How we begin our morning sets the tone for the rest of the day! Have you ever felt tired from just planning your day? What time should you wake up? What to do when you wake up? What should you eat? Where do you fit in workouts? What should you wear? What do you pack for your kid’s lunch? Think about it: How does mental rest find its place with all the chaos and questions?
After two years of pandemic disruptions, everyone is burned out. I know clients, who for most of 2020 Netflixed through the night, passed out on the couch, and logged into work in their pajamas. No rhythm or routine to their mornings showed up as weight gain in some, depression in others, or a lack of motivation in yet others. A few noticed the change in quality of their sleep as well as their skin.
When we started working together, I introduced my clients to dinacharya, a daily Ayurvedic morning routine. A few resisted, saying, “But I don’t have time for this.” We worked on the mindset: If you don’t have time for your well-being, you really need to rearrange your priorities. If you don’t believe in self-love, then self-care might seem luxurious to you. If we aren’t compassionate towards our own selves, we can’t be caring towards others.
I know that some people find the idea of predictability and routine boring. Ayurveda believes that routine is a discipline for the body and mind that strengthens immunity and purifies the body of its wastes. So, a little shift in my clients’ mindset and addition of cleansing and replenishing Ayurvedic self-care practices to their routine made a tremendous difference to their health and wellness.
Wake up before sunrise: Ayurveda is all about restoring your innate connection with the natural world. Waking up about an hour and a half before the sunrise, which is called Brahma Muhurta, can increase mental clarity and positivity (increase sattva). This is the Vata time of the day where we can find stillness, clarity, and quietude. I often find answers to life’s big questions at this time of the day. At this time, the environment is pure and calm, and the mind is fresh after sleep.
Body and mind scan: When you first wake up, spend a moment checking in with yourself—how you feel physically, emotionally, and mentally before doing anything else. Scan your body for any aches or areas of tension. What about fatigue and energy levels? Do you feel rested or tired when you wake up?
Drink a cup of warm water: When you wake up, drink a cup of warm (not hot) water before you put any caffeine in your body. This Ayurvedic practice has shown to impact digestion, improve skin health, and promote weight loss. A few glasses of warm water each day might enhance your blood circulation, which is important for proper muscle and nerve activity. It keeps your nervous system healthy by working on the adipose tissues around it.
Go to the bathroom: When I went for my very first annual checkup at the doctors in NYC, I remember one of them saying that pooping a few times a week is normal. Honestly, that makes no sense. If you eat three meals a day, how is it healthy to eliminate once every few days? In the mornings, go to the toilet. Make it a daily practice. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people in America don’t have a bowel movement daily. When we get into the habit of doing this each morning it helps to regulate our digestive system.
Practice abhyanga: In Ayurveda, anointing oneself — from head to toe with warm oil — is called abhyanga. Warm oil massage balances the doshas and enhances their well-being. When vata dosha feels under control, we can focus better, which increases productivity, creativity, satisfaction, and sleep. It has several health benefits that you can read about here. You can take a shower 15-20 minutes after abhyanga.
Move your body: It’s very difficult (unless you are a sage who lives alone in a cave) to quieten your mind without moving your body. In Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutra,” the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs.” The postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third of the 8 limbs of yoga. By practicing asanas, we develop discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation. Asanas are a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being.
Meditate: Next, take at least 10 minutes to sit in meditation. Focus on your breath. Chant a mantra. Fix your gaze on an object. But sit in stillness even if it makes you uncomfortable.
Eat nourishing foods: Choose foods that support your mental and physical well-being. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. Eat local, seasonal, simple, and for your doshas.
There are many other to-do items on the dinacharya list, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Listen, you don’t have to implement even all of these suggestions and changes into your routine the same week. We are all busy, and I want you to lead a balanced life, not a stressful one. Start with one or two things. A week or two later, add more practices to your mornings. If you like to journal, maintain a record of how you feel as you make these shifts.
When you know that every day begins with the same set of routine, it gives our mind room to breathe. Not having to think constantly about what next can lessen our decision fatigue. Ayurveda has been illuminating us for 5,000 years that these simple, daily actions can bring us back into balance and regulate our body clock and our digestion. Dinacharya practices help remove ama (toxins) from the body. Establishing a daily routine is one of the best ways to assure a balanced state of mind. It can help you stay healthy and boost your productivity. After all, our daily habits, not occasional indulgences, have the most significant impact on our health and well-being.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained ayurvedic coach, contact me here.