Rise and Shine Rituals
By Kerry Newton
In the Indian medical system of Ayurveda, the practice of dinacharya is a set of morning activities designed to elicit optimal health. With the longer days and earlier sunrises of summer time it seems just that little bit easier to rise early, so why not embrace this time as an opportunity to establish healthy morning habits? A good morning routine can bring peace and calm to your day, can make you feel more energized, can offer you a sense of accomplishment, and can set you on a path for success throughout the rest of your day. What we do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the remainder of our day, yet for so many of us the default is to sleep as late as possible, or to get up and immediately enter into a hectic rushed pace.
In Ayurvedic medicine, getting up before sunrise is considered best, as the early morning time is sattvic, or filled with a serene, harmonious, and balancing energy. Whether or not we choose to rise before the sun, rising early can still offer us these peaceful qualities by allowing us a dose of unhurried personal time. It’s so good for us to rise in the morning with a sense of calm, and in many ways this also makes it easier to get out of bed. I personally find that when I know the time I have in the morning is mine to use for taking care of myself, I actually look forward to waking earlier than I might otherwise. The more habitual your waking time, the more effortless it will become. Just be sure to set up some gentle waking activities for the first things you do, and don’t ask too much of yourself as you begin to greet the day.
Ayurvedic physician, Vasant Lad suggests, “Right after waking, look at your hands for a few moments, then gently move them over your face and chest down to the waist. This cleans the aura.” This is a very simple thing to do first thing, yet it can be a powerful offering of love to yourself. It’s also nice to do some small things that will bring energy and awareness into your body. Before I even get out of bed, I like to wake up my eyes by blinking several times, and then looking left and right, up and down and around clockwise and counter-clockwise a few times without moving my head-- this always helps me feel more awake. It’s good to splash some cool water over your face, rinse your mouth out with cold water and rinse out your eyes with cool water.
This is a good time to take care of oral health by beginning the habit of oil pulling with coconut or sesame oil. Just take about a tablespoon of the oil into your mouth and swish it all around for 20 minutes, then spit into the trash, swish with warm salty water, and brush gently. Use a tongue scraper to clean and stimulate the tongue, and gargle with some more of the salty water to kill any remaining bacteria. For a quick overview of oil pulling, check out this site, http://wellnessmama.com/7866/oil-pulling/. This 20 minutes is a nice time to sit in meditation. Try a body scanning practice of sending love and acceptance to all parts of your body, particularly any areas with pain or discomfort. Notice where any emotions might be stored, name them, feel them, and then let them go. If you aren’t interested in meditation, this can be a great time to read or listen to gentle music-- really anything calming that you enjoy and can do while swishing.
Mornings are also a wonderful time to get some exercise. Once you’ve allowed some peaceful time for a gentle waking, it’s nice to move into some more physical activity to continue the process of energizing and taking care of yourself. This is also a great way to ensure you get the exercise you want, as it can be so easy for unforeseen things to arise later in our day that take priority over physical activity. It’s great to get the lymph flowing with some movement, whether it be by walking, running, cycling, swimming, or practicing yoga. You can do a short practice, or a longer one depending on what suits you, but try doing at least 15 minutes every morning. Not only will this make you feel good physically, it will also make you feel a sense of accomplishment right away in your day.
The habitual practices of showering, dressing, and eating breakfast also help prepare us to face the day and shouldn’t be underestimated. These simple actions give you a sense of well being, make you feel fresh, and can help you feel good about how you present yourself to the world. Breakfast gives you the energy needed for the rest of the morning, and is yet another opportunity to take care of yourself. This time can be meditative- slowly and silently taking in nourishment, sipping a cup of tea, and truly tasting every bite of food while imagining those nutrients fueling and vitalizing your body. Embrace a morning ritual, imbue your actions with mindfulness, and set the tone for a lovely, and successful day every day!
For more information on dinacharya, visithttp://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/daily_routine.html.