A friend of mine recently visited me here in NYC from Washington D.C. He slept on my couch. The next morning, I got up and tiptoed around him, and did my usual thing. Just as I was finishing up putting on my shoes, he said “wait, stop! Are your mornings always this way? So calm? So peaceful? My mornings are hectic! I barely have time for anything and then have to race out the door. How do you do that?” he asked.
The secret to my peaceful mornings is something in Ayurveda called Dinacharya. Dinacharya means “daily routine”. It is basically a schedule that I follow. At work, people use calendars and schedules to make sure that their day goes smoothly. Why not do this at home too? You might say “I don’t want such a structured life”. But by adding a few structured Ayurveda practices to your morning routine, you will see the difference between a good day and a GREAT day. Here is my morning Dinacharya. As I deepen my studies into Ayurveda (on my journey to becoming a practitioner), I’m sure it will change. But these practices are a good way for anyone to start. If you adopt these practices you will definitely notice a difference, especially as the weather gets cooler and cooler.
I try to get up before the sun rises, or just as the sun is rising. This isn’t an easy one (I still struggle with it) especially as the season changes. As it gets colder, my bed just seems to be such a nice warm nest. Almost all animals (in nature) rise with the sun and go to bed as the sun sets. Only humans “artificially” extend their day into the late hours of the night by using “artificial sunlight”-- otherwise known as the Electricity. As a result, our Circadian Rhythms are off, leading our hormonal levels of serotonin, melatonin, and cortisol to be extremely off. Serotonin makes us happy, melatonin helps us sleep (which tells our bodies to release hormones we need for growth and repair), and cortisol is the flight or fight hormone that sometimes causes excess body weight around our mid sections. Cortisol is normally high when you wake up, it helps you get out of bed, and as your day goes on it starts to come down so that by bed time, you are ready to sleep. But with artificial light throwing our cycle off, cortisol is being released at the wrong times, making you tired in the morning, restless at night, and fat! (Wiley & Formby, 2000). Getting up early insures that I go to bed earlier. This insures that I am getting ADEQUATE AMOUNTS OF SLEEP!! After I get up, I use the bathroom quickly and quickly wash my face. Then head over to the kitchen.
In the kitchen I put 16 ounces of water on the stove to boil. After a long night of rest (which is really a fast—that’s why our first meal is called BREAK-FAST), your body is actually dehydrated. The best way to hydrate is with warm water. I drink 16 ounces of warm water first thing in the morning. Why warm water? Your body has to use extra energy to warm up cold water as it enters your system. Warm water first thing in the morning dissolves and flushes your digestive track of “ama” or toxins. The extra warmth aids in opening circulation, and dissolving toxins that might have accumulated in your deeper tissues (Ayurveda-Ayurveda.net, n.d.). If your Dosha (your Ayurvedic elements) is in balance, you can add the juice of ½ a lemon to the water to give you a boost of vitamins. If you don’t know what your Dosha is, or whether you are in balance or not, you’ll have to contact me for an assessment (email@example.com). Right now I am experiencing a severe Pitta (fire) imbalance, and lemon is aggravating it, so no lemon for me. Hot water works just fine. (Try this instead of coffee which DEHYDRATES you first thing in the morning). 10 minutes after I finish my hot water—I’m headed to the bathroom to use the Squatty Potty!
While heating the water and drinking the water, I sometimes check email, Facebook, the weather– nothing deep or too engaging, I want to keep my morning “chilled and relaxed”. If you have pets, this would be a good time to feed them.
After using the Squatty Potty, I get ready to do 10 minutes of meditation. ” Studies show that meditation is associated with improvement in a variety of psychological areas, including stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders and cognitive function, among others. There’s also research to suggest that meditation can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even cellular health (Melnick, 2013). What exactly do I do? I get a cushion and I sit on the floor in my living room. I choose to sit upright because lying down and meditating always makes me fall asleep. Meditation is not sleeping. It is a way of relaxing and focusing the mind. You are still conscious throughout meditation. I sit on the floor in lotus position close my eyes, and focus on Pranayama (my breath). Sometimes I do a specific breathing related to my dosha. Often times, I put my headphones on and listen to a mantra (today I meditated to the Gayatri Mantra). Just let your mind wander, acknowledge thoughts, and then let them go.
