva. The oil is also pulling bacteria from the gums and whitening you teeth! That's one of the great benefits. It also helps with bleeding gums which is a sign of early gum disease. You want to spit the oil out in the trash so that you do not clog your drain with oil. Next wash your face with a mild cleanser and rinse the eyes by splashing some water into them. You could use something nicer the the senses like rose water or even place some rose water in a spray bottle and spritz your face after washing. Now go to the kitchen and turn on some water. Let it heat just so it is warm and add some fresh lemon juice. Drinking this down will jump start your digestion after the 8 hours of fasting during the night. Lemons also have a tremendous amount of nutrients that are great to start the day with. You could also just have the warm water without lemon. Why warm water you ask? Ayurveda is not fond of cold drinks as it dampens the digestion and digestive fire called Agni. Ayurveda is largely focused on digestion. Not only of food but of our experiences and emotions. I'll talk more about this when we get to food. So, after you have had your warm water you want to do some movement or exercise. Sun salutations are great because its an easy sequence to remember, all of the parts of the body are energized and stimulated. You can change the pace to suit your dosha and since this is about the time that the sun is rising why not salute the sun! Then you return to the bathroom. After your warm water and some movement, hopefully your body will be ready to eliminate the waste from the previous night. So have a seat on your throne and give yourself some time to poop. Evacuation is also a very important aspect in Ayurveda. We want to rid the body of what it no longer needs and empty the intestines so that you can send down food that is not going to be blocked by digested food. That blockage is what causes ama. Now you are ready for your abhyanga. You can warm about 2 oz of oil for your dosha, apply the oil as described in the last newsletter. Longs strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. DON'T OIL THE BOTTOM OF YOUR FEET. You don't want to slip in the shower. When you shower only soap up the important parts so that you don't remove all of you nice oil. When you get you pat your skin with a towel you don't mind getting a little oil on. If you don't have a lot of time you can shower and then apply some oil to damp skin.
Just as we say in western culture, breakfast is an important part of the day. You want to start with some warm, well cooked food to continue to stoke that digestive fire. A tasty and easy breakfast is cooked or stewed fruit. As I mentioned before, Ayurveda is not fond of cold drinks and/or food. Especially in the cold months. You can use and apple or a pear for this. You want to peel and core the fruit. Chop it into chunks and place it in a small sauce pan with a little water and a sprinkle of cinnamon and maybe some cardamom. Let the water come to a boil, turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Come back in about 5 minutes and you have nice cooked fruit. You can add some ghee (clarified butter) if you like especially for vatas and vata season. We'll talk about ghee more later too. Another great breakfast is cooked cereal. There are so many grains to use for a good morning breakfast. Theres you typical oats, rolled oats, steal cut oats, barley, millet, quinoa, and the list goes on. To make these grains tasty and digestible add a sweet spice mix of ground cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Yummy! If you don't have time in the morning try using a programable slow cooker or crock pot.