Ayurveda’s Daily Ritual for Delicious Self-Care
Do you wanna know the best way to super-charge your dreams? Start taking care of your body. Your mind will thank you.
Here is my basic daily ritual, pulled straight from my book on living healthy, happy, and sexy with ancient Ayurveda.
Your morning routine begins the night before: Getting in bed by 10 or 10:30 PM (can be a little later in the summer) will help you start the morning off right.
- Wake up at sunrise: If you are exhausted, sick or elderly, please sleep as long as you like. Upon waking, do not get out of bed right away. Try to be aware of your body and feel grateful to be alive before your toes touch earth. Pray.
Drink warm lemon water: This helps wash the G.I. tract, flush the kidneys, and stimulate peristalsis. If your digestion is sluggish, add 1/2 tsp ginger root powder.
- Nature calls: Going to the bathroom upon waking will help clear your digestive system. A healthy “motion” will have a soft brown log quality, little odor and will be well-formed (like a banana). Undigested food, foul odor, mucous, excessive dryness or “pellet-like” quality suggests a digestive imbalance. Altering diet and lifestyle and using herbs will help better this.
- Gently scrape your tongue: Buy a tongue scraper. Scrape from back to front 5–8 times. The tongue is a mirror of your intestines. When there is a thick white coating on the tongue, it is indicative that ama (toxins) is present. Tongue scraping helps maintain oral health, improves our ability to taste, gets rid of old food debris, and prevents bad odor in the mouth.
- Wash the face, mouth, teeth, and eyes: Splash your face with cool water. Wash the eyes with cool water or real-deal rose water. You can also buy an eye cup at most pharmacies and use it for washing the eyes. Massage your gums with sesame oil. This improves oral hygiene, prevents bad breath, increases circulation to gums, and helps us maintain strong, healthy teeth.
- Mouth care: Take 1–2 tablespoons of Daily Swish or pure sesame oil (not toasted) in the mouth. Gargle and swish until it creates a liquid texture (about 10–15 minutes), and then spit out into the trash can. This promotes healthy teeth, gums, and jaw. It also improves the voice. I know you may think 10–15 minutes is a long time—but just swish it around while you do something else (like your self-massage).
- Use a neti pot: Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to warm water in the pot and drain through each nostril. Afterwards, put 3–5 drops of warm sesame oil or ghee in the nostrils to lubricate the nose. This keeps the sinuses clean and promotes improved voice, vision, and mental clarity. Our nose is the door to the brain. Nose drops nourish our prana and enhance intelligence.
- Abhyanga (self-massage): Self-massage is one of our greatest allies for total health. It nourishes and soothes the nervous system, stimulates lymphatic flow, and aids in detoxification. It also improves circulation, increases vitality, nourishes the skin and promotes body/mind balance.
- Exercise: One of the greatest allies in moving towards balance, exercise boosts the immune system and is an excellent way to counteract the feelings of depression. Exercise daily to half capacity. We want to get a little sweaty glow, but not burn out before our day begins.
- Bathe: Use natural products.
- Meditate: Begin your day with some form of breath-work and meditation. Start with five minutes and work up to at least 20 minutes daily. I sometimes do my meditation before exercise, which is also fine.
- Eat breakfast.
- Try to make lunch your biggest meal of the day. Eat in a pleasant, calm place without distraction.
- Take some time to bless the food prior to eating.
- After eating, if you can lie down on your left side for 5–20 minutes, this is ideal. Why? Because it helps the digestive organs to do their work to assimilate the meal. If you are at work, even just leaning to the left side in your chair will be helpful.
Afternoon/Early Evening Routines
- One afternoon routine that helps you deeply relax into your evening is the practice of yoga nidra—a yogi nap. It’s also nice to do this prior to dinner, just before sunset.
- Eat light at night: Having your last meal before sundown and at least 3 hours before bedtime will ensure better sleep. If you don’t feel hungry, drink a nighty-night tonic like one of these.
There is no excuse, anymore, for us to not be sleeping. Women need sleep. Men need sleep. Bunnies need sleep. Everybody on the planet needs 6–8 hours of sleep on a regular basis. As Ayurveda expert and author Dr. Claudia Welch says, “Every cell in the body needs stimulation, and every cell in the body needs nourishment.” Just as we need to exercise, we also need to surrender into rest.
It is also impossible to accomplish your goals if you are chronically sleep-deprived. Plus, your mind/body uses sleep as the washing machine for the subconscious mind. If we aren’t slipping into deep dream-time every night, much of our toxic, unprocessed emotions and experiences don’t get drained away. As Dr. Robert Svoboda says, “Sleep is the wet nurse of society.” Raise your hand if you feel like you need to be wet-nursed?
Ayurveda offers an ideal way for transitioning from the activity of the day into the sacred chamber of sleep. Following these routines will make sleep come effortlessly and will help keep you asleep through the night:
- Set the mood: Depending on the season (in the winter it may be earlier), start turning off overhead lights after dinner. Avoid fluorescent lights always, but especially at night. Low lighting helps tell your body it is time to go to sleep. Lots of light confuses your circadian rhythms and messes with the natural hormones that pull you into the “sleepy feeling.” One of the first questions I ask people who suffer from insomnia is, “Are your overhead lights still on at 8 and 9 PM?” Switch to low level lighting, candles, or install dimmers on your overhead lights to set the mood for sleep.
- No more screen-time: Set an intention to turn off all screens (computers, cellphones, TVs) by 8 or 9 PM. Science now confirms that screens and lighting are also messing with our circadian rhythms.
- Be in bed by 10 PM: Have you ever noticed that you get a second wind around 10:30 PM? That’s because the metabolic energy your body normally uses for detoxing you while you sleep gets diverted to mental energy, and we get activated. Our body detoxifies and rejuvenates from 10 PM–2 AM. When we stay up late, we truly do miss out on beauty sleep. If you currently go to bed at midnight, use the fifteen-minute rule. Each night, try going to bed a mere 15 minutes earlier. Within a few weeks, you will be soundly sleeping at 10 PM.
Take a warm bath: Taking a scented warm bath can help reset the nervous system towards sleep. Use oils such as frankincense, myrrh, lavender, honeysuckle, chamomile, neroli or pure rose for deep slumber.
- Avoid too much mental stimulation: Don’t watch evening news. It’s toxic for your dreams. Similarly, avoid planning your future, having intense conversations, or any other activity that promotes mental movement before bed.
- Light a candle, read a sweet book that makes your heart melt. Say some prayers, and turn in.
- Unravel the day: There is a powerful meditative practice for unraveling the day. It actually builds your power of assimilation and boosts memory. Once in bed and lying down, mentally go backwards through your day in increments of 30 minutes. Try to simply register what was happening to you during the day without judgment. Notice your feelings, relax and let all events go. End with the point where you woke up in the morning. Gently drift into sleep.
Third photo courtesy of Claire Ragozzino.