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master your mornings
Modern mornings are increasingly rushed and wrought with stress, catapulting us into equally hectic days. According to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, our morning habits take us toward radiant mental and physical health or toward progressive disease. By recognizing the value of mindful mornings and cultivating a nourishing personal practice, we can radically shift the quality and even the length of our lives.
In as little as one month, the following daily practices will ignite a change in mind, body and consciousness. Take a gradual approach by adopting just one or two practices at a time and observing the positive results. It takes discipline to create new habits, but the dividends are tremendous. As you watch the changes unfold in your life, you will recognize the power of an Ayurvedic morning and naturally take steps toward increasing your morning mastery.
Rise & Shine: Begin to adjust your daily rhythms so that you can enjoy a full night of rest and rise before the sun. The pre-dawn hour is called bramha muhurta in Sanskrit, which means “the Divine time”. The ancients knew the purity, sweetness, and power of this time, which upon experience quickly trumps the desire for prolonged sleep.
Upon waking, take a few moments to observe your whole being. Cultivate an attitude of loving kindness towards yourself and the world. Say a prayer or mantra that has special significance for you, then gaze into your palms. Take a moment to cup the palms over your eyes, and then gently sweep your hands downward over your body to clear your energy field. Now set an intention for your day, or if you are working with a sankalpa (spiritual resolve), state it mentally.
Greet & Release: Entering the bathroom to attend to the call of nature, first greet yourself in the mirror with loving kindness, recognizing supreme beauty in your image. If possible, use a squat toilet or toilet accessory, such as Squatty Potty, to aid in proper elimination. Empty the bladder first, then evacuate the bowels.
Face Time: After washing your hands, rinse your face by splashing cool water upon the skin seven times to chase away sleep and benefit from the auspicious number seven. Wash your eyes with cool water, gently massage the eyelids, and blink the eyes seven times. Follow with a gentle circling of the eyes in both directions before patting the face dry with a clean towel.
Mouth Smarts: Brush your teeth properly and gently scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper in order to clear toxins from the mouth and stimulating both the internal organs and the digestive system. Gargle with warm sesame oil to strengthen your teeth and gums, improve your voice, and combat wrinkles. After spitting out the oil, massage your gums with one finger.
Breathe Your Best: Clean out the nasal passages by blowing your nose, or by practicing jala neti (nasal irrigation). Use your pinkie finger to then gently massage each nostril with sesame oil, ghee or nasya oil (an Ayurvedic herbal infused oil made specially for the nasal passages). This keeps the membranes moist, lubricates the nasal passages, helps to clean the sinuses, and stimulates mental clarity and acuity.
Hydrate Right: Drink 8-12 ounces of warm water, preferably with a slice of lemon. This will help to rehydrate the body, flush the gastrointestinal tract, stimulate the digestive system, and remove ama (toxic residue). If your bowel movements are irregular or difficult, you may wish to also take Triphala (three fruits) an Ayurvedic herbal compound of Amalaki, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki. Triphala helps to regulate elimination and is considered a panacea by many practitioners.
Morning Massage: The morning practice of abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil massage) keeps the body healthy and strong by breaking up myofascial adhesions, increasing circulation, and nourishing the tissues. Select organic cold-pressed sesame oil in the fall and winter months, and organic coconut oil in the summer. Apply warm oil to your head, face and body, using circular motions over joints, clockwise circling over the abdomen, and back-and-forth strokes over long parts of the body. Practice karana purana (oil drops in the ears) by placing five drops of sesame oil in each ear, or if you prefer, just outside the opening to the ear canal.
Clean & Clear: After enjoying your oil massage, step into a warm and cleansing bath or shower. The remaining oil on your skin may cause surfaces to become slippery, so use caution. To minimize this effect, towel off excess oil before bathing. As you cleanse your body, consciously release any energies or emotions that no longer serve you, watching them flow down the drain with the water. Step out of your bath or shower feeling clean, clear and refreshed.
Flow into Movement: With the body cleansed, step into clean and comfortable exercise clothes and flow into 10 to 15 minutes of light exercise. Consider practicing a few rounds of Sun Salutations, the Five Tibetan Rites, or your favorite yoga warm up. If you have time, continue on to a full length yoga session or exercise program. Finish with pranayama (breathing exercises) and a short meditation.
Dress for Success: Select clean and comfortable clothes for your day’s activities that support balance and flexibility, both physically and energetically.
Conscious Eating: Enjoy breakfast, fresh raw juice, or tea according to your constitution and individual needs. If the weather is hot, if your agni (digestive power) is weak, or if you have no appetite, keep breakfast light or skip it all together.
By following these simple Ayurvedic guidelines, you will quickly transform your morning routine into a nourishing ritual that creates balance and harmony in mind, body and consciousness for a radiant life.
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