AYU = Life, VEDA = Knowledge
Ayurveda originated in India, and literally means "the science of life". It's the sister science to yoga, and one of the oldest systems of medicine and healing dating back 5000 years. It's basically like an instruction manual for how to take care of your mind, body, and spirit, that's also in harmony with nature.
When I was learning about all the different diets in nutrition school, Ayurveda (although not a diet), was always the one the made the most sense to me. It recently resurfaced in my life, and has allowed me to dive deeper into this ancient knowledge. I'm so fascinated by it, that I booked a trip to India where I will get to experience it first hand. Though I'm just a passionate student at the moment, I want to share what I've absorbed so far. Most of these actions or rituals can be implemented easily into your daily life, and will help foster your well being.
In Ayurveda, whatever is happening in nature (the macrocosm), is a reflection of what is happening in your body (the microcosm). Nature has rhythms, and so does our body. Ayurveda is really about understanding those rhythms, and honoring them. Since one of the most obvious rhythms in nature is the rising and setting of the sun, by following the same rhythm, we are becoming more in tune with nature and the universe. At dawn, everything starts to wake up. You see deer grazing, birds chirping, flowers budding, and squirrels running around. We are connected to the sun just like they are, so should ideally rise between 4:30-6 AM. I know that sounds early but stay with me, it will all make sense. According to the doshic clock, between 2-6 AM is Vata or butterfly energy. The energy at this time of day is light, ungrounded, and the energy of movement. When energy increases in nature, it effects the body. So waking up before 6 AM, will actually allow you to wake up with more energy (prana), a better mood, improved digestion, and help you feel lighter. Sleeping in can effect weight gain and depression, and throw off your sleep cycle at night. By nature, we are all morning people!
Brahma Muhurta is known as a divine period before the sun comes up, the hour of god consciousness. During this time, it's recommended to meditate, journal, do yoga, and prepare yourself for the day ahead.
- Airplane Mode - make sure to switch your phone to airplane mode before you go to bed, and don't check it during Brahma Muhurta. (Don't worry it's 5 AM, no one's texting you).
- Set a Soothing Alarm - waking up to Tibetan singing bowls or chimes will make your morning a little less jarring.
- Think a Positive Thought - upon waking, before you do anything else, think something positive such as, "today is going to be beautiful". If you have a partner, simply roll over and smile at them to greet them to the new day and wish them a good morning.
- Ground Yourself - make a conscious connection with the earth by planting both of your feet on the floor.
- Elimination - waking up during this time makes it easier to have a bowel movement. Before you put anything new into your body, you need to let everything out.
- Brush your Teeth - our mouth accumulates a lot of bacteria during the night, and it's important to flush it out. I recommend using a bamboo toothbrush and natural toothpaste. My dentist told me that brushing your teeth is more about the act of brushing than the actual toothpaste that you use.
- Scrape your Tongue - once you start this ritual, you won't be able to stop. If you don't have a tongue scrapper, you can use the back of a spoon.
- Oil Pull - after cleansing, you always build and nourish. Oil pulling nourishes the gums, your voice, strengthens your jaw, protects from cavities, lubricates the mouth, and grabs any remaining bacteria that got stuck in the crevices. It's actually an anti-aging practice for the body. It's recommended to use organic, cold-pressed, raw sesame oil. Swish 1 tsp-1 tbsp around in your mouth for about 1 minute. Your body will tell you when it's time to spit it out.
- Nasya - oil in the nose. Dip your pinky finger in sesame oil or ghee and rub the insides of your nostrils and snort it up. This sounds funny, but ghee is considered "liquid gold" in Ayurveda, and somewhat of a cure all. This practice will help lubricate your nasal passage ways. This is good to do daily, but especially if you're in an angry mood it is said to help you feel calm and cool.
- Warm water - Water is an elixir for your body, and a the best thing to put in before anything else. Warm or room temperature is ok, but avoid cold or hot water. Cup your hand and that is the amount of water that you need (about 8 oz).
- Abhyanga - self massage. Lay down an old towel on the bathroom floor to catch the oil residue (you're going to be using a lot). Use either sesame oil in the cold months, or coconut oil in the warm months. Warm your oil on the stove top to a comfortable temperature and then start massaging you body from your head down to your toes using long, rhythmic strokes. On your joints, use a nice circular motion with your palms (not fingers). Abhyanga calms Vata energy, and will help ground, and nourish you in the morning. This practice helps build your immunity, strengthens your skin, protecting the barrier you have to the outside world. You can leave the oil on your skin for up to 15 minutes, and then wash it off with soap or chickpea flour which helps absorb the oil. Though Ayurveda doesn't promote it, I use dry brushing to compliment my Abhyanga every morning to help stimulate my lymphatic system. Start with quick fast strokes all over your body towards you heart, and then apply the oil.
- Sun Salutations - this is a physical exercise that helps wake the body up. It helps stimulate the metabolism and the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and reproductive systems in the body. Here is a short video by Ayurvedic practitioner Julie Bernier demonstrating the practice.
This may seem doable to some, or it can feel overwhelming. Either way, start with one action and do it for two weeks consistently, then gradually add on. Also, going to bed earlier will help you to wake up earlier. It is recommended to be in bed by 10 PM. Sweet dreams!