I presume as you’re reading this, you already know a fair bit about yoga, but how much do you know about Ayurveda? Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga and the two practices support and complement each other. It’s the science of daily living and is over 5000 years old!
Ayurveda views health and disease in holistic terms, taking into consideration the inherent relationship between individual, universal spirit, energy and matter. It helps the healthy to remain healthy and the sick to regain health. It looks at the individual and their constitution and prescribes practices for daily living that can help prevent illness and maintain balance.
The body thrives on routine and below, I have detailed 10 simple but powerful Ayurvedic rituals that you can implement into your Dinacharya, (daily routine). Establishing a daily routine is said to be one of the most powerful tools for improving overall health and wellbeing. It can help you balance your individual constitution and energy, help regulate your biological clock and digestion system, thereby maintaining greater balance and health in your body.
I’m not suggesting you have to do all of the below EVERY day. Find which ones work for you and your lifestyle and make them part of your routine. Perhaps try introducing 2 or 3 of them and see what works for you as an individual.
1. Keep regular hours
From an Ayurvedic perspective, it’s said to be beneficial to keep regular hours – waking before sunrise and of course, going to bed at an hour that allows you to wake up feeling rested! When we keep regular hours, we will sleep more deeply and restfully and wake up feeling clearer and more energised.
2. Tongue Scraping
Tongue scraping is an oral hygiene practice that removes bacteria, toxins and dead cells from the surfaces of our mouth. Although many of us are fastidious about brushing our teeth, we often neglect our tongues and it’s here where the bacteria and toxins can get stuck. If we don’t remove them, they can get re-absorbed into our body and can contribute to dis-ease in the body.
Tongue Scraping can help prevent bad breath, improve dental hygiene, digestion, immune system and even make your food taste better!
Upon waking, before doing anything else, scrape your tongue from the back towards the front. Repeat 5 – 10 times. Afterwards rinse the mouth with clean water and brush the teeth with a herbal toothpaste.
3. Drink water upon waking
Start the day by drinking warm water. This washes the GI track, flushes the kidneys, and helps stimulate the digestive system. I like to squeeze half a lemon in too. Start the day off by putting something nourishing into your body.
Sit on the toilet at the same time each morning (having had your warm water first!) Emptying the bladder and colon regularly at the start of your day is seen as an important part of your daily hygiene routine. It helps you to eliminate toxins more efficiently. Don’t worry if you’re not regular at the moment, implementing a daily routine such as drinking warm water and the points below can help!
5. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic ritual which involves swishing oil around your mouth for ideally 15 – 20 mins. It’s said to be amazing for the health of your gums, teeth and helps extract toxins from the mouth and can even help whiten your teeth! I find my teeth feel much cleaner, look whiter and my gums pinker when I’m doing it regularly.
Take a high grade, preferably organic, cold pressed vegetable oil, (I like coconut oil but you could use sesame or sunflower). After your water, take between 1- 3 tsps of the melted oil into your mouth (the amount used will vary from person to person), swill vigorously, pulling the oil through the teeth, building up to 15 – 20 mins.
Once you’ve finished, the oil should be a milky colour. Spit out into compost or the toilet, not down the sink and DO NOT swallow, as it will contain lots of toxins and bacteria! Rinse your mouth out with clean water and brush teeth as usual.
I tend to get the morning house jobs done, whilst swilling or at the weekend, use it as time to read!
Or try a ready made oil pulling formula – this Oil Pulling Mouthwash by Georganics has activated charcoal which helps to remove stains as well as removing toxins.
Abhyanga is an ancient Ayurvedic therapy, a self-massage with oil. It doesn’t take long to do, is super easy and so nurturing and soothing.
Abhyanga has many advantages. It is said to enhance your immune system, increase circulation, lubricate joints, decrease anxiety and stress and is also detoxifying!
· Small bottle of massage oil (I recommend an organic sesame oil at this time of year)
· Hot cup of water
· Old towel
· Warm room!
You will need a warm room where you won’t be disturbed.
Basically, the idea is to massage your entire body starting with your head and working your way down to your toes. The stroke is light and the concept is to spread the oil liberally and generously.
Stand on an old towel (that you don’t mind staining) to catch any drips.
Follow these easy steps:
1. Put a portion of massage oil in a travel-size container and place it in a hot cup of water for 5-10 minutes until it’s warm.
2. Pour some oil in your palm and spread it over your entire body from your head to your toes. If you can, include the head, scalp and hair, ears, nose! Really coat yourself in it, but if you’re in a rush, just do the face and neck.
3. Massage your body using long strokes on areas such as your arms and legs, and circular strokes around the joints – elbows, knees, etc. Cover the whole body!
4. Finally leave the oil on FOR AT LEAST 15 minutes before showering it off. Maximum 1 hour. I like to use this time to meditate or read.
5. Take a warm shower or bath. If you use oil on your hair, you might need to shampoo twice.
7. Jala Neti and Nasya
Neti pots are used as a cleansing system for the nasal passages. They’re especially useful to help with sinusitis, allergies, and common cold and flus, but neti can also be used preventatively as a part of daily hygiene routine. I don’t use it all year round, but find it really helpful to prevent allergies in Spring and congestion in Winter!
According to yogic traditions, it helps to balance the flow of breath between the nostrils and ida and pingala nadis and is therefore great to do before your yoga and meditation practice.
The first time you use a neti pot can feel a bit awkward, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple and there are lots of instructional videos on the web now.
Just be sure to follow the directions, and most importantly ensure you use sterilised or previously boiled and cooled water. Use the correct amount of salt, (too much or too little and it will hurt) and make sure the water is at a comfortable temperature.
Neti can dry out the nasal passages so to complement the practice you can try Nasya, putting oil into the nasal passage (make sure you use a properly prepared Nasya Oil).
Warm the Nasya Oil.
Tip head back as far as possible and exhale fully. You could lie on the edge of a bed or sofa. Drop 2-4 four drops of oil in each nostril, and sniff the oil into the sinuses. Start with 2 drops and increase if and when comfortable.
Bathing is an important part of the traditional Ayurvedic routine. It is said to cleanse and purify the body, bring energy and alertness, and to promote longevity. In the evenings, if I’ve had a busy day, I like to add Epsom salts to my bath, which really helps to re-set my energy and prepare for bed.
9. Yoga and meditation
Regular exercise and movement is so beneficial. The exact time of day and how and what you practise will depend on the season, your lifestyle and your individual constitution. Try to listen to what your body needs and practise in a way that supports you. But guess what… having a regular time set aside really helps! Perhaps try some sun salutations and gentle movement to stimulate the system, followed by some pranayama, ending with a meditation practice.
It’s important to eat seasonally and locally and try to establish regular hours for eating your meals. This will help regulate your digestion, prevent unnecessary snacking and calm the nervous system as it has a predictable pattern it can rely on. Breakfast is important and should be light and nourishing and help stimulate the agni. Eat your main meal at lunchtime when the digestive juices are strongest and lighter in the evening.
For more individual diet guidelines for your constitution and the seasons, consult an Ayurvedic practitioner.
Remember, don’t feel overwhelmed! Read through the points and see what speaks to you and try integrating a couple of the things into your daily routine at a time. There are hundreds of great books our there to guide you, see Yogamatters selection of Ayurveda books here.