Enhance your Morning Routine with Ayurveda
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Written by Aneta Podlaska, in house Ayurvedic Therapist
I simply love mornings, they’re my favourite time of the day when the air is fresher than ever, the stillness is not interrupted by the rushing and buzzing of the masses and you have so much time ahead of you! Not everyone is a morning person though, I know from observing the morning struggles of my lovely flatmate. Feeling grumpy, tired, achy, swollen or moody is a signal that we’re out of balance. Working long hours, going to bed late, not eating properly or eating too late, and generally overexerting the body and mind can have a big impact on the way we feel in the morning. Adjusting our morning routine is one way to change it and to get the most of the day.
Early morning (2am-6am) is the time of Vata, which is the energy of movement and elimination and therefore the best time to get rid of the toxins that accumulate overnight in the body. Hence it is a perfect time for any cleansing rituals. Since our skin is the largest organ of elimination, a morning shower can scrape off approximately 20% off our body waste! Pretty impressive isn't it? Around 6am when nature awakens, both body temperature and stress hormone levels rise to wake up the body and kick-start the thorough cleanout. A natural urge for elimination should also arise soon upon waking up. For these reasons Ayurveda recommends that we get up before sunrise or at dawn, not after.
For those of you who want to deepen your awareness getting up before sunrise allows time for self-analysis, meditation or any other spiritual practise. Around one and a half hours before sunrise is an auspicious time for all the practices, the time of Brahma - the pure consciousness. That's the time when a big shift in energy takes place and the earth is calm and pure, like the mind after sleep. If you are new to self-practice try this simple method: upon waking up, lie in your bed for couple of minutes and connect with your breath first and then the whole of your body. Thank it for serving you the day before and ask for support for the new day. Set up positive intentions and start with kind and loving thoughts about yourself and your surroundings. Try to be aware of this intention and carry your positive attitude throughout your day.
- Sit in the upright yoga position that is comfortable for you
- Inhale through the left nostril by blocking the right one with your right thumb
- Exhale through the right nostril by blocking your left nostril with your right ring and little fingers
- Inhale through the right nostril and exhale through the left
- Continue for approximately 5 minutes, always inhaling through the same nostril you just exhaled from
- Inhale through the right nostril, and bring the chin to your chest
- Hold the breath for the same length of time as the inhalation
- Lift and exhale through the left nostril
- Exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation
- Continue by inhaling through the left nostril, put your chin to the chest, hold the breath, and then exhale through the right one. Repeat 10 times.
- From an upright seated position, clasp both hands behind your back and lower the upper body until forehead touches the floor, or as far forward as is comfortable for you. Stay in this position for 60 seconds, or longer if desired.
MORNING BODY RITUALS
Once you’ve cleaned your mind it then becomes time to do the same for the body. Try these morning bodily rutuals.
- Scrape your tongue with a copper or sliver tongue scraper to get rid of the toxin that accumulate in the form of a white/ grey/yellow coating on the surface of your tongue. Those toxins are from the digestive track and the scraping stimulates its function as well as preventing reabsorption
- To enhance morning detoxification and re-energise try oil pulling every morning on the empty stomach. Simply warm up the oil (I recommend either sesame seed or coconut oil) and take a sip. Gargle for a minimum of 5 minutes all around your mouth; you can do it while getting change, taking a shower or preparing your breakfast. Once the 5 minutes is up, spit out the oil either to the toilet or container since the gargled oil contains bacteria and toxins pulled out from the body, which may be harmful. Finish by brushing your teeth thoroughly.
- Finish by putting a couple of drops of warm ghee or oil into each nostril in the morning to lubricate the nose, clean the sinuses and enhance mental clarity.
- Refresh tired eyes by splashing them with some cool water. Tired, red eyes can be relieved by applying some organic pure rose water or pomegranate juice into each eye. If your eyes are puffy or irritated, cover them with either slice of cucumber or cotton pads soaked in aloe vera, cooled fennel tea, or milk. Do some eye yoga - roll your eyes up and down, side to side, and diagonally. Then rotate them in an anti-clockwise and clockwise direction. Finish by tightly squeezing the eyes shut and then releasing. Repeat several times.
- Massage your ears from the top down to the lobe and place a few drops of warm sesame oil or ghee in each of your ears to keep drying Vata in balance.
- Wake your body and stimulate your energy channels with a morning self-massage. 5 minutes is enough if you don’t have much time. Choose an oil according to your constitution – sesame seed or avocado oil infused with frankincense, orange, cardamom or cinnamon for Vata, coconut oil with some lemon, rose or peppermint for Pitta and mustard or almond oil with a splash of sage, eucalyptus or neroli for Kapha. Remove the oil after the massage as it drags the toxins from the deeper tissues onto the surface of your skin by following with a rejuvenating shower, with lukewarm water for Pittas, nicely warm for Vatas and steaming hot for Kaphas. Ayurveda says: “don’t put anything on the skin that you wouldn’t put on your tongue” as it will take minutes to be assimilated by the body. It is advisable then to use organic, natural, chemical free skin products.
