the complete guide to daily self-care
Ayurveda teaches us the importance of a daily routine and self care rituals to bring balance to our mind, body, and spirit. When we make the time to practice these rituals regularly, they keep us mentally and physically healthy, at peace, and energized. This truly can be some of the best medicine.
Dinacharya helps us stay connected to the rhythms of nature. Disconnection from circadian rhythms is called chronodisruption. It has been linked to many health issues, including poor cognitive function, mood and sleep disorders, diabetes, obesity, daytime sleepiness, substance abuse, heart disease, and some cancers.
In addition to the health benefits of each one of these practices, the time taken to care for ourselves is an act of self-compassion, which nurtures us and provides positive benefits for our mental health. By focusing on these practices, you will start to notice how they affect you, how each one changes from day to day, and you will naturally begin to learn to make small adjustments to bring balance to your body. This is empowering, and over time, the benefits can be transformational.
The practices below, in combination, are powerful. However, one can start with a single new practice, notice the changes, and then add another when ready. Ayurveda is intended to meet you where you are, help you become more self-aware, and allow you to guide your own wellness.
When you are ready to deepen your Ayurvedic lifestyle, you can schedule a virtual counseling session with one KOSA's Ayurvedic Health Counselors.
Sleep & Awakening
Each morning we should be awakening at the same time, and this should be with or before the sunrise. This is the natural cycle our bodies need to synchronize with our circadian rhythms, leading to improved metabolism, digestion, and restorative sleep. Waking at the same time every morning will help get your body and mind into a smooth rhythm, so you may start your day with ease.
Times can vary slightly depending on the season, and the time you should awake will depend on your unique mind-body type, or dosha. A general rule of thumb is about 6:00 am or earlier. If Vata is your predominant dosha you want to awaken with the sunrise, Pitta types should wake a half hour before, and if Kapha is your predominant dosha you are best to awaken an hour before the sun rises. To learn what is right for you, it is best to talk to an Ayurvedic counselor or practitioner, or take our Dosha quiz online. And remember, a good morning routine starts the night before. A good night’s rest is essential for an energized morning and our overall well-being; going to bed by 10:00 pm is recommended.
Starting the Day
Set an intention for your day upon rising. What are you grateful for? What do you want to accomplish with your day? Even if it’s just for getting out of bed and practicing your morning routine, a blessing or an expression of gratitude before leaving the bed will start your day on the right path and channels your energy toward your intention.
Tongue scraping helps remove toxins, improve digestion, freshen the breath, and invigorate the taste buds. Once you begin doing this you will be amazed at how much cleaner the mouth feels, and wonder why you haven’t been doing it all along!
This should be one of the very first things done in the morning, before even taking a sip of water.
How-To: Gently scrape the tongue from back to front, using a stainless steel or copper tongue scraper. Do this about 5 to 10 times, gently removing any coating on the tongue. This coating indicates that there is ama (toxins/undigested foods) present in the digestive system.
Facial Cleansing & Eye Opening
Splash or rinse the face and eyes with cool water to cleanse, rejuvenate and rehydrate the face, mouth and eyes. Wash your eyes with cold, clean water, and gently massage the eyelids with your fingertips. Blink several times and rotate your eyes in all directions to stretch and awaken the ocular muscles. Dry your face with a clean towel.
Along with tongue scraping, flossing, and brushing, oil should be swished in the mouth to massage our gums and kill harmful bacteria. This practice will rid the mouth and body of toxins, while strengthening the gums and teeth. It has also been known to help whiten teeth!
How-To: Using approximately 2 tsp of warm sesame, coconut oil or prepared herbal oil pull, swish the oil in the mouth for 10-15 minutes. And then spit it out, be sure not to swallow any.
As always, do these practices and use these tools with intention. They are so much more powerful and effective when done with a positive and conscious mindset.
Drinking a glass of room temperature or warm water in the morning flushes our system and stimulates the agni (digestive fire), encouraging a bowel movement. A healthy bowel movement in the morning is a sign of healthy digestion and also shows that our body is aligned with the rhythms of nature. Taking the Ayurvedic formula Triphala in the evenings can also be beneficial for this.
