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For the uninitiated, Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient (like, thousands of years old) Indian system of holistic healing. It uses food, spices, herbal remedies, bodywork and lifestyle changes to boost your health and balance the body, mind and spirit. Intrigued? In her new book, The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook, licensed chiropractor, certified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher Sarah Kucera outlines how to incorporate Ayurveda into your life. Here, her Ayurvedic morning routine that will refresh and restore you for the day ahead.
Rise before (or with) the sun
We’re talking between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., people. “[This] is considered to be the most auspicious time of day, making it the best time for meditation, taking in knowledge, or self-study,” writes Kucera. She also acknowledges that this might not be the easiest ritual to get onboard with and maybe not the one to tackle first. Our advice? Baby steps—start by getting up just 20 minutes earlier than usual and take it from there.
“Whether you call it prayer, meditation or mental hygiene, mindful stillness comes to us most easily in the early morning.” Why? Because your brain hasn’t had the opportunity to start overthinking yet or get distracted by everything on your never-ending to-do list. Don’t worry too much about where or how you meditate, advises Kucera. Even sitting up in bed with your eyes closed for a few minutes is beneficial.
Clean your tongue
It sounds weird, but tongue scraping is surprisingly relaxing. To do it the Ayurvedic way, first examine the coating. Depending on what’s there, it could be telling you something about your digestive health. A yellow color indicates that your digestive fire is too hot, for example, and you should reduce spicy, sour and salty foods. Then, use a tongue cleaner to clear off layers of toxins that have accumulated overnight.
Drink warm water
Before grabbing your morning cup of coffee (which should never be consumed on an empty stomach, by the way) or eating, have some good old H20. “Water, particularly warm to hot water, primes your digestive system.” You can boost water’s cleansing properties by adding alkalizing lemon or drinking it from a copper mug.
Dry-brush your body
Also called garshana, dry brushing helps slough away dry skin and prep your body for hydration. It also helps with lymphatic draining and blood circulation. To try dry-brushing, use a body brush with natural bristles and start brushing your skin from the tops of your feet using long, methodical strokes and slowly work your way up toward your chest and arms.
Practice self-massage with oil
Known as the ritual of abhyanga, this practice involves applying warm oil to your body through a gentle massage. Do this before a bath or shower but after dry-brushing (apply the oil in the same way you would dry-brush). According to Ayurvedic texts, this helps soothe dry skin, ward off old age, help you sleep well and cultivate strong, healthy skin. Sesame and ghee are commonly used oils for abhyanga, but there are also specific oils recommended for each dosha (aka the three distinct energies in our bodies). Kucera recommends almond oil for Vata, coconut oil for Pitta and corn oil for Kapha.
Eat breakfast by 9 a.m.
And we don’t mean grabbing a bagel on your way to work. Instead, opt for something nourishing like cooked oatmeal, making sure to take the time to sit down, relax and enjoy it. Not a breakfast person? Try some stewed or baked fruit, says Kucera. Ah, now you’re ready to greet the day.