Last weekend, I participated in a three-day Ayurveda immersion at Yoga Vida. I will admit – at first, I was skeptical. And I really only signed up for the course because it counts towards the next step in my yoga teacher training (accumulation of 300 hours in addition to the 200 I earned during the month-long intensive).
That said, I absolutely loved the course and will certainly continue to learn more about Ayurveda. I would love to share every last thing that I learned with you, but it’s going to take me a while. One blog post at a time – today we will tackle the idea of cultivating an Ayurvedic Dinacharia – or a morning routine.
Please do not take any of the below as any kind of diagnosis or prescription. I am not certified in Ayurveda. If the below interests you and you want to dive deeper, I suggest you take a class or two with the lovely and beautiful Ali Cramer. She is as welcoming as she is knowledgable and I promise at the very least you will end your time with her smiling. And who doesn’t want that?!
Of all the information she shared with us, her note that “health depends most on what you do every day” stuck with me. If you miss a day of exercise, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you have a night of pizza and wine (or beer, it’s a free country), that doesn’t have to devolve into pizza and beer and vegging out on the couch every day. Messing up once doesn’t negate the work you have been putting in every day.
Since completing the course, I have added a morning routine (dinacharya) to my day and I feel all the better for it. As someone who has never thought of herself as a morning person, I am shocked to report that I feel better waking up at 6:20a every day than I ever did waking up at 8AM. Ayurveda explains this phenomenon as well – and I will get in to that for my next post. As well as doshas – which are probably the thing people know most (and least) about when it comes to Auyrveda. But I digress…
First thing I do is brush my teeth because morning breath is maybe the most disgusting thing in the world. Then I go to the bathroom (I am lucky in that it has never been an issue for me) and wash my face. So far you’re probably thinking – yeah, and? After brushing my teeth I brush my tongue. I am supposed to scrape my tongue, but I have found that using the brush works better for me. The tongue is the most accessible part of your digestive system and getting it clean is a great way to improve oral health and boost immunity.
Next is oil pulling. I have tried sesame and coconut oil but you can also use safflower. You take a teaspoon of the stuff and swish it around in your mouth. The goal is 20 minutes – I will admit I haven’t made it past 12 minutes yet but I’ll get there. It’s actually a long time so I’ve started doing it and my morning meditation at the same time. Something to focus on. The oil is meant to cleanse your teeth and gums of bacteria and as such, you want to be careful not to swallow any of the stuff. The oil will go from translucent to white and get “frothy” – thicker. You’ll see what I mean when you spit it out -if you’re brave enough to look. I rinse my mouth out with water when I’m done and then eat my gummy vitamins (not part of the Ayurvedic tradition).
I have yet to try massaging my gums, cleaning and lubricating the nasal passages or washing my eyes (I’m not ready to pour rosewater in my eyes just yet, sorry). My favorite practice thus far has been oiling my ears. I just take the tiniest bit of oil on my pointer finger and rub it inside my ears. I have had issues with itchy ears for the past few years – using q-tips to try to scratch them and even putting Cortizone 10 in my ears to no avail. Since adding this small step to my morning routine, my ears have stopped itching – hurray!
Finally, we have abhyanga – oiling the body. I will again admit that I am not doing this as I am supposed to do. I am MEANT to do my morning asana (yoga practice), take a shower and then use the oil we made in class (sunflower oil with additional essential oils added) over my body. But it makes me feel rather claustrophobic and according to my teachers, I am not the only one. So, instead, I have been doing my morning practice (yoga when I can – meditation when I’m short on time), taking a shower and then putting the oil on my joints. I am very flexible and have pulled my shoulders flying into difficult postures too quickly. Spending some time on my joints, giving them a small massage, is maybe my favorite form of self-care. It’s really saying that I care about myself and deserve something nice.
Some mornings have been easier than others – my kids really are in charge. There are days when I can do all of the above, in a nice leisurely way. And there are days when I am pulling oil while making my daughter’s lunch for the day and changing my son out of his pajamas. Most of us have modern obligations that make it difficult if not impossible to make it through all of these steps. But I do advise waking up 20 minutes earlier than you normally would and taking some time to yourself. I promise you’ll be happier for it.