Wake Up Between 3am and 6am
The classics recommend that we rise during the “ambrosial hours” of the morning, sometime between 3am and 6am. This is a vata time of day; the atmosphere is infused with lightness and clarity, which helps us to more easily awaken. Equally important, this time of day is regarded as being the most conducive for creating a connection with our deepest inner nature and consciousness. Waking during this particular timeframe is not necessary for children, the elderly, or for those who are sick, pregnant, or breast-feeding. Regardless of what time works best for you, your daily routine will be most beneficial if you wake up at a consistent time from one day to the next.
Empty the bladder and the bowels. Ayurveda views morning elimination as a natural and essential element of daily hygiene and health. If you do not typically have a bowel movement first thing in the morning, some of the below practices (like drinking warm water) may help you regulate this function in your body. Or, consider taking triphala to support healthy and regular elimination.
This simple hygiene practice removes bacteria and toxins that have accumulated on the tongue overnight. It also serves to stimulate and cleanse the digestive tract and the vital organs. So while tongue scraping is considered an important element of daily oral hygiene, it also supports the natural detoxification of the system at large. Another benefit of scraping the tongue is that it allows us to take notice of the coating on our tongues each morning and to begin to see how our dietary choices and lifestyle habits influence our overall health from one day to the next. A tongue cleaner made of stainless steel is balancing for all doshas. When you are finished, rinse with clean water and spit.
While this practice is already familiar to all of us, Ayurveda recommends cleaning the teeth with herbs that promote oral health – like neem – which are typically bitter, astringent, or pungent in taste.
Drink Warm Water
Drinking a glass of warm water cleanses and awakens the digestive tract, hydrates the tissues, and promotes peristalsis – which can encourage a bowel movement, even when there is a tendency toward sluggishness or constipation. It is best to drink water only after the mouth and the tongue have been cleansed so as not to swallow the bacteria and toxins that have accumulated in the mouth overnight.
Swish & Gargle with Sesame Oil
It is said that swishing and gargling with warm, untoasted sesame oil lends strength to the teeth, gums, jaw, and voice, while improving the sense of taste. Spit the oil out after you have held and swished it in your mouth for the desired period of time. This practice can be done briefly, for 1-2 minutes, or for as long as 15 minutes. If a longer swish and gargle is appealing, consider doing it during abhyanga (see below), or while completing other aspects of your morning routine.
Massage Gums with Sesame Oil
Use your clean index finger to gently massage a bit of untoasted sesame oil into your gums. This practice further benefits the teeth and gums by increasing circulation in these tissues and encouraging absorption of the oil.
Splash Cold Water in the Eyes
Our eyes work very hard all day and they tend to accumulate a lot of heat. Splashing a bit of cold water into each eye in the morning helps to cool, sooth, and relax the eyes, but also helps us to feel more vibrantly awake.
Meditation, Pranayama, Prayer, or Quiet Reflection
If the central purpose of a morning routine is to calm the nervous system and ground the being before the day begins, then meditation, pranayama, prayer, or quiet reflection are perhaps its most essential elements. You may already have a practice that speaks to you. If not, simply sitting quietly and breathing slowly and deeply for a few minutes can have a tremendously beneficial effect.
Making time to move our bodies in an appropriate way in the morning is both grounding and energizing. It supports natural detoxification by promoting healthy circulation and by helping to move stagnation from the organs and tissues. It also helps to loosen and awaken the body and the joints. Early morning is a very supportive time for almost anyone to exercise because of the strengthening and stabilizing influence of kapha, (which is prevalent in the atmosphere from about 6am-10am). If it is not possible for you to exercise in the early morning, early evening is a good alternative (about 6pm – 10pm), preferably before dinner.
Yoga As a sister science of Ayurveda
Yoga is a natural part of an Ayurvedic daily routine. However, different individuals will benefit from different types of yoga, depending on their constitution and current state of balance. Other Forms of Exercise Ayurveda recommends different types and intensities of exercise for different constitutions and imbalances. In general, Ayurveda suggests that we exercise to only about 50% of our capacity – until we break a mild sweat on the forehead, under the arms, and along the spine, or until the first sign of dryness in the mouth.
Abhyanga (Ayurvedic Oil Massage)
This ancient practice of self-massage with oil calms the nervous system, lubricates and rejuvenates the tissues, and promotes healthy circulation throughout the body. It is no coincidence that the Sanskrit word for oil, sneha, also means love. Abhyanga is a profound practice of rejuvenation and loving self-care that benefits both the physical body and the more subtle realms of consciousness. Each morning, before a shower or bath, massage about 1/4 cup warm Massage Oil into the skin. For further instructions on this rejuvenating technique, click here.
Bathing is a very important part of the traditional Ayurvedic routine. It is said to cleanse and purify the body, to bring energy and alertness to the being, and to promote longevity. Use soap only where necessary. If you’ve done abhyanga, rinsing the skin with warm water will generally suffice to remove excess oil.
Establishing a consistent time for breakfast is a great way to ensure that we have time to eat our first meal mindfully and that we start our day well nourished. The content of your breakfast should be seasonally appropriate and supportive of your unique constitution or imbalance.