How you live your daily life is the key factor to determining your life experience and your health. It is also a factor you can control. You can’t control the weather or your genetic make-up, but what you do every day from when you get up until you go to sleep either builds up to your health, vitality and resistance to disease, or wears you down.
Your moment to moment choices, what to eat, when and how much, how to exercise, how to respond to others, how to relax, when to go to bed, etc… play a major role in your mental and physical health.
So, if you decide to take control of your lifestyle with new healthy habits, what principles can guide you?, what is this Ayurvedic Lifestyle?
According to Ayurveda, best you can do is strive to live your life in harmony with Mother Nature. The forces and rhythms of nature (day and night, the different seasons) all affect us as do the cycles of life, birth, growth, ageing and death. Through the plants we eat for food, the water we drink and the air we breathe in common with all other living beings, we are one with nature. The ideal Ayurvedic daily routine is based on the patterns of nature.
One of the main pillars of Ayurvedic Lifestyle is following a Daily Routine, in old Sanskrit this is known as “ Dina Charya”. This is how doctor Vasant Lad describes the importance of this daily routine:
“A daily routine is absolutely necessary to bring radical change in body, mind, and consciousness. Routine helps to establish balance in one’s constitution. It also regularizes a person’s biological clock, aids digestion, absorption and assimilation, and generates self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness, and longevity.”
If you decide to follow an Ayurvedic lifestyle this will contribute to a better health and, most importantly, it will act as a preventive medicine avoiding health problems which simply originate from an unhealthy lifestyle.
So, let’s have a close look at what doctor Lad describes as the different steps to follow in your morning daily routine.
If you cannot manage all these steps, please don t worry, most important is to get started with something that resonates and is beneficial to you, and the rest will follow…..
STEP 1. Wake Up Early in the Morning
It is good to wake up before the sun rises, when there are loving (sattvic) qualities in nature that bring peace of mind and freshness to the senses. Sunrise varies according to the seasons, but on average Vata people should get up about 6 a.m., Pitta people by 5.30 a.m., and Kapha by 4.30 a.m. Right after waking, look at your hands for a few moments, then gently move them over your face and chest down to the waist. This cleans the aura.
STEP 2. Say a Prayer before Leaving the Bed
Say or think any prayer or words that touch your heart, to inspire you for another day and bring appreciation that you may witness another day.
Example prayer: “Dear God, you are inside of me, within my very breath, within each bird, each mighty mountain.
Your sweet touch reaches everything and I am well protected.
Thank you God for this beautiful day before me.
May joy, love, peace and compassion be part of my life and all those around me on this day.
I am healing and I am healed.”
After your prayer touch the ground with your right hand, then the same hand to the forehead, with great love and respect to Mother Earth.
STEP 3. Clean the Face, Mouth, and Eyes
Splash your face with cold water and rinse out your mouth. Wash your eyes with cool water and massage the eyelids by gently rubbing them. Blink your eyes 7 times and rotate your eyes in all directions. Dry your face with a clean towel.
STEP 4. Drink Water in the Morning
Then drink a glass of room temperature water, preferably from a pure copper cup filled the night before. This washes the GI track, flushes the kidneys, and stimulates peristalsis. It is not a good idea to start the day with tea or coffee, as this drains kidney energy, stresses the adrenals, causes constipation, and is habit-forming.
STEP 5. Evacuation
Sit, or better squat, on the toilet and have a bowel movement. Improper digestion of the previous night’s meal or lack of sound sleep can prevent this. However the water, followed by sitting on the toilet at a set time each day, helps to regulate bowel movements. Alternate nostril breathing may also help.
STEP 6. Scrape your Tongue
Gently scrape the tongue from the back forward, until you have scraped the whole surface for 7-14 strokes. This stimulates the internal organs, helps digestion, and removes dead bacteria.
STEP 7. Clean your Teeth
Always use a soft toothbrush and an astringent, pungent, and bitter toothpaste or powder. The traditional Indian toothbrush is a neem stick, which dislodges fine food particles from between teeth and makes strong, healthy gums. Licorice root sticks are also used.
STEP 8. Gargling
To strengthen teeth, gums, and jaw, improve the voice and remove wrinkles from cheeks, gargle twice a day with warm sesame oil. Hold the oil in your mouth, swish it around vigorously, then spit it out and gently massage the gums with a finger.
STEP 9. Chewing
Chewing a handful of sesame seeds helps receding gums and strengthens teeth. Chewing in the morning stimulates the liver and the stomach and improves digestive fire. After chewing, brush the teeth again without using toothpaste or powder.
(Note: One handful of sesame seeds contains the necessary daily intake of Calcium)
STEP 10. Nasal Drops (Nasya)
Putting 3 to 5 drops of warm ghee or oil into each nostril in the morning helps to lubricate the nose, clean the sinuses, and improve voice, vision, and mental clarity. Our nose is the door to the brain, so nose drops nourish prana and bring intelligence.
STEP 11. Oil Drops in the Ears (Karana purana)
Conditions such as ringing in the ears, excess ear wax, poor hearing, lockjaw/stiff jaw, and TMJ, stiff neck are all due to Vata in the ears. Putting 5 drops of warm sesame oil in each ear can help these disorders.
STEP 12. Apply Oil to the Head & Body (Abhyanga)/Daily Self Oil Massage
“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.” Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
Abhyanga nourishes the skin, plasma, lymphatic system, blood circulation, fat tissues and muscles.
For already healthy people this is the best form of maintenance.
STEP 13. Dressing
Wearing clean clothes brings beauty and virtue.
STEP 14. Use of Perfumes
Using natural scents, essential oils, or perfumes brings freshness, charm, and joy. It gives vitality to the body and improves self-esteem.
For Vata the best scents to use is Lavender, Ylang Ylang.
For Pitta try using Khus, Sandalwood, Jasmine, Rose, Ylang Ylang and Lavender.
For Kapha use for example Orange, Grapefruit, Mandarin, Rosemary.
STEP 15. Exercise
Regular exercise, especially yoga, improves circulation, strength, and endurance. It helps one relax and have sound sleep, and improves digestion and elimination. Exercise daily to half of your capacity, which is until sweat forms on the forehead, armpits, and spine.
STEP 16. Pranayama
After exercise, sit quietly and do some deep breathing exercises as follows:
Vata: 12 Alternate Nostril breaths;
Pitta:16 cooling Shitali breaths (curling up your tongue lengthwise and breathing through it);
Kapha: 100 Bhastrika (short, fast, pumping breaths).
STEP 17. Meditation
It is important to meditate morning and evening for at least 15 minutes. Meditate in the way you are accustomed. Meditation brings balance and peace into your life.
STEP 18. Now it is time for your breakfast!
Your meal should be light in the hot months or if your agni (digestive fire) is low, and more substantial in the cold.
Enjoy your day!
Courtesy of Dr. Vasant Lad, The Ayurvedic Institute 2002