When I am done meditating, I am ready for my shower. Each day before my morning shower I practice Abhyanga (self-oil massage). I use oils specific to what my dosha needs– (currently I have a Pitta imbalance so I’m using coconut oil which is cooling). I have my oils in small pump bottles and when I heat up my morning water, I put some hot water in another cup and drop the pump bottle into the hot water to warm it up. I sit on a stool in my bathroom and oil my body. It’s not a lot of oil, just a thin coating. The warm oil feels so good! My body is really thanking me for this especially as we are heading into the DRY colder months. After Abhyanga, I take a shower as I normally do. When I get out of the shower, I feel so refreshed. My skin feels like butter!
After the shower, I brush my teeth as I normally do and this includes brushing my tongue with my toothbrush. After rinsing, I use a stainless steel tongue scraper. I use to think my toothbrush was doing a good job on my tongue, but after I got a stainless steel tongue scraper I saw that my toothbrush was really only pushing around ama on my tongue. My first scraping is usually brown or yellow! The scraper is shaped like a “U”. You put the round part of the “U” on the back of your tongue, then use gentle downward pressure, pull the scraper forward. I look at it, rinse it, and then do it another 3-4 times until my saliva on the scraper is clear. Then I rinse my mouth out again. Why is tongue scraping so good for you? 1. You’ll have better breath- cleaning the tongue has been proven to significantly reduce bad breath. 2. You will remove toxins on the tongue leaving you a clean palate for your next meal. 3. You’ll taste things better (because your mouth is fresh- there are no leftovers from the meal (or digestion process) before. 4. it’s doing for your tongue what you do for your teeth- cleaning it. And 5. In Ayurveda, your tongue is a diagnostic tool letting you know what is wrong with your body (Alexandra, 2012). I bought my Tongue Scraper from Whole Foods Whole Body for about 5 dollars- If can't get a scraper, use a spoon.
Then I get dressed and ready for work.
Exercise before Breakfast
A nice walk before breakfast will prime your digestive system for breakfast (this is also a good time to do yoga if you have the time). When I house sit dogs for friends, I take them for a walk at this time. When I do not have the dogs, I head to work. I get my short walk in from the subway to my office. I generally eat my breakfast at the office.
That is pretty much my Dinacharya. My mornings are quiet and relaxing. They used to be hectic, waking up with time only for a 7 minute shower rushing to catch the train, heart racing, out of breath—worried that I was going to be late…… but now they are calm and relaxed. I give my body hot water for nourishment; oil for my skin, meditation for my mind, and scrape my tongue for good digestion. How long does it take me? It takes an hour. It was hard at first, but now I love my extra hour in the morning that is spent completely on pampering ME!
What kind of things are in your Dinacharya? Let me know if you need help
*Check out my previous blog on what to daily habits to incorporate during the Autumn (Fall Ritucharya) http://www.ayurvedajumpstart.com/blog-1/2017/10/16/fall-ritucharyaoctober-5-2016
Alexandra. (2012). Five Reasons you may want to try a Tongue Scraper. Retrieved from http://nomoredirtylooks.com/2012/10/five-reasons-you-may-want-to-try-a-tongue-scraper/
Ayurveda-Ayurveda.net (n.d.). Hot Water Recommendation. Retrieved from http://ayurveda-ayurvedic.net/recs/HOT_WATER.pdf
Melnick, M. (2013). Meditation Health Benefits: What the Practice Does to Your Body. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/meditation-health-benefits_n_3178731.html
Wiley, T.S. & Formby, B. (2000). Lights Out Sleep Sugar and Survival. New York, NY: Pocket Books.