How do you tend the rhythm of your life? Ayurveda’s dinacharya (or daily routine) practices offer ways to support your well-being.
Within the Tantras and Ayurveda, the first waking breath of the day is a very sacred sandhya (juncture), a practice in itself for waking from the dream state in life. It is also a reflection of where your consciousness resides. You can engage in a series of practices, described below, to help align you with the fresh energy of morning and carry those rhythms into the rest of your day.
Sahaja Yoga in Bed
Allow your body to enjoy a spontaneous, fluid, catlike motion that connects you to your instinctual body. Move in any way that feels natural to you—in ways your body yearns to move—at the very beginning of your day. Curl your spine, stretch, and invite the energy of your heart and emotions to express themselves through your body.
While you are still in that soft, dreamlike state upon first opening your eyes, invite feelings of love, kindness, and openness into your heart. It may be easier to do this if you select a “target” for your love. Embrace and generate love for whoever is there with you—your beloved, your baby, your dog or cat. Invite love into your state while the day is fresh and new.
Awaken With the Light
Learn when the sun rises in your location, whether you are at home or traveling. When you are not under stress or needing extra rest, try to rise before sunrise and complete the morning cleansing and purification process (described below) so you can begin your meditation with the sunrise. If that is not possible, try to honor the sunrise by repeating a simple mantra and gazing at the sun as it rises, or toward the lightening sky in the east if the day is cloudy. Enjoy the stillness of this moment.
First Step of the Day
You have set the tone for your day in those first powerful moments when you emerge from sleep. Now it is time to set your day in motion. Step out of your bed and touch your feet to the earth, giving thanks for another day to walk upon it.
Morning Cleansing & Purification Practices
Now you can begin your daily cleansing and purification practices, preparing your body for the activity of the day. Bring the energy of love and kindness that you generated while you were still in bed into these practices.
First, replenish yourself by drinking fresh, purified water (in Ayurveda this is put into a copper cup the night before in order to receive the benefits of this trace metal). You can infuse your water with lemon for a hydrating and cleansing effect if you wish.
2. Caring for Your Sense Organs—Nourishing the Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth & Tongue
Note: Though all of these practices are nourishing and balancing, they are best undertaken with the guidance of a teacher or health practitioner. Avoid oiling, medicinal drinks or herbs, and the like if you are menstruating, pregnant, feel toxic, have undergone recent or have upcoming surgeries, or suffer from a chronic condition.
Prevent earwax and nourish the ears through karana purana, oiling the ears; put a few drops of warm sesame oil in each ear.
Nasya, or nasal drops, requires putting 3-to-5 drops of warm oil into each nostril as your head is tilted back, to clean the sinuses, improve the voice, strengthen vision, and increase mental clarity. (Choose a type of oil according to your mind-body “dosha type.” Not sure what your dosha is? Take a quiz here.) (For vata, use sesame oil or ghee, or vacha (calamus root) oil. For pitta, use brahmi, ghee, or sunflower or coconut oil. For kapha, vacha oil is preferred.)
Gargling with sesame or coconut oil twice per day is a practice that strengthens the teeth, gums, and jaw. To do this, hold the oil in your mouth, swishing vigorously. After spitting the oil out, massage the gums gently with your finger. For the tongue, gently scrape its surface with a spoon or stainless-steel tongue scraper from back to front for 7-to-14 strokes. Tongue scraping removes dead bacteria from the tongue, aids in digestion, and stimulates the internal organs.
3. Abhyanga—Oiling With Love
Massaging warm, herb-infused oil into the body is one of the most nourishing, life-enhancing gifts of health you can give yourself for the rest of your life. Regular abhyanga is particularly welcome during the dry and cold months of the year and for people who travel often or exercise a lot.
For yoga practitioners—or really anyone interested in the vitality of his or her body—abhyanga is an essential method for both solar (purification) and lunar (regeneration) purposes. Daily oil massage, a lunar sadhana (practice), is a great tonic against the drying and stiffening effects of stress and aging. Circular movement over the heart region and joints has a warming, soothing quality that releases stress and grounds the nervous system. The power of touch can help heal negative body attitudes by generating connection, loving touch, and awareness. Abhyanga also has the solar quality of circulating and purifying. When combined with dry-brushing, it wakes up the body and establishes healthy rhythms for the day.
When you share this practice with someone you love, abhyanga is a method of bonding and caring for each other’s well-being. An oil massage on the limbs, spine, and tummy of a young child stimulates neurological and tissue functioning while creating a comforting cellular memory of the important bond between parent and child. For couples, giving and receiving abhyanga can be a beautiful ritual of care and love and a great way to tend the fire of your relationship bond. It’s also a highly practical way to receive daily attention in sore areas of the body, to tonify, and to strengthen areas of weakness.
Enjoy Essential Oils
Applying a small amount of natural essential oils gives beautiful energetic support for your day. Vata benefits from the grounding scent of amber. Pitta benefits from sandalwood for men or jasmine for women. And for kapha, amber is a great warming scent, or you can use a stimulating scent such as eucalyptus or peppermint if it’s not too cooling for the season.
Excerpted from Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life by Shiva Rea. Copyright © 2014 by Shiva Rea. Published by Sounds True.