- From 6 am to 10am we begin to enter the energy of Kapha - a time for exercising and awakening energy. This is a perfect time for physical practices. Since Yoga is a sister science of Ayurveda it’s a great practise to do in the morning. Have a stretch on your mat and go through some sun salutes to kick-start the body and bring synergy between your body and breath.
If you’re VATA…
- Depending what energy is predominant in you at one moment you can adjust your practice and exercises. As a general rule Vatas should follow a more soothing routine since they often forget to breathe, their practice should be concentrated on the breath, gentle and steady to warm the body. Therefore yoga is the best practice for them especially in the morning, but they will also benefit from tai chi or walking. When it comes to yoga, restorative and meditative styles are the best for Vata people, think of warming rather than overexerting poses (seated, balancing), alternative nostril breathing (described above) finished with meditation.
If you’re PITTA…
- Pittas tend to be very competitive, forceful and active, which can lead to overheating, fatigue and anger. For them it’s all about cooling practices, that are fun and don’t leave them bored. They should practice in an effortless manner, using 75% of their capacity without comparing what they do to others, as they tend to be sharp and critical. Outdoor running and swimming are wonderful exercises for them. When it comes to yoga, hatha, gentle vinyasa or Iyengar are great for them. Seated forward bends and twists are good too as they help to get rid of the heat from the body, as well as Shitali breath or left nostril breathing.
If you’re KAPHA…
- Kaphas require the most dynamic and active practices that enhance sweating and increased energy. They should keep warm, light and moving in an energetic way with speed, effort and determination. For Kaphas sun salutation without any break, inverted poses and backbends are great and breath should be active (longer Kapalabhati).
And finally is time for breakfast! Hurray! A light, fresh meal that won’t overload the digestive fire, (which doesn’t peak until noon) is ideal. Again depending on your predominant energy eat your breakfast accordingly:
If you’re VATA…
Breakfast is vital to stabilize Vata, warm, milky and sweet is best. Start with a cup of hot water followed by ginger and lemon tea. Use warm cereals such as rice pudding, oatmeal, cream of sprouted wheat or rice. You can add some chyawanprash (an ayurvedic jam), ghee, overnight soaked nuts or/and honey (just make sure that the ratio of honey and ghee is not equal). Another delicious breakfast is a shake made of soaked dates, soaked and peeled almonds, and boiled milk (or a substitute) blended together with warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Coffee, black tea or any stimulation drinks only aggravate already overactive Vata so choose milk (or dairy free option) with as your morning drink or Vata tea (in stock in Samsara) which contains a blend of warming and gently awakening herbs.
If you’re PITTA…
Pittas also should eat breakfast to avoid feeling irritated and to get the strong digestive juices burning the stomach walls. Start with a cup of warm water, followed this time with fresh ginger and lemon tea or peppermint tea. Rice, quinoa or oats porridge with coconut oil or ghee with cinnamon and coconut flakes/ soaked pumpkin seeds or cinnamon toast are good options for Pittas but it's important to include protein in every meal. Avoid coffee, orange juice and refined sugar pastries as they aggravate Pitta. If you choose fruits for breakfast go for ones that are sweet and juicy. Cooked apples, pears, figs or/and prunes are good options.
If you’re KAPHA…
People with predominant Kapha energy are the only ones that can skip breakfast but if you feel hungry in the morning go for hot, spicy and light food. Anything cold, greasy, salty, sweet and heavy will aggravate Kapha so choose the opposite. Fruit is a great option for breakfast unless is not overripe, sweet or sour (dry figs, cranberries, pomegranate, or grapes are a better choice). For a slightly bigger appetite corn muffins/ cakes or buckwheat pancakes with spicy mango chutney or apple butter would be best. If you’re pitta and you crave a sweeter breakfast you can have some bitter cocoa with skimmed milk and a hint of honey. Alternatively have seasoned barley with a little ghee, black pepper or rice porridge with quinoa, 2 ½ cups of water and black pepper.
HOW TO IMPLIMENT THESE RITUALS
Now I know it is a quite a long list of what to do in the morning and you may feel that there is not enough time for all those rituals but what I advise is that you test it for yourself and try things that work for you at that particular moment. In winter time you may be doing only some of them as the day is shorter and we have a natural tendency to sleep longer, however in summer time with the sun coming out earlier you may find it easier to do more of them. So try them and see what difference they do to your body and mind, but remember to get a full benefit you need to practice these rituals regularly over a period of time. Enjoy!