How-To: Drink a glass of room temperature or warm water with the juice of half a lemon, and encourage your body to comfortably eliminate.
This practice promotes good sinus health, reduces the effect of allergies, and helps keep the head and mind feeling clear. Maintaining clean nasal passages is essential in preventing respiratory issues and keeping the immune system strong.
Use your Neti pot for nasal irrigation a few times per week, less if you have very dry nasal passages, and more during times of congestion.
How-To: Nasal passages should be cleaned periodically using warm salt water in a Neti pot. Mix ¼ tsp salt in ½ cup warm distilled water (or ½ cup of tap water that has been freshly boiled and then cooled down).
Lean forward over a sink with your mouth open and head tilted to one side and press the Neti pot spout to your upper nostril, creating a seal. Half of the water should be poured slowly through the upper nostril and will flow out the other. Keep the mouth open and head tilted as the water exits. Repeat on the other side with the other half of the water.
Nasya is the application of oil to the nasal passages in order to lubricate the nose, cleanse the sinuses, and improve voice, vision, and mental clarity. Nasya should be done daily.
How-To: You may use organic ghee, organic sesame seed oil, or an herbalized oil. You will sit, stand, or lie down with your head tilted back and place 2-3 drops of oil into each nostril, avoiding touching the nose with the dropper. Inhale deeply through the nose a few times and massage the oil into the nasal passages. You can also place the oil on a cotton swab or your clean pinky finger and apply to the insides of the nostrils.
Aside from exfoliating and prepping the skin to receive the warm oil of Abhyanga, Garshana stimulates blood flow, improves lymphatic circulation, reduces the appearance of cellulite, and removes ama (toxins).
Garshana, or dry brushing, should be done every morning with raw silk gloves.
How-To: Perform Garshana on clean, dry skin with medium-firm pressure and a vigorous pace. Start at the feet and move towards the heart, using circles over the joints and long strokes on the long bones. Use clockwise circles on the abdomen and avoid dry brushing over the heart and chest.
Follow with Abhyanga, or warm oil massage.
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Self-massage, or Abhyanga is the practice of massage with warm oil. Daily oil application keeps the skin healthy, soothes the nervous system, stimulates lymphatic flow, increases circulation, and supports detoxification of the body.
How-To: Warm oil is best as it is easier for the skin to absorb. You can do this in a double boiler, or just by placing your bottle of oil in the sink full of hot water. Apply to the entire body, giving extra attention to the areas that need it most (which might be the areas that usually are avoided, scalp, feet, thighs). Using circular motions on the joints, and long straight strokes on the arms and legs. After oil is applied to the body it should be left on for about 20 minutes prior to showering or taking a bath (perfect time for meditation). The proper oil to use will depend on your unique constitution, and/or the season. Abhyanga is one of the most loving and beneficial self care practices we can do!
Each morning gentle yoga or exercise should be practiced. This helps to keep our bodies strong and flexible, and we are a lot less likely to become injured with a regular practice. A daily practice also boosts our immune system and energy, and is a powerful way to fight off anxiety and depression.
How-To: Your morning practice should be gentle and enjoyable, 15-30
minutes, we don’t want to burn ourselves out at the start of our day.
Meditation & Breath Work
A daily practice of this keeps the mind clear and reduces stress. Even 5 minutes a day of this will have profound effects, but try working your way up to 15 minutes or more. Do this out in nature whenever possible!
Incorporate meditation and/or pranayama (breath work) into your morning routine. Make sure you are comfortable, sitting on a pillow or cushion on the floor or ground, or on a chair perhaps. Make a special spot in your house or outdoor space for this if you can. And sit quietly, maybe listen to some soft music, and focus on your breath.
I encourage you to try adding a couple of these practices into your day to start, and gradually bring in more, and really notice how you are feeling. As always, do these practices and use these tools with intention. They are so much more powerful and effective when done with a positive and conscious mindset.
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This video by Sarah gives simple practices to relieve common eye strain from frequent viewing of screens and use of digital devices.