“Understanding is the fruit of looking deeply.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Every dawn I awake to stillness and a place of serenity. Since immersing myself in the ancient practices of Ayurveda, “The Science of Life,” everything I believed about my well-being has shifted. Instead of speeding and muscling through my days, I’ve learned to tap into the softness that resides within.
Here are five Ayurvedic practices I integrate into my daily routine. I hope these habits of self-care will serve you well, too.
1. Sense Cleansing Morning Routine
This quartet of a.m. rituals will launch your day in the very healthiest ways:
- When you first wake up, splash your eyes with refreshing spring water or rosewater.
- Using a tongue scraper, gently scrape your tongue each morning 4-5 times to remove any accumulated debris.
- Take one tablespoon of organic coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around vigorously for 3-5 minutes in an ancient ritual called oil pulling that restores your mouth and gums.
- Irrigate your nostrils with warm sterile water and a pinch of sea salt in a process called neti that cleanses your sinuses and your breath.
2. Pranayama for Grounding
Breathe, breathe, breathe…to purify your body and calm your mind. Here’s my favorite pranayama (breath exercise), known as alternate nostril breathing:
- Find a comfortable seat and elongate your spine.
- Rest the tip of your index and middle finger between your eyebrows, the thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger and pinky on the left nostril.
- Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Exhale through the left nostril.
- Inhale through the left nostril and press it closed with the ring finger and pinky.
- Release the thumb and exhale through your right nostril. Now breathe in through the right nostril and exhale through the left.
- That’s one round… repeat for another 3-5 rounds, making each breath long, smooth and even.
3. Mindful Eating: Take It Slow
Always eat with full awareness of your food. These cues will change your relationship with food:
- Remove distractions from your dining spot. Try eating in silence – no TV, no music, no talking. Just the sensory experience of your food.
- Try eating with chopsticks. They allow you to take smaller bites and leave more room for mastication – chewing – the first stage in digestion.
- Eat slowly! This will allow your body to actually sense when it is full.
- Lay on your left side after you have completed your meal. Because of the stomach’s asymmetrical shape, this allows the food to flow through it and into the small intestine more easily.
4. A Moment of Silence
It’s important to try to meditate in small increments throughout the day. Finding a quiet place to sit and close your eyes for just five minutes works wonders!
- Make meditation a disciplined practice. Like any other habit, it will only work if you set aside a specific time for it.
- First find your breath. Slowly deepen it, allowing it to permeate the body. This relaxes the body and mind fairly quickly. Keep focusing on the inhale and the exhale.
- Allow yourself to feel frustrated. It is normal for thoughts to arise. “Am I doing this right?” or “Why can’t I quiet my mind?” If these pop into your head, let such thoughts flow through you and be released.
- Keep breathing. Your breath is your life force. If you stay connected with it throughout your meditation, your energy channels will continue to flow.
5. Self-massage for Sleep
Abhyanga, or oil massage, is the perfect gateway to a soothing night’s sleep. Practice it on an empty stomach right before bedtime.
- Find an organic oil that suits your senses…I like cooling coconut oil since my body runs warm. It also feels like a tropical vacation!
- Use a generous amount of oil and massage your skin, using long strokes over the long bones and circular motions over the joints, abdomen and chest. Keep it up for 20 minutes.
- Lie still for a few extra minutes to allow the nourishing oil to permeate the skin and nourish the deeper tissues.
- Shower but don’t soap off the oil. Most of it will wash away and the remainder will soften the skin after you towel dry.
All of these practices bring us back to the simple truths that self-awareness and self-realization are at the core of happiness, well-being and our life’s purpose. Everything is impermanent, every moment fleeting—so embrace each second—see the beauty in each encounter you have throughout your days. We’re in charge of our own lives, it’s important we stay present for the ride.
Sarah Calandra Fine is a journalist and an Ayurvedic yoga teacher who has been fascinated with the processes of the body since her very first acupuncture session at age eight. She’s a New Yorker at heart but currently living in San Diego, writing and teaching yoga and meditation to Marines.